Book Review: Daughter of the Burning City

The hype surrounding this book really had me worried. I hate getting my expectations so high, only for them to be beaten to a pulp and left for dead. (It’s happened, I promise! *cough* Midnight Star *cough*). But luckily, that was not the case with Amanda Foody’s debut novel, Daughter of the Burning City.

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 traveling 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.

The Good

  • Wonderful World-Building – Foody did such an amazing job introducing us to the extremely atmospheric city of Gomorrah and the world that it’s set in. Everything is so vividly described and brought to life, that you can picture every little detail in your mind. I also appreciated that with such a rich history and background, there is never just a huge info dump, but rather we are slowly introduced to the history throughout the entire book. I hate when I get overwhelmed within the first chapter about that kind of stuff, don’t you?
  • My Sweet Asshole, Luca – I’m sorry, but Luca’s personality killed me. I loved that he just says whatever he thinks and it doesn’t matter what it is or who he’s talking to. (He kind of reminds me of myself in that regard!). His interactions with Sorina were so funny and constantly cracking me up. Also, his morbid sense of humor was so perfect. Basically, I just want more Luca. Is that too much to ask?
  • NO CLOWNS!!!! – If you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably aware of how much I dislike clowns. Good news, folks – there aren’t any in this book!
  • Good Use of Real Life Issues – I enjoyed how Foody used this book as a parallel for everyday issues such as us vs. them mentality, stereotyping, and even some commentary on religion. It was never heavy handed and I thought made some very valid points on religion that really should be addressed. I’m saying this as a Christian, too! Though if you don’t feel comfortable with religious commentary in your novels, you may not enjoy this book as much. (And that’s fine, too!)

I remind myself that my face isn't a deformity. It's magic. I am magic.

The Bad

  • Predictable Ending – I think my biggest issue with this book was that murder mystery plot was just a little predictable. I would’ve liked a more original ending to it, as I kind of had a feeling that what occurred was going to be the big reveal about halfway through the book. However, I enjoyed the journey to the ending enough that it didn’t really take a away a whole lot from the overall storyline.
  • Sorina – I have yet to really figure out my feelings towards Sorina. I guess my overall opinion of her as a main character is just, ummm… ambivalent? So not necessarily bad, just meh.

You’ll notice that I haven’t commentated on the sexual orientations portrayed in this novel. I don’t really feel that I have a place to say if it was accurate or not, so I figured I’d leave that up to those who do to comment and review that part of the story. If you are interested in learning more, there are quite a few reviews on Goodreads that address this. Also, if you are part of the LGBTQA+ community and have read this book, please feel free to comment below on the accuracy of the portrayals!

Overall, I found this to be a really enjoyable read. There were a couple of issues I had with the story, but they weren’t really enough to truly affect how entertained I was with this story. I also chalk it up a bit to this being Amanda Foody’s first novel and expect her to only get better in the future. If you’re looking for a fun and atmospheric fantasy read for the fall season, this one definitely fits the bill!

Final Verdict: 4.5/5 Stars

Have you read Daughter of the Burning City? If so, what did you think of it? What are your feelings on the portrayals in this book? Do you enjoy books even if the ending isn’t as good? How do you feel about debut novels in general?