Author: Miriam Forster
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
I am going to be completely honest here. The sole reason I added this book to my TBR was because of that exquisite cover. It's so reminiscent of one of my favorite childhood movies ever that I knew I'd read it, no matter what it was really about. But with a gorgeous cover like that, there's little chance the book will be a big ole fail, right?
The story wasn't a failure...not really. It only failed at being the epic fantasy novel indicated by the cover, and the author even admits as much in her acknowledgements at the end of the book. Even the book trailer makes this book seem infinitely more epic than it is. But despite the fact that the novel didn't quite live up to the amazing cover, I still found it relatively engaging, full of murder and intrigue. However, the rather slow pacing and the not-so-mysterious mystery both left something wanting.
Nisha is an orphan, as are all the girls in the City of a Thousand Dolls, henceforth known as the City in this review. But somehow, Nisha is different. Unlike the rest of the girls in the City, she is not trained for a specific house, to be purchased by the highest bidder at the Redeeming. Nisha learns what she can from a couple of the houses, including wielding a weapon and dancing, but what she excels in is collecting secrets for Matron, head of the City. She is already not very popular with the other girls, but this skill leaves her even less so.
Her only true companions are the cats that follow her around the City and speak to her in her mind. At first, I was afraid that the presence of these feline friends was going to annoy me, but the spotted cats actually ended up being one of my favorite aspects. The murder mystery and the romance both took a backseat to these creatures who seemed to know way more than they were letting on.
This is a book full of secrets, just waiting to be uncovered. Sadly, though, by the time Tac made his first appearance -- could that subplot have been any more glaringly obvious? -- I had every secret and mystery sorted out and compartmentalized until nothing surprised me anymore. All of the deceptions and trickery were very obvious and not at all subtle, at least not to this avid reader. Had I not been able to guess literally every element of the ending ahead of time, this might have been an even more enjoyable read.
As it stands, I liked it. I wouldn't recommend it to those who get bored easily or who are expecting high-action fantasy. But if you love a multi-layered plot full of mystery and intrigue, or if you just love cats, this might be a good fit for you. I'm definitely interested enough in the characters and the storyline to continue it should this turn into a series, but I'm also happy with the material presented and the way it ended. I'm game either way.