Title: Daughter of the Burning City
Author: Amanda Foody
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Daughter of the Burning City is an intoxicating murder mystery unfolding in the middle of a dark and mysterious magical circus. At the centre of this novel is Sorina, a girl with no eyes, yet graced with the ability to weave complex and realistic illusions – some of whom serve as her closest companions. Personally, I loved the evocative writing and discovering the dark corners of Gomorrah’s festival. However, the characterisation and plot were a little thin, and I found the book ultimately predictable.
Amanda Foody’s writing is immersive and incredibly visual, it’s hard to believe that this is her debut novel. From the very first scene, she captures the reader’s every sense with descriptions of the sights and sounds of the Gomorrah Festival’s Freak Show. The setting and characters were easy to visualise, and like Sorina’s audience, I was captivated. I also appreciated the attention to detail that went into the realisation of Gomorrah, even the taste of kettlecorn are described in a memorable manner.
While there are several books set in circus, I felt this one stood out due to the vivid world-building and unique plotline. Sorina’s various illusions and their distinctive characteristics were particularly memorable, I also enjoyed the way the book explored the concept of ‘freaks’ and their atypical physical appearances being used as entertainment. As Sorina herself has no eyes, she experiences first hand discrimination entirely based on appearance, even though her sight is intact due to magic.
It felt that the book got a little carried away with exploring Gomorrah and forgot about the pacing at various points in the novel. As the book centre on a murder mystery, I felt the writing lacked a sense of urgency and momentum. I have issues getting into mysteries in general, as I usually figure out the ending fairly quickly – and this was certainly the case with Daughter. Hence, the conclusion of the book was the weakest part of the novel for me.
I also found it difficult to connect to Sorina and her illusions. Despite being depicted as a family unit, I never got sensed chemistry between these characters. I also found the romantic storyline to be uninspired, and I have forgotten most of Sorina’s interactions with Luca although I only finished the book two days ago. A lot of the character relationships were told rather than shown to the readers. I was also told that there was demisexuality rep within this novel, but it was barely mentioned within the text itself.
Overall, I found Daughter of a Burning City a very promising debut despite having issues with pacing and characterisation. I’ll be looking forward to more of this author’s future works.