Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Review: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

Title: City of a Thousand Dolls (Bhinian Empire #1)
Author: Miriam Forster
Release date: February 5th 2013
Publisher: Harper Teen
Source: Review copy from author

An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

City of a Thousand Dolls is a refreshing debut from Miriam Forster. I loved the fantasy elements throughout the novel, as well as the premise and the world building. But what I loved most is the fact that this novel is set in South Asia! You don't see that a lot in YA novels, so that was really nice. Plus, I was so excited when I saw all those Indian-sounding names in the novel! Okay, moving on from that, I really enjoyed this book - it's so different from what I usually read. The writing is also amazing, so I can't wait to read more from the author!

Nisha is different from the other girls in the City. She is Matron's personal assistant, which means she's also her spy. Nisha gets to train in not one, but two different Houses, which usually isn't allowed. But she doesn't officially belong to either House. She's in a secret relationship with Devan tar'Vey, a member of the Imperial Court. Nisha's content with her life, and looking forward to her Redeeming where she hopes Devan will speak for her, but everything turns upside down when girls in the City start dying. Nisha knows they're being murdered, and she takes it upon herself to stop the killer.

Nisha is a really sweet character, always seeing the good in others and doing her best to help the other girls in the City. All Nisha really wants is her freedom. She doesn't want to be sold to anyone during her Redeeming, or tied to the City for the rest of her life, which is why she really wants Devan to speak for her. Nisha is different in many other ways as well, which you will find out when you read the book. This book takes her on a journey of self-discovery, and she has the strength and determination to face all the obstacles thrown at her.

I didn't find myself liking Devan much. He seemed superficial to me from the beginning, and though I get that he loves Nisha, I don't think it's enough. His family reputation and image means more to him than anything else. But at the same time, he shows that he is, in fact, quite down-to-earth. He's taken a job as a courier, which is unheard of for someone of his position and power. He loves his job and how peaceful it is compared to the Imperial Court. I honestly am not sure what to think of him, not even at the end of the book! He annoys me in one scene, and then makes me like him again in the next.

I normally despise cats of any kind, but the spotted cats in this book were awesome! They can communicate with Nisha through some form of mind-speak, and we find out the reason for that later on in the novel. Jerrit and Esmer are the ones closest to Nisha, and it's amazing to see how much they love her and protect her. Jerrit almost sacrificed his life for her without even thinking about it. The cats always have Nisha's best interests at heart, and she knows how lucky she is to have them.

The other characters in this book were also really unique and likeable. I loved Tac, the assistant of Josei (the Combat House mistress). He doesn't talk much in the book, but he communicates quite effectively through his eyes and actions. Oh, and he's amazingly strong! At some point, he has to carry Nisha around everywhere, and even she wonders at his incredible strength! Tac is really supportive of Nisha, and stands up for her fiercely. There's a secret about Tac that we find out too, something you'd never see coming at all.
Nisha's best friend, Tanaya, is a very well-written and complex character. I immediately developed a liking for her, mostly because she's pretty much the only girl in the City that Nisha trusts. Tanaya is in training to become the wife of Sudev, the heir to the throne. She is described as extremely beautiful, but I liked the fact that she still had time for Nisha no matter what.

This book is filled with shocking revelations and mystery, which is why I loved it so much! It starts out quite slow, but really picks up later, and the climax is just epic. The pacing was perfect, and I could see the scenes visually being played out in my head. It's been ages since I've read a good murder mystery, and this is one of those really unpredictable ones that are impossible not to like. After about the halfway point, I found myself surprised at every chapter!

I'd recommend City of a Thousand Dolls to anyone who loves a great murder mystery, as well as fantasy and adventure. This book combines some of my favourite genres in a fantastic way! I'm excited to hear that Miriam Forster is currently working on a companion novel, but I'm desperately hoping for a sequel as well. The ending was great, but I need to know more about Nisha's story!

*Thank you to Miriam Forster for providing a copy for review*

Rating: 4/5

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