Title: Daughter of the Burning City
Author: Amanda Foody
Review: Daughter of the Burning City is Amanda Foody’s debut novel, I haven’t read anything by her before, but I have heard great things about this book and the Ace of Shades series. For the synopsis alone, it reminds me a little of Stalking Jack the Ripper but in a fantasy carnival setting. We are introduced to Sorina who is an illusion worker in the Gomorrah Festival, she can create illusions that have their own personalities and can physically interact with other people and I gather that these illusions make up either the entirety or most of the freak show acts in the Gomorrah Festival. The opening of the novel was, interesting as we are introduced to Sorina and her illusions who are her family, so far Tree is my favourite as he reminds me of Groot. We witness one of their shows and what makes them unique as well as the rest of the festival, Sorina’s favourite attraction is the menagerie but this night it is canceled as some officials show up causing chaos at the Festival. From the moment things start going wrong I got a really bad feeling and I like all of Sorina’s illusions so knowing one of them is going to die was heartbreaking. As I mentioned Sorina is an illusion worker, but even she is unique among her kind, most it seems are born blind and see the world a different way but Sorina was born completely without eyes only impressions where her eyes should be. She was a slave girl in another life but was soon adopted by the Festival and she does some dodgy things to take care of the women who raised her within the Festival. The atmosphere of this novel is intense from the very beginning which is such a hard thing to capture especially in a debut novel.
As we approach the ¼ mark in the novel, one of Sorina’s illusions is murdered but despite her removing Gill’s strings, his body doesn’t disappear. This obviously isn’t normal in Sorina’s illusion working but she is too distraught by the death of one of her close friends to care. Sorina immediately goes to speak with her father; Villiam after discovering Gill’s body. However, with the Festival in absolute chaos and having to move at dawn he can’t help her despite wanting to. He does tell her to bury Gill’s body immediately and gather all the evidence she can before they move but the chance of finding the killer is slim. Several days after Gill’s death, Sorina visits a gossip worker for help in finding Gill’s killer, Luca doesn’t want to help because it sounds like a religious fanatic and although he can’t die, he doesn’t appreciate being hurt. Soon after returning to her own tent another one of her illusions turns up dead and this time it is the baby; Blister. It seems to me like someone is deliberately targeting Sorina maybe in the hopes of getting to her father or putting a stop to the Festival altogether.
As we cross the ¼ mark in the novel, Sorina knows the rest of her family is in danger after Gill and Blister’s murders but her father does seem to be doing much although he does agree to step up the investigation after Blister’s death. Luca also agrees to help Sorina with their own investigation covering everything Villiam isn’t. Luca believes that it has to be someone inside the Festival targeting Sorina and it might be jynx-work, he also believes that the killer or killers aren’t targeting Villiam because he wasn’t that close to Gill or Blister, Sorina seems to be the one they are trying to target by going after the people she cares for the most. After meeting with her father Sorina learns that there is more to the Festival than meets the eyes and she is about to get a crash course in what it means to be a leader. I have also noticed that the illustrations of Sorina’s family also hold major significance as they are the original blueprints for Sorina’s illusions, however, underneath each seems to be observations from an outsider, probably the killer. The first two illustrations are of Gill and Blister, but the next one is of Nicoleta, undoubtedly the mother of the Sorina’s family.
As we approach the halfway mark in the novel, Sorina’s meetings with Luca are actually turning up information. Luca believes that the only person who could kill someone who isn’t real is someone with an unusual ability that would allow them to kill an illusion. He knows of 8 including himself that have unique abilities like this, when the question the first they instantly rule in out as he isn’t smart enough to have the required knowledge and stealth to kill her illusions. However, something interesting happens when she visits Jaifu to collect her payment. He claims that he already gave her the money on the day of Blister’s funeral but Sorina knows that isn’t true, so it seems to me that they may be another illusion worker within the Festival that for some reason has a grudge against Sorina, which is why they are killing off her illusions. The notes under the illustrations also reveal that this person has been watching Sorina and her illusions for a long time in order to know their routines, strengths, and weaknesses perfectly. The next person attacked isn’t one of Sorina’s illusions but her father and while he escapes with only a broken leg he knows he has to tell Sorina about the true history of the Festival. It turns out before the First Trade War there was unity between the cities but after something called the Alliance sprung up and the Festival has been at war with the Alliance ever since, the responsibilities passing from one head of the Festival to the next. The man that attacked Villiam is part of the Alliance and definitely linked to the murders of Gill and Blister, but he killed himself before they could get anyone information from him. Her father has planned to take on the heads of the Alliance in Sapris while a wedding is taking place and he needs Sorina’s illusion-work to follow through with his plan.
As we cross the halfway mark in the novel, they are getting closer to their destination and the man they intend to kidnap, however, the Captain of the Guard Chimal, wants to use Hawk in the mission and Sorina refuses to put another member of her family in danger and because of this Chimal is refusing to work with her. Everything seems to be moving forward but Sorina is confused about her relationship with Luca especially after she kisses him, but what is bothering her most is Nicoleta has volunteered to take Hawk’s place on the mission and Chimal has agreed. Nicoleta’s abilities are unreliable and she could be putting herself in danger especially since Sorina’s fortune promises danger. By the time Sorina meets Luca again he has already interviewed the rest of their suspects and found no one worthy of note, however, he has found a few people that seem to have 2 types of jynx—work linked to missing limbs much like Sorina who can see without eyes. Luca also believes the killer is striking one illusion per city which means someone could be in danger when they arrive at their next destination. Sorina can make her illusions disappear but they reappear the second she breaks her concentration and she can’t keep them gone for 11 days. She and Luca set out to get some of Jaifu’s cronies to help protect the family, and while Sorina and Jaifu aren’t on the best of terms Luca has something to persuade him with.
As we approach the ¾ mark in the novel, until they arrive at the next city, Sorina locks away her illusions until Jaifu can get some bodyguards together for them all but I have a feeling it might not be enough since everyone in the family seems to have their own lives. However, Sorina and Luca’s relationship takes a huge leap which I wasn’t expecting since Luca hasn’t shown that type of interest in anyone until Sorina. I also have a really bad feeling that someone really close to Sorina might be involved in the murders, possibly Jaifu, Luca or her father but I am not sure yet. As the time arrives for Sorina and Nicoleta to kidnap the archduke, Sorina has a feeling that this isn’t going to work, and Luca is worried for her too, but she doesn’t have a choice. When another member of her family is murdered Sorina finally puts together how the killer has been killing her illusions and who the leader of the Alliance is and as I suspected it is someone close to her. With Luca set to be executed Sorina doesn’t know what to do but Kahina tells her that she believes Luca is an illusion, probably one of hers that she forgot she made. If that is the case she can pull him back into her mind if she is close enough and she races to save him before it is too late.
As we cross into the final section of the novel, everything comes together, and the real killer is revealed along with their motivations. I loved the ending of this novel so much, especially seeing Sorina and her family after everything looking towards a bright future. However, one issue I did have with this novel was the pacing, I felt it would have worked better as a duology, cutting this novel off when the fake killer is caught and then expanding on the final section of this novel to allow more character depth. I felt like you could feel care about Gill and Blister because we didn’t get to know them that well whereas we are rather connected to the rest of the family by the end of the novel because we have been allowed to get to know them and care for them. Despite, this I still really enjoyed Daughter of the Burning City and I can’t wait to read Ace of Shades really soon.
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