Daughter of the Burning City: Review
Does anyone else get in a reading slump when they're sick? It feels like I have so much time to read but I just can't find the right book to hold my concentration even though my TBR pile is miles high. I picked up Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody on a whim because it was another standalone book, and that's been a trend for me so far this year. Also, I watched The Greatest Showman recently and have been obsessed with the movie soundtrack. And guess what? I was so pleasantly surprised by this book!
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 is a dark carnival-inspired book filled with grisly acts and dreamlike performances. It features illusionists that can transport audiences to another land and performers who seemingly cannot be killed. It is filled with lush descriptions that really put me in the middle of the Gomorrah Festival. I could vividly picture the haphazard tents and caravans that housed all types of jynx-workers and the vendors that sold bags of cherries and black licorice. Foody does an amazing job taking classic elements of carnivals and incorporating some more fantastical details to make the Gomorrah Festival unique.
This standalone novel is told from Sorina's first-person perspective and in the present tense. The story is constantly active and moving along, which kept me hooked. I finished the book in one and a half days, which is no small feat because I was sick and a bit disoriented the whole time. As the summary describes, there is a murderer afoot! As soon as this is discovered, the story picks up and it gets really exciting. There are illustrations throughout the book that act as clues for the reader and plenty of plot twists to keep you interested.
Sorina is a decently likable protagonist. Keeping in mind that she's only sixteen years old, she has all of the impetuousness and brashness of a girl her age, with the untapped potential of a masterful illusionist. What I appreciate most about Sorina and Foody's decision to use her as our narrator is her unreliability as a narrator. After all, she's an illusionist leading her own investigation, who constantly doubts her abilities. If an illusionist can't tell what is real and what isn't, then what we can we really believe?
The only thing that was distracting for me in The Daughter of the Burning City were the politics of it. There is an age-old feud between the Up-Mountainers, who believe in a specific god and shun all forms of magic, and the Down-Mountainers, who travel with the Gomorrah Festival. While a major conflict in the book revolves around these politics, and religious intolerance is a theme of the book, I don't believe that it's laid out clearly enough for the reader.
I rate Daughter of the Burning City 4/5 stars!