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Bhinian Empire #1

City of a Thousand Dolls

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An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. 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. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, 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 her own life.

359 pages, Hardcover

First published February 5, 2013

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About the author

Miriam Forster

6 books305 followers
(Hello friends and readers! I am not here, but you can contact me on my website)

Miriam Forster is an autistic author who loves science, history, and animals, especially the weird prehistoric ones. She’s been a waiter, a barista, a daycare worker, a bookseller, and she is currently an author of young adult fiction, and a fact checker for children’s books.

Forster lives in Oregon and is represented by Jennifer Laughran of the Andrea Brown Agency

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 690 reviews
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
February 10, 2013
As seen on The Readventurer

My first read of 2013 and, well, my advice is - skip it. I finished it so you don't have to. It is sad mostly because City of a Thousand Dolls is written so earnestly and with such good intentions. You can tell that the author meant this novel to be about diverse characters and diverse cultures. Too bad it's just not that great of a novel. It is simply lacking in sophistication and maturity.

City of a Thousand Dolls is another Asian-inspired fantasy which I would advise fans of good, clever, inventive fantasy not to bother with and read Alison Goodman's Eon: Dragoneye Reborn duology instead. On the other hand, if you are not picky or experienced with fantasy, or don't mind your YA very young, sure, go for it. The world-building here is interesting enough, at the very least exotic. Its roots are hard to pin-point (unlike, let's say in the case of obviously Japanese-inspired Stormdancer). There are touches of Japanese culture here, with fans and tea ceremonies, dark skin, castes and names of India, demographic politics of China. All in all these pieces create if not a unique and new imaginary world, but it least different from the "normal" Western ones.

At the center of this story is the City of a Thousand Dolls, a shelter and a place of study for unwanted girls. This city is necessary because of the Bhinian Empire's rigidly enforced two-child limit, which, as it usually does, means that its citizens are more invested in keeping sons and getting rid of girl children. The City has several schools (Houses) that teach the abandoned girls music, medicine, and seduction (basically, your common high class prostitution) and assassination skills. When the girls reach adulthood, they are practically sold to the highest bidder.

The main character of the novel, Nisha, is an assistant to the City's Matron and, as often in such novels, a special kind of girl, or so we are told. The main plot of the book is Nisha's investigation of sudden deaths of several City's girls.

Not to go into any great detail, the reasons why City of a Thousand Dolls didn't work for me are the ones that I keep writing about over and over again. The quality of writing is more of MG level, which makes the whole attempt to write romance into this story with passionate kissing and such quite a failure. The romance is juvenile and void of complexity, there is no other way to describe it. The hierarchy of the City is shaky. Sometimes it's hard to understand why certain people have the audacity to be disrespectful to their superiors and of course there is the usual "special snowflake" cliche that makes our heroine special without her doing and being anything special, but having a special position in this world nevertheless. The reasonings and motivations are unclear too sometimes. Why such angst and surprise at the news of arranged marriages or employments when the main purpose of the City is just that - to find unwanted girls places to live or work once they are of age? Plus, circling back to the issue of arranged marriages and such, isn't this too tired of a trope to base a story on, the only reason for angst and conflict? It's pretty much the most worn-out trope in speculative YA right now.

And the last thing that makes the book so... young is the talking cats. I'm sorry, but I believe that talking animals belong mainly in children's lit, unless it's Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita.

Basically, I found this novel very simplistic and immature, albeit well-meaning and generally decently written. It just doesn't match the level of quality I prefer in my books. But sure, give it to your 12-year old. Wait, but how would you explain it to be appropriate to have schools that educate mistresses and prostitutes and assassins in an MG book? A lot of strange disconnect in this novel...
319 reviews1,885 followers
February 17, 2013
To be quite honest, I'm not entirely sure what urged me to read City of a Thousand Dolls the day it was released, or even at all. I'm not, and most likely never will be, a high fantasy fan, and usually steer clear of high fantasies in general, unless they've received positive reviews from many friends of mine. City of a Thousand Dolls did not receive very many positive reviews from friends of mine, so in retrospect, I honestly have no clue as to why I picked this one up. I suppose I was intrigued by the title? The allure of an 'unpredictable and thrilling mystery', intertwined with high fantasy? The cover?

