Thursday, February 21, 2013

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Title: City of a Thousand Dolls
Author: Miriam Forster
Series: n/a
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Source: purchased
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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.

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.

Rating:   photo 4-1.png


  1. Great review, I'll know to lower my expectations a tick before starting this. I like cats and the fact the romance is downplayed is fine by me honestly the only worry is guessing every twist and turn before they happen.

  2. My first reaction to the cover is that it must be middle grade. I don't know why but I get a Percy Jackson vibe from it. I'm glad you ended up liking it!

  3. YEah I thought this looked like The Neverending Story as well. I am surprised that this book is not getting reviewed or buzzed. Usually a Harper Teen title is all over the place so that makes me wonder. So far the reviews are pretty lackluster so I am on the fence. I do like multi layered complex stories but I just don't know....

  4. I was also excited about this, though I think my expectations weren't as high as yours. But I've read quite a few reviews who felt luke-warm about it for similar reasons. Hm...
    That it isn't too high on romance isn't a problem for me because mushy-gushy books make me roll my eyes, but I dunno. The premise about all the different roles and the world building still sound awesome, and I do like cats. I just don't know about the predictability you mention. Sometimes people see things coming that totally take me by surprise, sometimes it's the other way around. Very well-written and balanced review though, and you still gave it four stars :)

  5. Aw, sorry to hear that it wasn't the epic fantasy that you expected, but glad it wasn't horrible overall. Seems like you enjoyed the layered plot and characters though.
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  6. Just bought this. You know I don't love epic fantasy (though I am into my 12th hour of listening to Game of Thrones, so maybe I'm a big fat liar) so I'll see. I'm got a little scared when you said "cats that speak to her in her mind." But you liked that part, so I will trust you.

  7. Ha! I totally thought of The Neverending Story when I saw this cover. I'm glad you liked the book, despite it not being what you expected.

  8. I love the sound of it! Cats speaking to her, multi-layered plot, I think I will really enjoy that :)


  9. love your cat photo. I have been curious about this book. I really didn't know what to take from the cover and the synopsis. Awesome review. I think I may give it shot.

  10. Well, I'm very thankful to read your review so that my expectations don't keep increasing over the cover. Now I'm forewarned :) It all sounds really enjoyable still though so I'll pick it up eventually! Great review, love it :)

    Sunny @ Blue Sky Bookshelf

  11. OMG I totally thought of The Neverending Story when I first saw this cover too! lol I'm still not sure if this one is for me though. And I do get bored easily, especially with fantasy. Maybe someday I will check it out though!

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