ARC Review: Daughter of the Burning City

Daughter of the Burning City

Title: Daughter of the Burning City

Author: Amanda Foody

Series: N/A

Publisher: Harlequin

Release Date: September 7th 2017


Four Stars

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a travelling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smouldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the travelling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

– Blurb courtesy of

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“No. No. No.” This is impossible. Gill can’t be dead. He’s my illusion. His body, though it feels solid, is only a figment of my imagination. No one can kill him, because he doesn’t truly exist.”

Night after night Sorina and her family perform their freak show, but night after night what their audience don’t realise is that Sorina is the only one they see perform who fits the label ‘freak’. Her family are illusion, the traits and appearances that make them freaks were imagined by Sorina when she created them. Sorina has spent her whole life travelling with the Gomorrah Festival, but something is different at their latest stop, and an evening that starts with a raid ends with Sorina finding the body of one of her illusions.

Sorina never thought her illusions could die, and Gill’s death means that the rest of her family could potentially be in danger as well. While Villiam, the proprietor of Gomorrah and Sorina’s adoptive father, thinks Gill’s death was nothing more than a lone attacker protesting the Festival Sorina thinks differently, but her father promises to look into the attack and Sorina agrees to let things lie. Until another of her illusions is killed and Sorina can no longer stand aside, waiting for the next member of her family to die.

“I need to focus on ‘healing’. But what if revenge is the path to healing? To closure? I’m not just going to sit back and go about life normally when a piece of it was ripped away.
And if Villiam isn’t willing to help me, I’ll just find someone else who is.”

While her father looks outside the Festival, thinking the murders the work of an Up-Mountainer, Sorina teams up with Luca, a gossip-worker who cannot die, to look inside the Festival for the murderer. As Sorina works with her father, learning all about the political turmoil the Festival seems to be trapped in the middle of, and works with Luca, learning about the darker delights the Gomorrah Festival offers its visitors, she’s no longer sure what she believes in. All she knows is it’s only a matter of time before she finds herself standing over the body of another of her loved ones.

Daughter of the Burning City was a very highly anticipated release of mine, all I had to read in the blurb was that this book was set in ‘a travelling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires’ and I knew I just had to read this book. The plot grabbed me from the start, the book a mixture of fantasy and murder mystery as it combines the magic and setting of the Gomorrah Festival with the mystery behind who is targeting Sorina’s illusions. There was always something new to discover that added another clue to the inner workings of the Festival or who was behind the murders.

…The Characters

“I’m an illusionworker, the rarest form of jynx-worker, gifted in mirages real enough to touch, smell, hear and taste. My most intricate illusions are my family and the other members of the freak show: living figments of my imagination.”

Sorina has been living inside the Festival ever since she was a child, saved from slavery by Villiam and given a place in Gomorrah as his heir. Despite this she knows very little of what Gomorrah Festival really is. She plays with danger and little acts of rebellion but she remains safe in her small part of Gomorrah. Until she loses one of her illusions. For Sorina the illusions aren’t her creations but her family – her uncle, her sister, her best friend, her baby brother – and she clearly willing to do anything for the people she loves.

As she investigates deaths of her family Sorina isn’t sure of her own mind, both Villiam and Luca have strong reasons believing who is behind the deaths and Sorina goes back and forth on who she thinks is right. Sorina doesn’t know much about her home, or even about her talents as a jynx-worker, but she is eager to learn.

“I spend my free time investigating people, studying people. Every single aspect of their lives. And half my information comes from prettyworkers. I know people’s desires and the most intimate details of their relationships. And I’ve never understood them.”

Luca was a really interesting character to discover more about, and unfortunately I can’t say much about him for fear of spoiling this book for people. Luca has only been travelling with Gomorrah for a year but he makes it his business to know everything about the people he interacts with. He knows more about the Festival than Sorina does and as such this makes him the perfect person for her to investigate with.

Both Sorina and Luca are diverse characters, Sorina identifying as bisexual and Luca as demisexual, making this book a very rare find as it features two LGBT characters who aren’t simply gay or lesbian. That dynamic made the relationship between Luca and Sorina interesting because it developed differently, Luca’s feelings not becoming apparent until he got to know Sorina’s secrets.

“When I created my illusions, I always thought about who they would be for me, not the independent lives they would lead. I have created living, functional people. Is that normal for illusion-workers?”

The development of each of Sorina’s illusions was interesting well developed too. They were all created with a different purpose in mind, to fill in a part of Sorina’s family that was missing, and they all have personalities that reflect those needs. However they are also their own individual people, and the inner question that was brought up, whether they were really their own people or simply an extension of Sorina, made for some interesting reading.