Unfortunately, even with my not-too-high expectations, I am left quite disappointed with this poorly structured novel. For me, the main issue with City of a Thousand Dolls was its pacing, which seemed to pick up not once in the entire novel. City of a Thousand Dolls could have easily been an entertaining, thrilling, and briskly paced read, given the intriguing murder mystery we're provided with, but it felt like the entire murder mystery really only took center stage in the second half, and by that point I was a lot less invested in the mystery than I was when the murders were first introduced.

As opposed to the murder mystery, the first half of City of a Thousand Dolls was focused strictly on social aspects of the world - such as social classes, clothing, et cetera. And for the first quarter or so, I ate that all up. After that first quarter, however, the social aspects of the world only became redundant, and what made it more frustrating was the fact that murders are piling up and piling up, but they were all shoved under the carpet, so to speak, to make room for the less interesting aspects of the novel.

And as for the murder mystery, it isn't too great on its own, either. While I did find it to be intriguing at first, it has been done before in a similar fashion, and has been done better, too. What frustrated me most concerning the murder mystery, though, was how blatantly obvious the revelation of the culprit was. Character development would have benefitted this book, and more prominently the mystery a lot, but considering the fact that we're given cardboard characters in a cardboard world with a cardboard plot and a cardboard mystery, I was able to pin down the murderer within the first few chapters.

While City of a Thousand Dolls does have some unique aspects to its characters and world, those few unique and positive aspects didn't amount to much in the midst of all the negatives. Without thorough world building, developed characters, and an exciting mystery and plot, which are all practically necessary for a well-written high fantasy novel, I think it's safe to say that City of a Thousand Dolls only ended up being as thin and bland as the paper it was written on.
Profile Image for Julianna Helms.
277 reviews140 followers
January 2, 2013

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.
Profile Image for Mitch.
355 reviews605 followers
February 15, 2013
For me at least, City of a Thousand Dolls is a cautionary tale in style versus substance. Stylistically, this is a book that hits all the right notes - it’s rich and inviting and takes inspirations from several different Asian cultures to create a rather unique reading experience; it’s certainly not a book that lacks for world building. Yet at the same time, substantively, I really don’t feel the actual story lives up to the setting; behind the exotic fashions, the politicking, and the courtesan intrigue, everything from the murder plot to the romantic relationship to even the role of the City in the history and politics of this Empire the story is supposedly ultimately about just felt way too easy.

That said, the summary at least is a hundred percent accurate. I can certainly see the original, fantastical world as advertised, which seems to me like it’s sort of inspired particularly by Memoirs of a Geisha with the ceremony and the fashion (though I for one would never notice the difference between a flirting robe and an intimate relationship robe) and the misogynistic focus on unwanted girls who are at this estate where they’re trained to be wives so this society doesn’t collapse on itself, along with some tones of India and Southeast Asia for added effect. The only weakness I noticed is that a lot of the backstory behind the origins of the Bhinian Empire, particularly the reasons for the two child policy, the preference for boys, and why this City for abandoned girls has to exist, is told through some really bad exposition (magic gone awry!!), so there’s a disconnect between the setting and the plot - I get why the story unfolds the way it does, but I really didn’t see any connection between the murdered girls plot and the entire rather complicated backstory. The identity of the killer is some fairly standard stuff that’d be generic even for a mystery or thriller, the investigation is more bogged down by the vivid descriptions than served by it, and the end with all the reveals left me far less than impressed with the direction of this Empire once the killer’s caught.

