Title: Daughter of The Burning City
Author: Amanda Foody
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: HQ (HarperCollins UK)
Release Date: Sept 7th, 2017 (UK) | July 25th, 2017 (US)
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.
Daughter of The Burning City tells the story of Sorina – a unique kind of jynx-worker with the ability to create incredibly life-like illusions. Together they comprise her family, with which she performs in the Gomorrah Festival’s Freak Show. However, Sorina’s creations might be her family but they are still illusions and illusions cannot die. At least, that’s what she believes until one of her family members is murdered. If Sorina wants to protect her family and find out how you can kill someone that doesn’t actually exist, she must first find the one responsible.
I went into this book completely blind. All I knew about it is that it’s set in a circus, which was a perfect enough selling point by itself. In my opinion, my lack of knowledge made the story that much more entertaining. While, the book itself didn’t capital letters WOW me, it did keep me awake for a night and that’s enough for me to know I’ve enjoyed it.
Let me start off with saying, personally, I feel like this book could’ve been at least 100 pages shorter. The pacing was wobbly and uncertain on its feet, and moved laboriously through the first few parts. Granted, there was quite a lot that needed to be introduced, but even after we got the exposition part down, the pace takes its sweet time to catch up to where you’d like it to be. Other than that, the rest of the novel’s foundation was well executed. I do wish we’d gotten a little bit more of the world-building, especially outside the festival, but since that’s the main focus of the novel, I understand why we didn’t.
The characters in Daughter are all so very unique. Each of them has their own peculiarity – as you would expect from a book about a magical circus, but still. I really liked the family dynamics between Sorina and her illusions and how tight-knit they were, despite each member being so different. Some of them did feel underdeveloped and it was harder to feel anything for them since they were so seldom mentioned.
The romantic subplot was cute, though I was a little… disturbed by it? Maybe disturbed isn’t the right world – it bears way too negative of a connotation and I don’t want people to get the wrong idea, because there was nothing inherently wrong – as a matter of fact, the characters have a lengthy conversation about consent and boundaries, and they make sure they’re very respectful of each other’s limits. What I’m talking about happens near the end. That, too, gets addressed, but it still sits a little weirdly with me. I did, however, appreciate the presence of a character that’s on the ace spectrum, as well as the openly bisexual lead and her openly lesbian sister, who is also one of the more developed characters. These might be considered mild spoilers, but I will not be marking them as such, since I think they’re important to mention.
Overall, Daughter of The Burning City is a solid debut that, despite its hits and misses, is an engrossing read and a really good murder-mystery novel with its fair share of ‘twisty’ plot twists.