I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Published by Harlequin Teen on July 25th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.
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.
When I first heard about this book, I was slightly hesitant. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read another circus-themed book this year. Then I read the summary and saw that the main character was a blind illusion worker and that there was a murder mystery. Since I’m a huge fan of anything that combines fantasy and mystery, I was sold. Daughter of the Burning City ended up being a wonderfully imaginative and innovative debut full of magic, mystery, and murder.
The book begins by introducing Sorina’s family, their Freak Show, and the Gomorrah Festival, their home and a traveling carnival. Then the first murder occurs as the Festival is being kicked out of the city where it was performing. Distraught, Sorina eventually convinces her father to begin an investigation. After finding out that he is focusing the inquiry on politically motivated individuals from outside Gomorrah, she initiates a secondary investigation with the help of Luca. From there the plot is an intriguing mix of political intrigue, romance, murder investigation, family drama, and magic.
From page one, the festival that never stops burning came alive for me. It was beautifully created and felt almost like another character in the book. Gomorrah also has its own history and mythology, which I found fascinating and would probably read an entire separate book about. As Sorina and Luca’s investigation progressed, I loved meeting the festival’s inhabitants and seeing how the festival functioned. The political aspect and the jynx-work explanation could have been developed a bit more but was overall easily understandable and interesting. Also, I really want to try some licorice cherries right now, they sound fantastic.
Sorina was an interesting narrator. She was a very flawed character but her fierce determination to keep her family safe made me love her. At times she did act rather juvenile and immature but I liked that she wasn’t perfect and that she made mistakes. She had her own insecurities and fears that affected how she acted and how she viewed the world. I also loved how she matured and grew up as the novel developed. It was honestly quite refreshing to have a narrator who wasn’t perfect and didn’t have all the answers. She was one of the most realistic characters I’ve read in a while.
Luca was such an entertaining love interest. I liked that it wasn’t insta-love between them, that the attraction developed over time. He was an excellent blend of forbidden love interest, Sherlock Holmes, and snark. He and Sorina balanced each other out well, their relationship felt equal and realistic to me. Plus I absolutely loved that they both knew the other’s flaws and loved them more because of them (I could’t help but laugh with every headless comment Sorina made). Luca wasn’t my favorite at first but he wormed his way into my heart over the course of the novel.
I will admit that it was hard to keep her family members straight in my head for the first half of the book. Additionally, there were some things mentioned later on in the book, such as Blister’s age or Crown’s nail skin, that I hadn’t remembered reading in the beginning (this could be entirely due to my own faulty memory though). I loved how varied and diverse the secondary characters were in every aspect, including sexuality. We didn’t get to know all of them very well but they each had their own personality traits and quirks. What I loved most was that I never got the sense that the author was adding characters solely for diversity. Instead, I got the feeling that this was simply the way Gomorrah was in her mind, a diverse smorgasbord of people who came together because the festival was the one place where they were free to be themselves.
Daughter of the Burning City was an entrancing and unique debut that flawlessly combined fantasy, family, and riddles. I don’t know if there is a sequel in the works but I’m crossing my fingers that there will be! As is, I will absolutely be picking up Ace of Shades, Amanda Foody’s next novel (even if it is an entirely different world).