Julianna Helms's Reviews > City of a Thousand Dolls

City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
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Jan 01, 13

bookshelves: bam-covers, hall-of-infamy, received-via-trade-with-awesomers, rockin-the-minority-yo, skimmed-like-milk-jk, stalk-the-cover-but-not-the-book, traded-with-awesome-people, way-too-cliche
Recommended to Julianna by: meselfz.
Recommended for: fans of THE SELECTION and cardboard-cutout plots
Read on October 24, 2012

**ACTUAL, FULL REVIEW**

Original will be posted on my blog on January 10th, 2013, here. (Note: due to copy-and-paste, formatting and links have been lost.)

I'm going to try really, really hard to make this review as gentle as I can let it be. But make no mistake: I did not, at all, like this book.

Let's just discard some misinformation first. That first line in the summary? "An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure"? That is not true. At least, not for me. Let me explain.

This book is not exotic, because I felt the writing was very bland. The story was told with a sort of detachment, and no real emotions were really explored. It was very "this happened, now this, now oh look here's something else that's happened, and oh my, this is all very tragic". Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Ms. Forster can't write. Surely she can. But her style was just really not my type. Also, this book is not "entirely original". Sure, it sounds absolutely amazing and original. I thought so, too. But upon reading it, I realized that it utilizes the same variation of court intrigue that Alison Goodman's Eon series does so well, except it doesn't do it so well. It's a flurry of events that do have consequences, but are not developed. It's like watching a movie unfold when nothing seems important to you because nothing connects. Not the two-dimensional characters, not the paper-cut out world, not the misuse of Asian culture, and certainly not the absolutely unscintillating romance.

Romance first: I'm so unsure as to where the whole thing was going. It was a nice tentative thing at first--no insta-love here, and yay, a backstory!--but... it was so flat. I wished I could proclaim what so profoundly breathes life into characters, because then and only then will some people deem me qualified to talk, but as a reader and a blogger/reviewer, all I can say is that I didn't feel anything. It was more "meh" to me than anything else, and the whole thing seemed to be going in a thousand different directions at once (do you see the pun tucked in there?).

I told you this review was going to be negative, so I'll wrap it up with this last bit of complaint that is quite personal and most likely won't affect most of you.

The culture/terminology.

I'm 100% Chinese. I grew up in China. I'm quite sure I'm of enough caliber to analyze my culture, so let's look. I realize that Miriam mentioned somewhere that this book is based off of South Asian cultures, and I also understand the gap in translation. I've gone to enough museums to know that "the green-leafed Spring" is an acceptable, translated painting name, etc. But this book had so. many. of the long-named translations like "in the name of the Long-Tailed Cat" that it was ludicrous. I've never read an Asian-based fantasy that used this many "translations". Most of them didn't even contain any, or just one/two. This whole bizarre use of Asian culture/terminology (whether or not it's Chinese, I've Asian blood in me, and I've studied this whole shebang enough times that I see a book not fully researched when I read it the first time) was just distracting. I could barely focus on the story when the meh writing and misused culture/terminology made me want to just, oh, I don't know, headdesk really really hard.

Overall, you definitely can give City of a Thousand Dolls a try. Warning, though: if you want a good Asian-based fantasy that will rock your socks off, I cannot say that this book is it.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Lynn ಠ_ಠ Oh damn, this is disappointing to hear.


Julianna Helms Lynn wrote: "Oh damn, this is disappointing to hear."

Yeah, it is. :( Sorry.


message 3: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel Patrick I have this and have been debating reading it because it's not my genre. After this though...I'm not sure.


Julianna Helms Rachel wrote: "I have this and have been debating reading it because it's not my genre. After this though...I'm not sure."

Aw Rach, I don't know if you should read this. High fantasy is my favorite genre, so maybe I've read too many good ones to take a liking on this one. But I'd much rather you spend that time reading THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS trilogy by Rae Carson, or EON and EONA if you haven't yet, or STORMDANCER if you haven't yet read that either. Those are some awesome high fantasies, the latter ones Asian-based. I have a very very very strong feelings that those will be far more entertaining than this book.


message 5: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel Patrick What exactly is high fantasy? Because I'm not sure that fantasy is my favorite genre. I wasn't sure if I should try this, especially since it's so anticipated.


message 6: by Julianna (last edited Jan 01, 2013 06:50PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Julianna Helms Rachel wrote: "What exactly is high fantasy? Because I'm not sure that fantasy is my favorite genre. I wasn't sure if I should try this, especially since it's so anticipated."

Fantasy is branched out into three major subgenres: high fantasy, urban fantasy, and epic fantasy. (I'm counting paranormal as a separate genre.)

Urban fantasy is pretty straightforward: non-paranormal characters doing fantasy-ish things in the city or in the human world. (Although, non-paranormal creatures is not exactly the right term. I guess my best explanation is that Sarah Rees Brennan's THE DEMON'S LEXICON trilogy is an urban fantasy, but PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White is not.)

High Fantasy is fantasy things happening in a world that is not the real world. Like LORD OF THE RINGS, or Tamora Pierce's books.

Epic Fantasy is High Fantasy, just over 100,000 words. So I guess LORD OF THE RINGS is really an epic fantasy, as is the GAME OF THRONES series.

Also, sometimes agents refer to "low-fantasy", which is basically books with fantasy elements that play more as a backdrop instead of revolving around the main plot.


Also, personally, I don't think it lives up to the anticipation at all. You're welcome to try it, obviously, but I still think you'd be better off to try those other books first.


message 7: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel Patrick Good to know, and thanks for the explanation!


Julianna Helms Rachel wrote: "Good to know, and thanks for the explanation!"

No prob! ^.^ Glad to help.


message 9: by Elaine (new) - added it

Elaine I just chanced upon this and thanks for that quick guide to fantasy! I've always been confused about the fantasy genre and the diff btwn fantasy and paranormal. Your comment helped a little xD


Julianna Helms Isana wrote: "Oh, damn. I saw this book mentioned on John Scalzi's blog and wanted to like it, but the misuse of Asian cultures, as a fellow Asian, is a no-go."

Right? It's so disappointing when it happens in a book with such great potential. *sighs*

Elaine wrote: "I just chanced upon this and thanks for that quick guide to fantasy! I've always been confused about the fantasy genre and the diff btwn fantasy and paranormal. Your comment helped a little xD"

Haha, glad it did!


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