Then, add to that the fact that I’m not the kind of reader who thinks vivid descriptions of style and customs and courtesan intrigue alone makes for a good read, and you see where I’m going. I wanted to like Nisha, but when the most polite way of describing this book is saying it’s a murder mystery with some heavy duty world building plastered on to cover up how shallow the murder mystery plot actually is, well, I guess it’s foreseeable that the main character ends up being a generic spunky Nancy Drew type with gumption yes but also just as much distinctiveness as a character - namely not much. A lot of Nisha’s ‘detecting’ comes across the same way - for example, she hears rumors of a mysterious house of assassins, decides to investigate, stumbles into the woods, and... discovers the house even though the assassins are supposed to be just a rumor! Huh? And it turns out these secret assassins aren't even the culprits, and actually, I'm still not quite sure what their purpose is besides ill advised red herring. Not to mention, Nisha's relationship with Devan and her friendship with Tanaya both come across in the same saccharine sweet way for most of the book, so much so the one eighty character developments both undergo makes them really unpalatable characters towards the end.

Still, my biggest problem is that, despite the richness of the setting, all of it feels incredibly underused. In addition to the murderer, there are some additional antagonists for Nisha like Devan’s power hungry relatives, but despite how much is discussed about the politics of the Empire, their connections to the murdered girls plot is almost zero and ultimately quite silly. Instead, I wanted to know more about the politics and history of the Empire, the magic, and the various peoples and everything else that's introduced and revealed about Nisha and her family that makes her seem like quite a special snowflake, and more importantly, see how these details are tied with the murders, but nothing really came of it. Instead, there's a lot of stuff about the Lotus Emperor that's thrown around but doesn't really seem to have any bearing on the actual plot, except to give certain members of Nisha's family a license to behave like jerks. And the talking cats, I’m actually a fan of talking animals, but what’s revealed over the course of the story about their origins and how they’re handled in the end had me questioning why Forster decided to just drop that huge bombshell at the end when I really don’t see what purpose the reveal serves, besides to totally screw over Devan / give Nisha a textbook happily ever after.

I guess, yeah, City of a Thousand Dolls is definitely a great concept but I really don’t feel it knows what kind of book it wants to be. A complex fantasy? A murder mystery? An Asian inspired fantasy tackling the issues with these types of misogynistic societies? So it ends up trying to do all of the above but in reality doesn’t manage to do any of it effectively.
Profile Image for Cinda.
Author 54 books11.1k followers
June 27, 2012
A fantastical murder mystery with a creative premise, heart-pounding pacing, and characters with secrets to keep.
Profile Image for Soumi.
Author 1 book378 followers
July 5, 2013
Enriched with cultural details and patterned with vibrant descriptions, City of Thousand Dolls was an exotic fantastical story mingled with murder, mystery and ancient cults.

An isolated estate that gave refuge to orphan girl, abandoned after birth, and trains them in various arts such as music, dancing, combat etc. Sixteen years Nisha never belonged to any one particular house, making her way as Matron’s assistant. But when she began flirting with a handsome young courier, she dared to dream about a life outside the city walls. But when one by one girls were stared being murdered, she found herself within a chaos that would simply shatter hey hope to be free.

The book was brilliant and Miriam’s world building was vivid and richly detailed. I instantly liked the idea of different houses that trains young girls in different skills. The world building eerily resembles to the Indus Valley civilization, and it was really fascinating. There was another thing I would definitely mention, that was their costumes or asars. The author subtly designed in rich Indian style in a very stunning and perplexing way. The whole world of City of Thousand Dolls was exotic and mysterious.

The murders were planed and well executed. They created a fog of mystery with elaborated actions and adventure. When Nisha slowly started digging inside, she discovered long buried truth about her origin.

Nisha was pretty striking, marked by individualism with eyes full of hopes that once dared to dream of life outside city wall. She was also a telepathic too with an ability to talk to cats, and I personally loved this part. Taking to a cat??? Pretty cool.

Overall City of Thousand Dolls was well paced and a very engaging read that kept me hooked. A mystery on which I pondered for long and in the end I found a satisfying answer. If you want a taste old South Asian culture, CoTD is definitely the one book for to quench your thirst.
Profile Image for Liviania.
957 reviews64 followers
February 24, 2013
Miriam Forster's debut novel is glorious. Nisha is a resident of the City of a Thousand Dolls. The city is a walled-off district for unwanted female babies, where they are raised to be skilled members of society then sold to be wives, mistresses, apprentices, and more. It's not a perfect solution, but it's better than exposure - so says the Matron, Nisha's mistress.

