Monday, August 5, 2019

REVIEW: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

City of a Thousand Dolls (Bhinian Empire, #1)An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

I liked this book a lot more than I expected, mainly because I had no idea what to expect from this book. I added this to my TBR in 2012 and hadn't really read the synopsis since. This is an intriguing mix of mystery and fantasy. 

This takes place in a city full of girls who are abandoned there because of a two-child law and are trained in different houses to eventually become apprentices or brides outside the city. Our MC, Nisha, was too old when she was left in the city so she is instead an assistant. When girls wind up dead and Nisha's freedom is at risk, she starts investigating the cause of all the deaths around the city. 

The fantasy world in this book is Asain-inspired, which is really refreshing. The city is very isolated so we have very little information about the outside world, but this is a society that used to have magic and there are clear indications of that further along in the story. Despite the fantasy setting, this is, at its heart, a murder mystery which I have never fully seen in a fantasy novel. The pacing of this book is a bit slow for the most part, which is why I can't give this book more than three stars. We spend a good part of the book with Nisha wandering around and a couple of girls dying, but it wasn't all that exciting. By the end of the book, it got a lot more interesting and I found myself drawn into the story, but it took a bit to get there.

Nisha as an MC is okay. She spends a lot of the time reacting to the environment. I kind of wanted to know more about her personality in the beginning and I'm not sure if I ever did. We do learn more about her past, but I didn't quite feel connected to her. I did like her connection to the spotted-cats of the city. She can communicate with them in her head and they are among her best friends. Out of everything in this book, the cats were my favorite part because they were so important to the story, Nisha's life, and even had their own personalities.

From the synopsis it sounds like this book will be a romance, Nisha "begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier ". But there is very little romance in this book! Which I loved! I loved that the "romance" was far far far in the background and the focus was on Nisha's problems and the murders. There are so few YA books without romance, especially in 2012, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the romance was unimportant. 

Overall, I liked this book. It took a bit for me to get into it because of the pacing, but I liked the cats, the fact that there was no romance, and all the revelations at the end. This is the first in a duology and I want to read the next book, especially since I liked the latter half of the book more than the first half, but I'm not sure what the focus of the next book will be. I guess I'll find out when I read it.

I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it.

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