…The Setting

“The Festival comes alive in a rush of opium smoke, the blinking lights of dancers, the smell of pastries that stick to your fingers, the thundering of fireworks. We spin around Gomorrah as if on a carousel, going faster and faster until even I am dizzy, and the world has become a kaleidoscope of purple, pink, red and black.”

Gomorrah Festival is a city in its own right, when you hear ‘travelling carnival’ you think of something smaller than what the Festival really is. It’s a moving city, a whole world packed into bright tents, and as Sorina works with her father to find the killer she learns more about what it means to be proprietor of Gomorrah. The world building in this book was very comprehensive, to pull of everything Amanda Foody did in this one book it needed to be, and the reason I rated this book four stars instead of five was because at times the world building was too heavy. We didn’t just need to learn about the inner workings of Gomorrah but the politics and history of the world outside the Festival as well, it was well written and interesting to read but there were just too many times I felt lost amongst all the information Sorina was being given about her home.

I love books set in circuses or carnivals, and the setting for this book was the main reason Daughter of the Burning City caught my eye. This was a darker story than the other circus-set books I’ve read; filled with assassins instead of illusionists, and more political than magical, but it was still a thrilling read from start to finish and that more than anything is what I look for in books.

What did you think of Daughter of the Burning City? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

75 thoughts on “ARC Review: Daughter of the Burning City

  1. I haven’t gotten too far in reading this one, but I’ve certainly liked what I’ve read. The world-building is really strong, though I would agree that it is a bit heavy in some places, but the characters are amazing and the concept of a traveling circus has me hooked. I love darker, more gothic stories and so I’m excited to hear that it will be getting much darker along the way. I actually didn’t know that Sorina identifies as bisexual and Luca as demi sexual (spoiled myself a bit there haha) but I think that amazing that the author featured two main characters that part of the LGBTQ+ community and are not gay or lesbian! Makes it so much more diverse than I first expected. I can’t wait to read more about their relationship 😀 Great review, Beth!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh that’s good to hear, hopefully the rest of the book will be enjoyable as well. 🙂 Yeah in the grand scheme of things slightly heavy world-building isn’t that big of a deal, better too heavy than too light you know? I loved the circus setting overall, I could have lived in there with all the characters, who were incredibly written as well so another bonus there. 😀
      I don’t know if the characters physically identify themselves like that, but it’s what the author mentioned she wrote them as. Definitely more diverse than I expected and yes great to see main characters in the LGBT+ spectrum who aren’t gay or lesbian like most characters are in YA. Hopefully it means we’ll start seeing more rather than less.
      Thanks so much Azia! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. I would very much prefer heavy world-building over minimal world-building haha. It’s still a bit frustrating, only in that it’s a bit harder to wade through the density of it. But at least she’s working hard to make you believe in that world and hopefully by the second book (I’m assuming there’s a second book?), she won’t have to do as much world-building and focus more on other story elements!
        And yay! Brownie points for diversity! Also, brownie points for not making their orientation directly known but implied by the characters’ behaviors and interactions. Don’t come across that too often. So excited to get through this one 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it’s getting the balance right in the end. You don’t want the world building to be too light that it doesn’t make sense but at the same time it can’t be too heavy that it overthrows everything else.
        I haven’t heard anything about a sequel, at the moment I’m assuming it’s a standalone.
        No that’s a good point, and one I didn’t think of myself to be honest. It’s kind of nice to have diverse character identified by their actions than their statements you know? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah, getting that balance is really important but also really difficult. I’m always amazed by authors who find that middle ground (*CoughSchwabBardugoMeyer*cough)
        And that’s sad but also kind of cool. I haven’t read that many standalones in a while!
        Right? I’d love to see more of ‘action speak louder than words’ for characters. I don’t think sexual identity always has to be directly stated. I mean, cisgender heterosexual characters don’t do it. So why should LGBTQ+ characters have to, you know?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Same here. I think it’s got to be better to have world building too deep than too light, if you have to pick one though.
        No neither have I, especially fantasy because they all seem to be series.
        It really doesn’t, and granted I don’t know too many LGBT people but the ones I do know don’t tend to state their sexuality out loud every time they meet someone new.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It’s so hard to find a standalone these days LOL. Every book I pick up turns out to be a series. And I love series, but my god, I’d like something a little different now and then XD haha
        Exactly right haha. All my LGBTQ friends never had to directly state it. They just made comments about their love interests and then I know. Or they would politely correct my friends and me on which pronoun they would prefer to be used when addressing them and that was that. It was never a huge announcement hahah. But then again, I know not all situations turn out like that.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Yeah, as much as I do enjoy series sometimes you just want a standalone where you don’t have to wait for the next book to find out how the story ends.
        Oh yeah not all situations are the same, but it feels like in books we see more of the latter situation, where people explicitly state their sexual orientation, than the other kind where it’s told through hints and clues you know? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yeah, that would be nice every once in a while LOL. And definitely. I think explicitly stating it helps the purpose of diversity and clarifies an author’s intent to represent the LGBT community. I have a feeling that method will slowly change but it’ll take some time 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Definitely. And I finally finished Daughter of the Burning City. Luca’s sexuality was a bit more implied and indeterminate than Sorina’s, but I thought both their sexual identities were really well-handled, more so for Luca! 🙂 I really enjoyed that aspect of it. Hopefully I can get a review up soon!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Yeah it’s never outright stated what Luca’s sexuality is, but as the author said he’s demisexual that’s what I took his character as. Definitely well-handled, and I can’t wait to see your review for this book either Azia. 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds sooooo good, Beth. I love how dark it seems, makes me wonder if it’s tip-toeing adult territory too. Also love the idea of a moving city. The whole murder-mystery in this world really intrigues me. Glad you enjoyed it! Excellent review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, oh see now you’ve mentioned that I don’t think it was ever fully explained. I think it was brushed over in that because of her power even though she had no eyes she could still see in the same way the woman with the heart was still alive, you know?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve got a thing about circus-set books too and I really enjoyed this one. I did find some of the magic/world-building difficult to grasp but I actually really liked all political background; it made the book seem even more immersive to me. Also I really want to go to Gommorah, if someone can arrange that, please and thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Circus themed books are 100% a win in my mind. I really hope we start seeing more because this one was interesting and now I’ve read it I need more. 🙂 Oh I’m glad the world-building had that effect on you Katy, I enjoyed it don’t get me wrong but sometimes it was just a little too heavy for me.
      Oh same here, basically I want to travel to all circus settings, number one has to be the Night Circus though! 😀


