If you’re a regular reader of my reviews, you will know that I am not a big fan of circus/carnival books and the only one that I truly loved was Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I’ve read a handful more of similar storylines, yet they never seem to leave me hankering for more. Daughter of the Burning City was better than other circus/carnival books that I have read but it still wasn’t a book that I would read again and again.
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 travelling 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.
One of the things that I really enjoyed was the main protagonist. She was such an interesting character and one that I had never read about before. She had no eyes, but she could see everything. I was very intrigued by how that worked and I was even more intrigued about her background, but we weren’t given any of that which was a shame. We just know that Sorina is the Proprietor’s adopted daughter.
Another thing that I really liked was a good proportion of the world building. The only thing that confused me about it at first was the whole ‘uphill’ and ‘downhill’ part. At the beginning of the book, I genuinely thought the ‘uphill’ and ‘downhill’ had something to do with the whole politicalness of the book and that the ‘uphill’ was the one that the festival didn’t like or… whatever, yeah. You get the point, I was confused. But as the story carried on, that finally became clear to me. I actually enjoyed the political element of the book; I found it interesting and I wish I could have learnt more about it.
“Walk the line between normal and monstrous.”
– Amanda Foody, Daughter of the Burning City
I also thought that the suspense was pretty perfect throughout the novel, and there were little hints dropped here and there such as the handful of pictures that made an appearance every so often throughout the book. The pictures conveyed the ‘blueprints’ of the illusions that Sorina had drawn, and across the ‘blueprints’, the killer had scrawled how they were going to kill them. I was quite eerie actually but it was an element of the book that I loved and – when I was reading – I couldn’t wait until I came to another picture.
I genuinely had no clue who the killer was, I was clueless the whole way through. I read through some reviews of Daughter of the Burning City on Goodreads and some people said that they guessed it pretty early on, and others said that they had no clue. That’s me. When it was revealed, I was actually quite a surprise and it seemed quite a stretch, to be honest. But I can understand why Foody chose that character to be the murderer. But yeah, the whole thing seemed a bit of a stretch which is what let the reveal down for me.
The final thing that I have to say about this book is that there is great LGBT+ diversity. Sorina is bisexual, Luca is on the ace-spectrum (he seems to be aromantic/asexual? But I’m not 100% sure, so some follow-up is definitely needed) and Nicoleta is a lesbian. I did read this book a few weeks ago so I can’t remember if there are any people of colour in this book. But I will definitely try and find out and then include it in the review once I find out (or if someone can comment and let me know if there is racial diversity, that would be fab!)
Overall, this was a good book. The beginning was slow, and I got confused at first, but the rest of the novel was intriguing and I loved Sorina as our main character (thank you, Amanda, for creating a female protagonist that goes against YA norms) but alas, the ending let me down. I am on a mission to try and find a circus/carnival book that I enjoyed as much as Caraval, but I can’t see to find one anywhere.
Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review