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Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Published July 25th 2017 by Harlequin Teen
Source: ARC Traded
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

Ever since The Night Circus, in which I fell in love with the idea but not quite the execution, I’ve been looking for a good circus story. Daughter of the Burning City sounded like a promising candidate, but ultimately ended up like The Night Circus: I loved the premise, but not quite the execution.

Page one, then chapter one, and you’re introduced to a dazzling world – it’s a little out there, a little different, a little fantastical. I loved the idea of the illusions, the traveling circus city, a girl who had no eyes but could see, someone without a heart but had blood running through their veins… But at the same time, you’re plunged headfirst into these huge, block-of-text-paragraphs that infodump most every detail about the characters and the setting. This carries on for a good quarter of the story before the info dumping starts to ease up. I loved how unique and different all of Sorina’s illusions were – each of them sounded so vibrant and distinct from the other (nails instead of hair, an illusion I couldn’t help but picture as Groot, and a fire-baby, among others) – but there’s got to be a better way to introduce them, as well as the rest of the traveling circus to us, than by slamming it all into our faces by means of hefty, telling monologue.

The author has a dazzling imagination. It practically bleeds through in Daughter of the Burning City, the world she created was interesting and magical, and I’d definitely be up for reading her next novel. But I feel like this novel definitely could’ve benefitted from adhering more to the old “show not tell” saying.

And, whatever was up with Luca? There was all this awful stuff slung at him about his supposed sexuality, and, however the author had intended to portray Luca in the story, it came off as really was quite muddled. What the author explicitly said about Luca and what she actually wrote in for Luca seemed to contradict each other a lot of the time. I was pretty confused, and I’m really not quite sure how to feel about it all?

Aside from the confusion with the author’s intentions regarding Luca’s sexuality, though, he was my favorite character for the majority of the story. I loved how casual and multi-dimensional and solid he came off as. He was quirky and jaded in all the ways Sorina wasn’t, blase about the strangest things, and seemingly innocent about the simplest. And with quotes like-

“We both know that I’m no hero and you’re no damsel. Sorry, princess, this isn’t that sort of story.”

he’s definitely favorite character material^^.

And the mystery! I didn’t see that coming, but I should’ve. Daughter of the Burning City reads like a fantastical, slightly eerie murder mystery, which wasn’t quite what I was expecting when I started reading it, but I definitely didn’t dislike what I discovered it to be.

I just have to add though that the development at the end killed any support I had for the romance in this story, though. Call me old-fashioned, call me a prude, call me close-minded, but nope – I can’t get behind this. I just. Can’t. I don’t see how both sides could actually freely give consent in a relationship like that?

The main character, Sorina, was decent – she didn’t really stand out particularly in any way, but I liked her enough. I did really like and appreciate what the author did with addressing issues of self-esteem and diversity and the feeling of otherness through Sorina, though, as well as through some of the other supporting characters.

The highlight of Daughter of the Burning City was definitely the side-characters and the setting. Though it didn’t quite do the trick for me, I can definitely see what all the buzz and talk about Daughter of the Burning City was for.