Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Harlequin Teen, 2017
*second cheat book for February 2018, received in Once Upon a Book Club YA August 2017 box*
First off a confession - this is technically the SECOND cheat book for me for February. I'm so ashamed. *hangs head* I had an ARC from the 2017 Book Expo, but I got rid of it and never read it while I technically owned it. So....when I decided I really wanted to try out the Once Upon a Book Club book boxes, one of the ways I justified it was that I had technically already had this book once upon a time, but realistically this is a second cheat book for me....
Now that I've made my confession, let me tell you my thoughts on the book itself! Aside from a super pretty cover - it's purple and rich and dark and twisty (which always appeals to me), it has a wicked premise. I kind of want to jump into Foody's head to see the world from which she plucked this story and its characters.
In this book, when the fabled ancient city of Gomorrah burned, it did not disappear. Rather through a series of powerful enchantments it turned into a forever burning, moving city, now the most decadent, wicked city festival in the world. The daughter of the city's proprietor, Sorina, is an illusionist who runs the festival's freak show... populated, aside from herself, entirely with entertainers who also happen to be illusions that she has created. A half-man, half tree, a girl with no bones, a man who is covered with fingernails rather than hair, a hark-girl who soars above the audience, a man who breathes through gills and wears a water helmet when not in his tank, a baby who spits fire, a two-headed boy, and a manager who (sometimes) has the strength of ten men.
When they travel to the contentious Northern mountains region they face hostility from the local government run on religious principles. Shortly after arrival in their first Northern city region, one of Sorina's illusions is murdered; a feat that should have been impossible. As she and her family grieve, she also begins to investigate and her discoveries illuminate not only a traitor in their midst, but facets of herself that she never knew existed.
The festival atmosphere coupled with the danger to Sorina and her illusions drew me in from the very start. It was easy to visualize Gomorrah and its inhabitants, to see the festival workers and what they offered to the public. Then the idea that Sorina could bring her imaginings to life is so amazing. I wish I could show others the things I see in my head sometimes! So often I mourn my lack of true artistic talent because what I see in my mind's eye and what appears on paper are two disappointingly different things. *sigh*
The story unfolds well and I was on the hook right until the revelation at the very end. I liked how even the illusion characters had their own fully-faceted personalities, just as if they were real family members to Sorina. I mourned along with her when each murder occurred. The topics of grief and family dynamics are both well explored here.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more from Amanda Foody!