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BOOK REVIEW: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

BOOK REVIEW: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Harlequin Teen
July 2017
Paperback, $19.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Young Adult / Fantasy

8/10

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.

The smoke is part of Gomorrah’s legend: once upon a time, we were burned to the ground. But we did not die. Instead we kept burning, kept moving, kept growing. The smoke surrounds us, even if we no longer burn. There is no fire, but sometimes, if you catch yourself around Gomorrah’s edges, the air thickens from stifling heat and the lanterns glow a little bit brighter.

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.

One by one, they perform their acts: the Boneless Acrobat; the Fingernail Mace; the Half Girl, Half Hawk; the Fire-Breathing Baby; the Two-Headed Boy; and the Trout Man. The audience roars as Hawk screeches and soars over their seats, cheers at each splash of Gill flipping in and out of his tank like a trained dolphin. They are utterly unaware that the “freaks” are actually my illusions, projected for anyone to see.

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.

He’s dead. He can’t be dead, but he is. He won’t disappear.
He’s more real in death than he was alive.

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. 

I could show the audience this part of Gomorrah, but I know they’re not here to learn about the secret lives of orphans and businessmen, prettywomen and charm-workers. They’re not here to learn about what happens backstage. My Gomorrah is a home. Their Gomorrah is a show.

 

Daughter of the Burning City isn’t without its flaws:

  • The abundance of names of the illusions and some without much in the way of character development, leading to this reader often having to take a moment and figure out to which illusion she was speaking.
  • The fact that Sorina has no eyes, and yet at times she “eyes” things and she cries a couple of times without any real explanation of the mechanics of this. Are the tears just coming out of her nose?

Between my forehead and cheekbones is flat skin, but I can see just the same as the rest of the world.

  • Certain inconsistencies in the editing/proofreading stages making the reader at times uncertain as to whether items were left or taken with a character, and whether an event happened the day before or that morning.

There were also certain moments in which this reader felt Sorina was being purposefully oblivious, twists that seemed obvious right from the start, and so on.

But to be honest, these things were relatively minor in terms of the enjoyment of the story, and I for one was pleasantly surprised by this debut novel.

This is such an interesting, rather unique story, and though it seems hard to grasp the worldbuilding at times, there was obviously a lot of effort put into the planning for this novel and one can only hope we’ll be given more insight in the future. 

Daughter of the Burning City offers an interesting combination of themes. Yes, this is a fantasy story, and it’s set in a travelling circus, but the thing that sets it apart is the mystery. As Sorina’s illusions begin to be killed off, she sets out to find out who is doing it, not to mention why and how; but even for readers who clue into the who early on, there are still the why and how to keep you guessing, and once you enter Gomorrah, it can be pretty hard to leave…

 

BOOK REVIEW: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

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