  4. SO excited for this one. I’ve heard a lot of reviewers mention how much politics play into the plot, which I’m super interested in seeing executed here. I wasn’t a huge fan of Caraval so hopefully this one fills the carnival shaped hole in my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it’s a good book, and the politics do play a pretty major part in the book, which made their aspect in the world building necessary. It was just a little heavy in places for me at times.
      Oh that’s a shame about Caraval, but yes hopefully this one will be a better read for you. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Beth, I just know your review is amazing! I skimmed through it since I am picking up my copy this weekend & will then return to your lovely blog to chat 😉 I love books set in the circus because it def has the world of its own feeling to it from the start. I’m guessing that the World building felt a bit like overflow because in a circus we already get the sense that it’s a world of its own? I can see how adding external politics to the mix may be a bit much. I’m glad to see that this didn’t really get int the way of your enjoyment, I’m looking forward to this read if only for the assassins lol 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thanks for checking out my review in the meantime Lilly, and I really really hope you love this book when you get around to it! 😀
      Books set in the circus are a series weakness of mine. The one in Daughter of the Burning City was a great addition to circus-set books, and yeah the politics were a bit too much at times but it didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment too much. The story was attention grabbing and the characters amazing so it was easy to move past the slow world building.
      I can’t wait to see what you think of this book Lilly! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awesomeness! I don’t mind a slow paced book as long as the world/characters are intriguing as they seem to be here. I completely understand your weakness for Circus set books as I share the same affliction 😂 we’ll def chat about it some more once I read my copy 😉💗📚💗

