I had the great opportunity to snag a copy of DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY from Harlequin during Book Expo and let me tell you – I was seriously excited about this debut from Amanda Foody. I was disappointed that there was not more buzz around it, but judging by the enormous line at the Harlequin booth the morning of the signing, it definitely got the word out about this story. First thing’s first – I love the cover. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the typography of the title, but it seriously grew on me and became such a good design aesthetic for the whole plot itself. And have you seen the UK version of DOTBC? It’s just as pretty and is going to force me to buy that version too.
The story follows young Sorina, a jynx-worker with the ability to create illusions that fill Gomorrah’s Festival and entertain the audiences of the Up-Mountainers who look down upon Sorina and the other Down-Mountainers. It isn’t until one of her illusions is murdered that she realizes that her imaginary family is far from imaginary and she begins her own investigation into who is responsible. And throughout her journey, she discovers more about her past, present, and future that define her for more than her rare ability to create illusions to awe and amaze.
I felt like the story started out slow, but really picked up the pace as the plot unraveled and I got into the thick of the actual book. For a debut, Foody demonstrates the craft of a seasoned writer. The world she creates is dark and complex, well-thought out and makes me want to come to the Gomorrah Festival. The characters (though at times I forgot who was who) were engaging and developed, particularly Sorina and Luca. I felt absolutely swept away by the griping mystery surrounding the murderer of Gomorrah. By the time I was nearing the end, I just couldn’t stop thinking about reading more.
I think it’s so original of Foody to create these characters that are so reminiscent of those old Vaudeville-esque entertainers that were popularized in the early part of the 20th century. But the idea of tying in these odd and attention-grabbing “circus freaks” really rounds out Gomorrah. I absolutely loved knowing more about each of Sorina’s family members and how they seemed to just stick together through the thick of these events plaguing them all. And yet, despite being so close and devoted to her family, it becomes more paralyzing for Sorina to realize that it may be one of her own performing the murders.
Sorina is a fantastic MC and even a better heroine in DOTBC. From her unique appearance to her dedication to her one and only family, she really shines in a way that I hope Foody was not expected. And when I say this, I feel like authors never realize the impact that their characters can have on readers, especially strong and commanding young women like Sorina. Yet, despite her strength in convictions, she still possesses the insecurities that any woman would have and that any reader can understand – with appearances, finding someone to love her, and other issues that stay relevant despite this overarching plot concerning Gomorrah and the impending veil of danger. I loved this about Sorina so much. Every now and again, I got to see how she was insecure about her lack of eyes and the many masks that she wore to cover up that ‘deformity’ of hers and how that impacted her relationship with Luca in particularly.
Luca is often described as a handsome fellow with “bedroom brown eyes” according to Sorina and yes – this paints a picture that she is attracted to him (and I also like how it seems her sexuality is fluid, just as other characters’ sexualities are fluid). I really enjoyed watching their interactions and how they grew from strangers to what they are in the end. I will say that how things turned out had me gob smacked. I had an inkling that what is revealed would actually happen, but I didn’t know for sure if it would be true and it was! I really liked the direction in which Foody went with Luca and I don’t think there was any other way to have him be than in the way she presents him. He is certainly not as complex as Sorina (and who would be?), but he is so very memorable to me as a more than secondary character. Also, quick note, can we talk about how awesome his own jynx-working is? For a story that is so dark and twisty, I was waiting for the grotesque part of it to come through and Foody completely delivered with Luca and his ability to never die – which means scenes of gruesome almost-deaths for the fan of such a genre.
Now, I want to quickly touch upon the moment I realized who the killer was. I really really thought that it was going to be THIS CHARACTER and it seemed so predictable to me and yet I was okay if it happened this way because it was interesting enough that I could forgo the flaw in predictability. But I think that had I not been so distracted by this possible suspect that I would have suspected who the real killer is and that would not have been as exciting for me as I would have wanted it to be. I think it’s so interesting that it happened that way and I wondered if that was Foody’s intention (I find it wildly fascinating when a book/show/movie can completely distract their audience to avoid solving whatever unsolved conflict is happening). Or maybe it was just beside the point for me.
Nevertheless, this was a fantastic debut for Amanda Foody and I encourage everyone to read this story. It’s got a little bit of everything for any genre reader, but if you’re looking for a dark and twisty sort of tale, then you need to pick up this book. I cannot wait for what else Foody has in store for her next book.