Stars: 4 out of 5.
This book is the absolute proof that we do judge a book by its cover. At least, it entices us to pick it up and start reading. I think I would have breezed right past the City of a Thousand Dolls on Amazon if not for the absolutely gorgeous cover art. It made me stop, open the link and read the brief synopsis. And after that, I immediately bought it, not even bothering to look through the reviews. Later, I was surprised at the amount of negative reviews this book received, especially on Goodreads, because I loved it.
I the whole concept of a city created for the sole purpose of caring for abandoned girls that their families don’t want anymore. This sort of orphanage, soft of boarding school, sort of specialized school where the girls learn how to become courtesans, artisans, artists, guards or even assassins. I also loved the world Miriam Forster has created. It’s interesting to see how a society that is completely cut off from the outside world would function.
I read a lot of complaints about Nisha, but I think that she is a fleshed out character, as far as young female protagonists go. Yes, at the beginning all her worries might sound shallow and rather petty, but this is exactly how it should be. She is fifteen; she has lived a very sheltered life behind the walls of the City. Of course, she would be worried only about her dress during the Ceremony, or flirting about the young courier. I actually enjoyed watching Nisha’s character evolve and grow up as the story progressed, and seeing how her priorities shifted the more she got involved in the whole investigation into the murders. It took courage and backbone to do what she did in the end, and for that she has my respect.
I am not a fan of love triangles in general, but the implied triangle in this book didn’t bother me that much. Maybe because Mrs. Forster didn’t take the usual route and made one of the men in Nisha’s life “bad”. Everyone has their reasons for acting like they do, and those reasons make sense.
If I have one gripe with this book, it’s that Miriam Forster never explains what happened to Nisha’s parents. We know that they were afraid of something, because they decided to leave Nisha in the City instead of entrusting their nomad family with her care. We know that they were both killed. It would have been nice to know why. Why was it so important to keep Nisha safe behind the city’s walls? Who sent the dead bird to her parents? Was it a warning? Is that why they ran? Nisha had been wondering about her parents and their reasons for years, it would have been cathartic for both her and the reader to get answers to those questions. Hopefully, the author will come back to this subject in later books.
As it stands now, I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series – Empire of Shadows. And just look at that new gorgeous cover!