Title: Daughter of the Burning City
Author: Amanda Foody
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Sixteen-year old Sorina Gomorrah is a girl who has spent most of her life within the Gomorrah Festival–a traveling circus-city catering to the strangest and wildest of dreams and desires. Sorina is unique for her ability (as an illusion-worker) to create illusions that others can see, touch, and feel with distinct personalities. The illusions she creates are her family members, but despite how life-like they seem, they are not truly real. This is what Sorina has always believed until one of them is murdered. Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit to determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her investigation leads her to enlist the witty and handsome Luca, a self-proclaimed gossip-worker as she uncovers political turmoil, false identities, and a forbidden romance. As the killer continues to murder Sorina’s family, she must find out the identity of the killer before her family disappears.
Sorina was a character who really stood out to me, both in her physical description and personality. She is a girl who was born without eyes–no eyebrows, no eye-indents–just flat skin where eyes should be, however she still has the ability to see. At first, I had trouble visualizing such a character, since I’ve never met a person with a complete absence of eyes. Sorina’s lack of eyes also served as a point of growth and self-consciousness for her. Throughout the book, it is evident that Sorina is uncomfortable with her appearance, and is frequently labeled as a freak or deformed because of her startling face. Her pain and struggles to rise past her appearance and come to terms with her abilities was well written in the story, and her internal battles helped her grow as a character through the book. I also fell in love with her illusion-work–the ability to create scenes, people, and objects using her imagination. The author, Amanda Foody, did an incredible job of detailing the nature of Sorina’s illusions, and the extent of her power–whether she was generating a moving image of the planets for a show, or disguising herself as a moth during her investigations. The characters in this book felt solid and real. The backstories of her illusions, and even the shifty, overly-pompous Luca, were revealed slowly, and I got a better understanding of their personalities and unique talents as the book progressed, which helped the flow of the overall story. The world building of the Up-Mountain and Down-Mountain lands, and the Gomorrah Festival was also fantastic! Each city that the traveling Gomorrah Festival landed in, was uniquely and vividly described, from the glittering, golden city of Cartona, to the towering, dark cathedrals in the shifty city of Leonita, and bound together by a distinct religion of Amanda Foody’s creation. The Gomorrah Festival itself took some time for me to fully visualize, but the book had sensory details about the festival scattered throughout the story–enough for me to piece together the image of an enormous, imposing, perpetually smoldering city of sin and delights, made to tempt even the most innocent of souls. The gripping suspense in the story was very well-written and certainly kept me guessing at the identity of the killer. Clues about the killer’s identity were also strategically placed throughout the book, but infrequently enough, so as to keep the reader enthralled, continually wondering, and part of the big mystery. I also loved the way the romance in this book was just enough to accelerate the pace of the story and deepen the natures of the characters involved, without becoming too overwhelming and veering off from the main story.
It took some time to actually dive into the action, mystery, and suspense of the murders in the Gomorrah Festival. The first few chapters were mainly to set up the characters and the location of the story, making it a bit slow and long, but as soon as the first illusion was murdered, the story increased in pace, yet realistically so, in order to draw out the suspense of determining the killer. The middle of the book also explained the political situation of Gomorrah in relation to the Up-Mountain and Down-Mountain cities, which was also difficult to read as it went into unnecessarily long detail about every king, queen, prince of political and historical significance. However, despite this, the book kept me up for nearly the whole night, and I would love to see more books in the world of the Gomorrah Festival.
To conclude, Daughter of the Burning City, was a thrilling, magical story, with heroism and villainy of the strangest and most unexpected kind. This novel treads the fine line between fantasy and horror, delighting those who are intrigued by fictional worlds, and creepy, unsettling characters. I was thoroughly blown away by the identity of the killer and Amanda Foody’s sharp, intense, and intricate writing style. I would recommend this book to older young-adult readers. If you like your fantasy on the darker side, thrilling mystery, dark secrets, and magical powers, or are a fan of the Star-Touched Queen series by Roshani Chokshi, the Witch Hunter Series by Virginia Boecker, or Stephanie Garber’s novels, you’ll definitely be swept away by the mystery and magic in this book! I give this book an 8.5 out of 10.