Straight up, I will always read books that have girls on the cover between two giant lion statues holding weapons. ALWAYS AND FOREVER. Sometimes this is a bad life choice, but in the case of City Of A Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster, the inside pretty much exceeds the outside in terms of awesomeness. While City Of A Thousand Dolls is not quite Eon: Dragoneye Reborn calibre, it is very, very good. Nisha, the main character, has this pretty awesome coming of age where she learns secrets and must seize her freedom and her future in this Asian-inspired fantasy. FYI, I cannot really say anything about cultural authenticity as regarding this book because well, I am not an expert by any means.
Nisha lives in the City Of A Thousand Dolls where the girls live in different Houses – like Harry Potter – and get trained to be valuable servants and wives. As Nisha arrived at the City at the age of six, she was too old to train at a specific house, thus she acts as a go-between for Matron, and also her assistant. She has plenty of friends, but none so close as the pack of wild cats that live on the grounds — FYI they speak to each other using telepathy. With the Redeeming, a ceremony where the girls are able to be Claimed for a price, Nisha is hopeful that her secret boyfriend will Claim her. Only, there’s one problem, MURDER. Yo, that’s right. There’s a rash of murders in the City Of A Thousand Dolls, Nisha takes it upon herself to investigate the murders.
Let’s be real for a second here, you guys know my proclivities when it comes to protagonists. SO OF COURSE you know that I loved City Of A Thousand Dolls‘ main character. Nisha is wonderful. Like, she comes off as kind of awkward because she has not really been trained in the houses. Despite her setbacks, she still manages to kick ass. Word. SHE IS KICK ASS. I mean, she puts herself at risk to save the other girls and to be a loyal friend. The killer could seriously be anyone and Nisha is all, whatevs, who cares, I am going to FIND THEM. Also, she spars a lot and I pretty much love those bits, it’s not like a battle, but training and to me that is awesome.If you like heroines who are allowed to be vulnerable and have feelings and doubts and make mistakes, you’ll love Nisha probably as much as I did.
Because I am an expert when it comes to literary terms, I figure I’d be remiss if I didn’t prattle on a little bit about the world building. You guys! This book is nothing like Harry Potter or Graceling, so get that out of your head now. Like I mentioned above, there are houses that train girls and give them purpose. You see, the Empire has a two child policy, which is you faintly reminiscent of today. Of course, girls aren’t valuable because they can’t inherit. Anyways, these girls come to City Of A Thousand Dolls and are placed in houses that best suit their personality and skills. I thought this was an interesting way of addressing that issue, and well, it sucks that women are chattel, but no worries THIS IS ADDRESSED. Also? Sidebar: I’d like to read a book on these policies where it’s the boys who aren’t valuable and the girls are the ones people keep. Anyways. There are also the cats who play a huge role. While I am not quite a cat person, I did think the wild cat tribe was quite awesome, especially Jerrit, and you’ll see why when you read, but hey these cats are as loyal as DOGS. WHAT I KNOW. OH and City Of A Thousand Dolls makes use of a caste system, which of course being weird as hell, I found fascinating.
I actually really liked Miriam Forster’s writing style. While it’s not highlight every other page writing, it is the sort of book I like during this time of year. It’s a fantasy that doesn’t take me 1000 pages just to be able to picture the setting. Instead, I felt a strong sense of place — with the city and the forest that surrounds it. I thought she did a great job making Nisha likable and interesting — and not some weird misfit. The pacing is good with this book, granted it took me about 100 pages to really be totally hooked in that can’t put it down sort of way.
Yes. There is romance in City Of A Thousand Dolls, but it’s subtle. Like, less than 30 pages probably deal with swoon time. I liked that. I liked that it was a book that focused on how kick ass Nisha was and how she’d solve her dilemma instead of the focus being on some dark mysterious stranger who would save them all. Obviously, if you want a big and grand sweeping romance this is not the book for you. But if you want fantasy with just a hint of kissing, you’ll like this, I hope.
FINALLY! I need to tell you guys about the ending, but without spoiling you. There is NO cliffhanger. Like there is an actual ending, one that I was like okay I am satisfied, I can close this and not feel the ending is a money grab on the part of the author to sell a sequel. I felt the ending was perfect for the story and solved loose ends. At this point I am not sure if there’s a sequel, I think Twitter told me there was. AND YOU GUYS I am okay with that. I am okay with a sequel because I feel like I’m not being held hostage with information/plot resolutions to read it. Nope, every thread basically gets resolved which yay, I love it when I feel a book has paid off my time investment. In all, I totally recommend City Of A Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster if you are a cat person, down for kick ass characters and like your social structures interesting.
Disclosure: Received for review
Other reviews of City Of A Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster:
Candace’s Book Blog – “I really have a lot of mixed feelings.”
Hobbitsies – “Miriam Forster is basically a master world-builder”
Recovering Potter Addict – “I had FUN reading it and isn’t that the most important thing”