ARC Review - Daughter of the Burning City

Title: Daughter of the Burning City
Author: Amanda Foody
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Series: n/a
Published: July 25, 2017
Source: Borrowed for review from a local indie
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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.


There's something wonderful about a carnival, but at the same time, there's something rather sinister that comes along with the idea of it.  Foody captures both of those things in her debut novel and taps into perhaps the most well-known element of old-time traveling carnivals, the freak show.  She puts a fantastical spin on it though, and in doing so has created something that's pretty darn original, which is really saying something.

I know I said it above, but so much of this book was just wholly original, something I love to see.  Earlier in the year, Stephanie Garber's Caraval came out, but aside from that and Erin Morgenstern's Night Circus(which came out several years prior), there aren't all that many novels that take place almost exclusively at carnivals, which this one does.  But to my knowledge in both of those novels the main characters come from outside the carnivals, whereas here the main character is part of the carnival.  It's nice to see a main character in that position because it's not only something new, it's something that I think a lot of people are curious about, I know I certainly am.  And it doesn't hurt that the main character had a pretty original skill too, even as far as fantasy novels go; not only can she make illusions you can see, touch, and smell, she's imagined up an entire family to perform in her freak show and they're legit "people".  I feel like I should also mention that the main character doesn't have eyes, but she can still see.  Pardon the pun but I don't think I've ever seen that before.

The other thing I really loved was the genre.  It's not just a fantasy novel, it's also a murder mystery, which is not something I had really heard of before.  I'm just gonna let you know right now that I love a good murder mystery, and I love a good fantasy novel, so reading a book that falls into both categories pretty was a great surprise.  And I feel like it honestly did hold up as a murder mystery.  While I figured out the mystery, or at least a piece of it before the main character did, it still held its own in that category.  In fact, it held its own in both categories, something I found to be quite impressive.  Heck, it even had that gothic/horror vibe going on and did that well too.

Honestly, I don't have a huge number of complaints about this one.  I would have liked to see more of the illusions, I feel like they were such a large part of the story but were still somehow pushed off to the side.  I also would have liked to see more of the politics of the novel, which is never something I thought I would say, although I understand why it was more limited.  The romance seemed a little convenient, but really what romance doesn't?  The only thing that really bugged me was how the main character was constantly noting how not smart she was.  It came up over and over and after so many times reading something along those lines I got a little tired of it, but I do have to appreciate the fact that the author didn't go the usual "brilliant teenager" road.

As a whole, I was really pleased with this book.  It's a strong debut, and even better it's a stand-alone fantasy novel, so you don't have to wait a year for the next part of the story.  Both the concept and the genre mash up were original, and while there were a few small parts I didn't love it was a solid story that kept me entertained.  I also wouldn't mind coming back to the world Foody created to see what happened after the book ends outside of the carnival, I think there could be a series there if she ever had the inspiration to continue it.  Fans of Caraval will probably find something here to enjoy, although the writing isn't quite as poetic, and I would suggest anyone who really liked American Horror Story: Freak Show to give it a look too.  All in all this book is certainly enough to make me excited about Foody's second novel, a start to an unrelated fantasy series out next year.

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