Sunday, 31 March 2013

Review: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster


I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that was both fantasy and a murder mystery, so in this regard City of a Thousand Dolls was quite unique. Miriam Forster also gets bonus points for keeping me guessing about the identity of the murderer until the very end of the story. I love trying to figure out a good murder plot, so I was impressed with her slight of hand on this, especially seeing as she dropped all the necessary clues.

This isn’t a fast-paced book with lots of action, rather the author spends her time weaving together a cast of compelling characters with a colourful and richly textured setting. There is a lot of description in City of a Thousand Dolls, especially concerning clothing. Though this slowed the story down a bit for me, it contributed to the vivid Asian-influenced atmosphere of the book, which was ultimately its biggest strength.

While City of a Thousand Dolls is a mystery, at its heart it’s about the issue of independence and respect. The girls living in the city are orphans training in various cultural arts that will make them suitable wives, mistresses, or assistants. The plot works its way toward the Redeeming, a ceremony in which wealthy men (and sometimes women) can purchase them. The society in which they live operates on the caste system and while the City of a Thousand Dolls provides a means for castoff girls to survive, it also perpetuates the immoral practice of selling young women and sentencing them to lives they did not choose.

The main character, Nisha, serves as an assistant to the Matron of the City of a Thousand Dolls, and as more girls are killed, she is secretly assigned the task of investigating the deaths. While she tries to solve the mystery of who is murdering her fellow students, she also discovers some important details about her own obscure background. The question of Nisha’s fate following the Redeeming is also central to the plot. Her desire for freedom and to be treated as more than a nobody made me sympathetic to her plight. I admired her determination to do the right thing in difficult circumstances, even if it meant putting her own life at risk. I also enjoyed her bizarre telepathic relationship with the cats that roam the City of a Thousand Dolls.

In addition to the revelation of the murderer, there was another plot twist that took me COMPLETELY by surprise. In fact, I read that segment twice, because I was so dumbfounded for a moment. This particular reveal was my favourite part of the book.  Just as with the murder clues, the author played fair with her hints about this as well. And that is all I’m going to say about that…

If you like reading books with strong female characters, detailed description, and are intrigued by a mash up of fantasy and murder mystery, then City of a Thousand Dolls might be just the story for you.

*Note: I would advise not reading the cast of characters listed at the start if you can help it. I happened to flip there when I was partway done the book and found it was a bit spoilery concerning a couple characters. 

10 comments:

  1. That cover is stunning! I've heard of this one, but I didn't know a lot about it. I do enjoy a good fantasy and mystery is always fun, but I'm especially intrigued by your mention of the truly surprising plot twist -- I love when that happens! I'll definitely add this one to my TBR list. Thanks, Erin!

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    1. The cover was definitely a factor in putting this one on my DAC list. I have to confess I did find the story a little slow in the first half, but the mystery aspect picked up in the second half. If you read it, I hope you find the plot twist as surprising as I did. Maybe I was just a little slow on the uptake, because after that particular revelation I realized the author did plant some blatant clues. In any case, I enjoyed that part of the story. Hope you do too!

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  2. Hello

    Blog hopping and stumbled upon your wonderful blog.
    Great blog !

    Best of luck !

    Rajiv
    www.magicalpresent.blogspot.com
    www.magnificentdewdrops.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. Best of luck with your blog as well!

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  3. I've been meaning to pick this one up for a while. I love a good plot twist, and since you're usually good at figuring them out but didn't this time, that intrigues me even more. I feel like I'm not reading as much as I'd like to lately. I think I need to fix that. :)

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    1. This story didn't grab me right away, but I stuck with it and in the end was glad I did. I think you'll like the plot twist. I won't say why because I have a feeling if I expand on that even a little you'll be suspicious enough to guess what it is when you read the book. :)

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  4. I've seen a few reviews for this book and I have to say I'm intrigued. I like reading fantasy NOT set in a Western-inspired world, and I think exploring the caste system is an interesting choice. I'll have to try to squeeze this one in my reading schedule somewhere!

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    1. Yeah, it was refreshing to read a fantasy that drew from Asian culture. I hope you enjoy it. As I mentioned, it was a little slow in parts, but overall I liked it and I'll read the sequel when it comes out.

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  5. Ooooo... thanks for this, Erin! I love a good book that will take me by surprise! And you're so awesome... thanks so much for your kind words and support... :D

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    1. I'm hoping that anyone who reads the book based on my review will be surprised too. Who knows? Maybe I was a little slow on the uptake with this one lol! And your awesomeness and support are also appreciated, Morgan! (Thanks, by the way!)

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