Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review: City of a Thousand Dolls - Miriam Forster

City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
Series: Bhinian Empire #1
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on February 5, 2013
Published by Harper Teen
Pages: 359
Read From: 11.1.13 - 11.3.13

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a little girl. 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. She makes her way as Matron's errand girl, 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 also her life.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? The lions, the lone figure holding swords, and the dusky color all catch my attention. Plus the title was a little too bizarre to ignore. However, after finishing the book, I'm not entirely certain what the lone figure is armed as she is.

Characters: I can't say that any of the characters are especially memorable, in either a good or a bad way. Nisha was an acceptable enough protagonist, though certain no Sherlock Holmes when it came to solving mysteries. I don't know why, but I love talking cats - I always have - and I didn't dislike Jerrit or any of the others. But they weren't the world's best talking cat characters, either; they were just kind of mediocre. The Mistress of the House of Night was a very intriguing character, but we Readers hardly get a chance to know her at all, and I was very disappointed in this. Devan (Nisha's initial love interest) was too easy to dislike from the moment we meet him, the villains too obvious, and the red herrings glaringly so.

The Romance: The story begins with Nisha already in love with a young man - Devan, the courier from the capitol city. In the City of a Thousand Dolls, girls aren't supposed to have contact with males, so Nisha and Devan keep their relationship a secret. The problem? While the romance itself isn't particularly aggravating, it's obvious from the very beginning that it won't last. Devan is too easily disliked for reasons that the Reader cannot immediately pinpoint, but eventually does. I did get a little tired of Nisha always mooning after him, and when the inevitable finally does happen (Devan's departure), it felt totally contrived. Devan is willing to marry Nisha despite her not having a caste, but a little limp is too much for him to accept? Really?

Plot: The official summary does a pretty good job of, well, summing up the book's plot. It wasn't exactly a slow story; its main flaw was that the mystery was too easy to solve, and so the Reader ends up spending most of their time frustrated with Nisha because she isn't figuring out the obvious. My biggest disappointment was how little of a role the House of Night (the assassins) played. There's a lot of emphasis put on whether or not it actually exists, and so one would expect Nisha's discovering its whereabouts to become a really big part of the story. Nisha does end up finding out about her past more or less because she finds the House of Night, so I suppose it could be argued that it does play a big role in that way. But what Nisha discovers she could have found out in another way. And once that happens, the House of Night just kind of fades into the background, never becoming hugely important. The world itself was interesting. It had some post-apocalyptic elements (not futuristic; more just what happened), but was mostly fantasy. The whole concept of the City of a Thousand Dolls and the other cities was interesting, but the execution of portraying this world was very poorly done. I would have liked to have explored the world a whole lot more, but we aren't given much of an opportunity. I also have to wonder: why is the City of a Thousand Dolls training warriors? They train healers, courtesans, future wives; why warriors? It doesn't fit in.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. There was nothing special in the style; it in fact felt very young, like it was intended for a Middle Grade audience rather than Young Adult. And I do believe that it actually would have benefited the story and the world building if it had been in first person.

Content: None.

Conclusion: The end came as no surprise because I had already figured out who the villains were and their general motivation. There was one small twist that I did really like, but that's about it. City of a Thousand Dolls isn't horrible, but it could have been better. The style and the execution just wasn't done very well, and Nisha was way too slow in figuring out the obvious.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fourteen-and-up.

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