Giveaway details at the end of this post!
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
YA fantasy, carnival setting, murder and mystery and magic, there was a lot to be excited about here. The setting and the story felt new and unique, but there were aspects of the storytelling that felt flat to me.
Sorina has grown up in the Gomorrah Festival, a travelling circus city filled to the brim with wonder and magic, a safe haven for jynx-workers who have been rejected by their own people for having magic. Sorina is one of those, adopted by the proprietor fo the festival, she now runs a Freak Show alongside her family. There is Nicoleta who has superhuman strength, Hawk who can fly, Gill breathes underwater, conjoined twins Unu and Du, and more. But, when they begin dying in unusual circumstances, Sorina has to race against the clock to discover who is behind the crimes before she loses them all. To make things even more complicated, Sorina’s family shouldn’t be able to die, because they’re not real. Sorina’s magic talent is the ability to create lifelike illusions, and her masterpieces are her family themselves. Each member of her family is a figment of her own imagination. On top of this, Sorina can see without having any eyes. As you can see, there is a lot of interesting magic in this book. It was a lot of fun to read about these different skills, and the characters felt new and original. One of the plots of this book is her investigation alongside newfound friend Luca to try find the murderer inside Gomorrah. They meet different jynx-workers everyday, trying to find someone with the ability to kill illusions. This plot was fun to read because of the different magic skills that Foody creates. Further, if you’re into romance, there is a sweet, if somewhat predictable, relationship that develops between Luca and Sorina to keep you entertained.
However, in my opinion, the world-building fell flat once you left Gomorrah. The second investigation that Sorina undertakes is alongside her father, who believes the murderer is outside of Gomorrah, and is trying to attack him through his daughter. The issue was that the whole story from there on out was complex, but undeveloped. There was mention of a mysterious Alliance, built of the different cities that Gomorrah travelled through, and they were plotting to start a trade war (from what I could understand). There was very little development to this story into the characters outside of Gomorrah, or the locations. In fact, they were barely mentioned in passing! It was a shame that this part of the book was so underdeveloped because it played such a vital part to the plot, and I feel like if this had been done properly, it would have really elevated the book. I love fantasy worlds with interesting structures and societies, but I would have preferred it if Foody had just left this out of the book and focused on Gomorrah. It would have been simpler, but sometimes less is more, and this story just weighed the book down.
Further, some of the logistics of the world and the plot just didn’t make sense to me. For one, I didn’t understand how Gomorrah travelled. Did everyone pack up their tent and just walk? Are there animals to pull the caravans around? How do the city walls travel with the city itself? This might not be important to the story itself, but I found it difficult to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the story sometimes, because I kept wondering just how the city worked. Second, sometimes the plot felt a little clunky, particularly in the way that Sorina figures out the truth about who is behind the murders of her relatives. There were details that were very clunkily ‘hinted’ at, and revelations that just came too easily to Sorina. I would have preferred it if the mystery had unravelled more subtly, but I would have been able to accept this weakness of plot if the world had been better written.
Overall, Daughter of the Burning City had a lot of potential to be great but I just felt like it fell flat. I was hoping that perhaps it was the first book in a series, and maybe Amanda Foody would go on to develop the world more and salvage the first book with the second. I would have probably read a sequel to this book, because there were aspects of the world building that captured my imagination, but unfortunately it is a standalone. It’s a shame that this book didn’t impress me as much as I hoped, but there were definitely good aspects to it. It is worth giving a chance if you enjoy fantasy and mystery, and maybe you will love it more than I did!
GIVEAWAY: Would you like to win a copy of Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody? Head over to my instagram account (@inkdropsbooks) for a chance to win!