After being completely indecisive about what I wanted to read (me? indecisive? never!), it was the hubby who pulled it off the shelf thanks to the ABSOLUTELY STUNNING COVER. Like, can we appreciate the cover a bit for this one? So shiny. Mmmm.
The featured book in July’s Fairyloot subscription box, Daughter of the Burning City had an instantly interesting synopsis.
Sorina is the adopted daughter of the Gomorrah Festival’s proprietor. Running her own show, Sorina uses her jynx-work to conjure illusions that fascinate and terrify the crowds of the god-fearing cities the festival travels to.
But not all her illusions are simple tricks of the mind. Sorina has created an entire family for herself, all unusual and all unreal. At least, that’s what she thinks. When one of them is apparently murdered, Sorina is thrown into doubt about what she has created and who she is.
Investigating the death from within Gomorrah itself, she is guided by the strange boy Luca, who apparently cannot die. But her father has other ideas, and the political intrigue surrounding the festival may be involved too. Unsure of who to trust and what to do, Sorina must tread through the dangers of the festival she thought she knew – but doesn’t know at all.
Let me start by saying the concept surrounding the book, and the Festival itself, are fascinating. Foody has thought of a dark world and built it with some beautiful language. She gets right into the scents and sounds that bring the place to life with wonderful vividness. The stickiness, the smokiness of the tents and caravans and the lanes between them were a pleasure to read, and framed the whole experience of the book.
However, if only the depth of the story could match the depth of the description.
I think the main issues that the novel has is that it tries to be darker than it is with tropes that have been so well-used I knew what was going to happen from about a quarter of the way through the book. Reaching the end, I could see all the tangles of plot as easily as Sorina could see the strings of her illusions, and I had a thousand ways they could’ve been handled better. A large part of this book focused on Sorina and how she felt angry and hurt and confused, whilst being surrounded by fascinating characters that could have been so much more complex and, quite frankly, more interesting.
Perhaps that’s just me. Sorina is a sixteen-year-old protagonist, so this is aimed at the slightly younger end of the YA spectrum, and not necessarily me (who very much appreciates the nastier, darker, creepier and decidedly less whining novels). Her concerns are, I suppose, what most sixteen-year-old girls might focus on, and yet at the same time there’s the scent of stereotype around her.
But there are interesting sparks. She can see by has no eyes, separating her from the ‘normal’ people around her in a way that could challenge the misconceptions around disfigurement. She’s bisexual (at least, I think so. Is on-page recognition really so difficult?), and yet her main focus of affection is, yes, Luca (and let’s not mention the whiff of potential a-sexual erasure hanging over him).
And the political world outside of the festival could have been so much more exciting too. There is a cleverness there – the name Gomorrah, a festival of sin going up against an ‘Up-mountain’ world of religious fanatics, is both intriguing and subtle. Yet it lacked the complexity and continued intellect that I had been hoping for. So much seemed to balance between the actions of the festival and the reactions of the outside world, but those threads weren’t as well-developed as they could have been.
This all makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy it, and part of me wonders if I am being too harsh. I did enjoy it; Luca is actually a very impressive character, and one that I warmed to immediately. The magic of the world is interesting and I was really intrigued by Sorina using strings to create and control her illusions.
In fact, that might be the sum of it. Foody set up a lot of things throughout that I was curious about all the way through. The ideas and the possibilities throughout the novel were interesting enough to pull me through the weaker developments of character and plot.
It’s clear Daughter of the Burning City is the start of a series, and it is possible that these things may be developed more fully in subsequent books. After the initial set-up, things can be given more of the complexity they deserve. Who knows? I kind of hope so, as there was so much potential there and I’d like to see something really original in a future story with these characters.
What’s one book you’ve read where you wished you could change things just to give it that extra something? Let me know down below! And let me know what you’re reading right now, too. I’d love to chat 🙂