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In that case I think you’ll be happy with Daughter of the Burning City, the world building is beyond amazing. To bad there are so few books set in circuses right?
        Yes definitely, I’ll be eagerly awaiting you reading this book. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a great review, Beth, thank you for sharing this! I have been hearing about this book a little bit lately and I’ve been curious, so thank you for writing this 🙂 I’m sorry to hear the world-building felt a bit heavy, at times, I get that feeling – it makes us feel lost and confused or sometimes just make things a bit too…foggy? when really, it’s simple. I do not know if that made any kind of sense ahah. Yay for the diverse characters, though – that’s so great and quite interesting to see in fantasy, a genre where diverse characters are too slowly forging their path into 🙂
    Great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie! 😀 ❤ And that's all right, I'm glad you enjoyed my review. 🙂
      I haven't actually heard much about this book but I feel people will have probably been talking about it on the social media platforms I'm not currently on (mainly Twitter). Overall I really enjoyed this book, and yeah the word building could have been better but it wasn't a deal breaker for me or anything. It definitely made me feel lost and sometimes I found my eyes and attention skimming over those parts of the story. The diverse characters were definitely a plus, and kind of highlighted for me how much we need more diversity as well.
      Thanks so much! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ooooh I have seen this book floating around and I definitely thought it looked intriguing but I don’t ever read synopses so I was just a smol cucumber rolling around pretending to know things. Circus books always pique my interest but a girl whose illusions are her family??? NEED. Also so mysterious sounding and those characters sound so awesome!!! I may need to bump this up my to-buy list 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh, I have books like that as well. I’ve added them to my to-read list because of the cover and barely skimmed the blurb. To be honest when I first discovered Daughter of the Burning City I didn’t read much past that it was set in a circus before adding it to my to-read list! 🙂
      It’s a great story though, with amazing characters, so I’d recommend bumping it up your to-read list. I really hope you end up enjoying this book Esther! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I just received this book yesterday [yay book box subscriptions!] and I cannot waaaait to dive into it! Finishing ACOMAF first, but then this one is like, top priority. Simply because I’ve been waiting for it for a while and then that box came and i-simply-will-not-wait-any-longer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, yeah I got this one on Monday from my Fairy Loot box (I’m assuming that’s the one you got too?) and I was so happy because obviously I read and loved the book previously. I really hope you enjoy it as well Kathy, also hopefully you’ll find the wait will have been worth it! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  9. OMG!!!!!! I NEED to read this 😍😍😍!!!! The plot is so interesting and original !! Authors are gods !!!
    Amazing review as usual 😍😍
    This book gave me Caraval and the magic faraway tree vibes for some reason… heard of those books??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a book I’d really recommend. Despite the heavy world building in places I thought it was brilliant. Thanks so much. 😀 ❤
      Yes Caraval is actually one of my favourite reads of this year, and I haven't heard of The Magic Faraway Tree but if this book reminded you of that then I'll definitely have to check it out! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Magic Faraway Tree is a middle grade series and its absolutely amazing! It may not be similar to daughter of the burning city, but for some reason I remebered the series while reading your review… you should totally check it out though, its sort of similar to the magic tree house series but its completely different from it… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Gosh, I want to read this one SO MUCH! And yaaaaas assassins! I’m in. XD AGH I’m so glad to hear about the bi/demi rep! Gay/lesbian is already diverse, but we could be even MORE diverse in books!

    This sounds like the perfect mix of magic and mystery to me and I’m glad you liked it! Sorry about the heavy worldbuliding making you take off a star. A lot of fantasy books can give some big info dumps and they can really ruin a book. 😦 But yay for enjoying the book overall! 😀

    Great review, Beth! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I’d highly recommend it May. I really enjoyed this book and if the world building surrounding the politics had been a little less heavy this would have easily been a five-star read for me. Yes the bi/demi rep was great to see, a surprise as well which is kind of sad when you think about it because it highlights how much we need more diversity in books.
      I really loved the genre fusion in Daughter of the Burning City, it made me want to search out more fantasy/murder mystery books, and a shame about the world building but not a deal breaker or anything. 🙂
      Thanks so much! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I haven’t read this one yet but I’ve been seeing mixed reviews about it… Guess there’s only one way to find out!
    Like you, I love circus-themed books. They fascinate me. However, I have yet to read one XD But I’m hoping to get to Caraval, The Night Circus and this one sometime soon 🙂
    Lovely review, Beth, and thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this one! It makes me a lot more excited to read it 😊❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t seen many reviews for this one, mainly because there haven’t been any reviews on WordPress yet that I’ve come across. I really enjoyed it though, I love books set in the circus, and have done ever since I read The Night Circus. 🙂
      Oh I hope you manage to get to them soon, those two are favourite books of mine so I hope you enjoy them too.
      Thanks Sophie, I’m really glad you enjoyed my review! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Really? I’ve seen a couple of them floating around a little while before the release…
        Thank you, me too! They sound awesome and I’m glad they’re favorites of yours 🙂 Gives me hope!
        And no problem, Beth, a pleasure as always 😊 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  12. This book has really got my interest because CIRCUS/CARNIVALS! Your review was great and I would read this one for sure, especially since you wrote “This was a darker story than the other circus-set books I’ve read” I AM SOLD! Gomorrah Festival sounds like an interesting place but I completely understand why you knocked it down a star for being a little too info-dumpy on the setting. I feel like some books can do this really well or it can be unnecessary when the book is plot/character driven. Again, great review Beth!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here, after reading The Night Circus any book with circuses or carnivals is a must read for me. I loved this one because like I said it was a different circus-style setting, darker than The Night Circus but still magical. It’s an interesting place to explore, and actually the world of the festival was well written, it was the politics that was a little too info-dumpy. A shame but not a deal breaker for me. 🙂
      Thanks so much Gretchen, I really hope you enjoy this book too if you decide to pick it up one day. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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