*This review will be SPOILER FREE*
Daughter of the Burning City is a standalone, YA, fantasy that takes place in an enormous city-like travelling carnival, known as Gomorrah. Our Protagonist, Sorina, is an illusionist with the power to create life-like illusions that you can hear, see, smell, touch, and has used this power to create a ‘family’ for herself. Sorina and her family work the freak show together, but when one of her illusions is killed she goes on a mission to find the killer, along with Gossip-Worker, Luca, before the killer can strike again.
This was the FairyLoot book for the month of July, in their ‘Tricksters’ boxer and if you want to know what else was in that box you can find my unboxing post right HERE.
Before we get into the story proper, I first want to talk about the design of this book, because it is a very pretty book. As you can see in the picture above the colour scheme is purples and pinks, which definitely appeal to me, and the dust jacket is printed on a slightly shimmery paper, that just makes it look magical. In addition to the exterior (the naked book is black with metallic purple writing on the spine), there are also illustrations scattered throughout, that are meant to be Sorina’s designs for each family member. While these aren’t essential to the story they’re interesting, and fun. I really, really, really would have appreciated a map in the front, not just because I love maps but it would have also helped with one of my problems with the book.
The plot, once it got going was pretty fast paced, and a lot of fun, that just makes you want to keep reading. Once I was past the first few chapters, I read the whole book in two days, because I was just dying to get to the end.
The setting of the carnival was fascinating, since I’ve only ever read one other book that takes place in a carnival and that was Lemony Snicket’s The Carnivorous Carnival (ASoUE #9), which is very different to this book. Also, this isn’t just any carnival, but almost more of a travelling city as well, because of the sheer size of Gomorrah. The fact that the location is almost in constant movement added another layer to the story, not only in terms of political tensions, but also much like the order mystery element, it almost felt as though you couldn’t just relax and be comfortable.
In regards to the murder mystery aspect of the novel, it didn’t really follow the conventions of a murder mystery novel, and you might like this about the book, or you might dislike it. These murders are so well executed that no one really finds any clues, so any theorising is pretty much just conjecture, and as a result is’t a lot of telling and not a lot of showing. Then when a line of questioning is pursued, it’s just brushed over as Sorina, our poin-of-view, isn’t present. Unfortunately I didn’t really appreciate this, but there’s still so much going on with the plot, I would still re-read it, and recommend it, because I still had a fun time. It’s not a problem that’s really going to stick in my mind as a huge flaw, but I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone as a good murder mystery, but then again I don’t think that’s what the book was aiming for.
One last thing regarding plot, that left me a little disappointed, mainly because this is a stand alone, and as far as I can see is not going to be developed on, was the potential war. Throughout the whole book, Villiam keeps mentioning that there is a war brewing, but we never really get to see this in its entirety. It’s used a a plot device for a certain event toward the end of the books, and then I feel like it’s just forgotten. Because of this it felt a little bit underdeveloped, as the concept had so much potential, but again this is just a tiny little problem, that I might not even notice on my next read.
My biggest problem with the book, and something that I would mention before recommending to others, is simply that it took me a while to get into the story. I am a fantasy reader, so I don’t often have this problem as I like to get lost in fantastical worlds, but something was just off for me about this one. With Mistborn or A Darker Shade of Magic, both also high fantasy books, I slipped effortlessly into the worlds, and they’re still vividly ingrained in my mind. Unfortunately I didn’t get this with Daughter of the Burning City. This was where I thought a map might have been helpful, as I mentioned earlier, because with the constant travelling, talk of politics, and overall importance of geography to the plot, it was all very overwhelming. Obviously this is just my personal experience, and you might find yourself at home in Gomorrah.
The saving grace of the book was, without a doubt, the characters, who were all super interesting, and very diverse.
Sorina, our protagonist was born without eyes, meaning that she sees the world through her illusions, and while this had so much potential, she didn’t quite hit the mark. After the initial mention of that fact, it’s almost forgotten, and I would have loved to head more about how she managed her disability. Regardless, she was a great perspective to read from.
Luca was absolutely adorable, and also has a very interesting form of magic, in that he cannot be killed. I was trying to be on the lookout for him since he’s mentioned in the blurb, and I assumed that he was the love interest, but he sort of slipped in unnoticed somehow.
The freak family, was a bit hit and miss at times, because there were some people that I really loved, and others who I was too creeped out by to be able to picture them (yes, I am talking about Crown). They were all very unique, and all fulfil a familial role, one that Soriana has obviously created them for.
In addition to mentions of bisexuality, and homosexuality, there’s also a character who I initially thought was asexual, but after doing some research they are actually demi-sexual, something I have never read about before. This was really interesting, and new to me, but added another layer to the relationship between this person and Sorina.
Obviously I’m praising this book for it’s diversity, but as someone who does not identify with those sexualities I can’t sit here and tell you that it was good representation, just that it was there, and I appreciated it.
Ultimately Daughter of the Burning City is maybe 400 pages, and it was really close to being a great book, but it just missed the mark. I would have extended it another 200 pages, and developed on the plot, on the war, on the relationships, and on the world building, and it would have been amazing. Still I did fly though the last 3/4 of the book, and would pick it up again, along with Amanda Foody’s Ace of Spades, which is coming soon!
Have you read Daughter of the Burning City, and what did you think? If not what is your favourite circus book? Do you have any recommendations for books where protagonists are demi-sexual, asexual or on that spectrum? Le the know down in the comments!
Thanks for reading!