Nisha is more unwanted than most. She came to the city not as a baby, but a child. She has no caste. The Matron took her on as an assistant, but as she comes of age her position is quite precarious. Plus, she's carrying on an affair with a noble boy, Devan. If the affair is discovered it could cost Nisha her life. But when several girls commit suicide, Nisha is suspicious of something more sinister and begins to investigate. Along the way she discovers many things about the cities dark corners and her own past.

Fittingly, since the novel is called CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS, the setting is quite elaborate. Forster goes for a pan-Asian feel. There are touches of Chinese and Indian history and culture, among others, and the vast majority of the girls are described as having South Asian features. But Forster wisely doesn't make it an analog of a single place. And certain touches, such as the city itself, are pure fantasy. I hated that characters kept going, "Well, the City of a Thousand Dolls isn't perfect, but things could be worse," and easily dismissing reform. Nisha addressing her home's problems was as cheering as her own growth.

I enjoyed the mystery aspect as well. I don't think Nisha has a real future as a detective, but she did the best she could and kept asking questions and trusting her gut that something was wrong. I liked that Nisha was in a good position to investigate because she had connections to all the Houses. CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS showcases a variety of feminine strengths. (Not even the girls of the House of Beauty are defenseless.)

Also, Nisha can talk to cats. I'll give you a moment to be jealous.

CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS tackles tough sociology issues in a lush setting with a resilient heroine and an interesting supporting cast. I was breathless through the climax and quite happy that Forster leaves a few open threads to hopefully be explored in future books. This is the best sort of vibrant, exciting adventure that fantasy is capable of.
Profile Image for Zuleeza.
404 reviews259 followers
February 10, 2017
I don't get it...this book is quite good and yet, it's not that popular? Well, it's not perfect BUT IT'S GOOD! I still remember adding City of A Thousand Dolls to my TBR in 2012, really looking forward to read it once it comes out. But then it kinda got lost in the sea of other YA new releases in 2013 and the early reviews are not that promising (even now the average rating is 3.7?). So, I lost interest back then.

But dang! I should know better than to trust the rating solely because (hate to be cliche but) reading taste is subjective. I borrowed the audiobook from the library because it was available straight away so I thought 'why not?'. Although I've experienced better narration, the writing and the story itself is pretty well-executed. It was vivid and rich and quite unique in my opinion. I did guess some of the twists but couldn't come up with a motive and when it finally revealed I was quite mind-blown. Some people might find the way that the girls are treated in this book as a bit disturbing but I'd like to have them try to come up with better solutions. Alas, more disturbing things are happening to girls in this world and what do people do? They voted for Trump.

Shit, didn't mean to get political.

Anyway, . I wanted talking cat and Sabriel didn't satisfy me so this book fills in the gap in my heart.

Profile Image for usagi ☆ミ.
1,197 reviews277 followers
February 7, 2013
You know, you'd never think that high fantasy and a murder mystery would go together very well. In "City of a Thousand Dolls", Miriam Forester very successfully combines both elements of those genres to create an awesome high fantasy jaunt with talking cats, mysterious deaths, wandering nobles and girls being trained in special houses. If you liked "Grave Mercy", "Shadow and Bone", "Girl of Fire and Thorns" and/or "Graceling", I'm pretty sure you're going to love "City of a Thousand Dolls". I know I did.

What Forester really surprised me with was the depth and richness of her worldbuilding. Everything is very detailed, all the way down to the stitches on the asars/tunics. She uses a lot of sensory imagery and language to build her world, but she also uses her characters to do so as well. The balance between the two was startlingly good, and one didn't lean too far against the other or needed to be propped up for support. The use of both of these technical elements made this world utterly delicious to the senses with a rich history behind it. Through the characters and the introductions to each different "Act" (using historical or academic stories or chronicles invented within that world), things felt very, very rich.

However, what disappointed me a bit was the fact that I had no idea that this was for the older MG/young YA crowd - it straddles the line there between the two demographics, so I feel like this could have been a lot longer, and a lot bolder had it been written for a mid-to-older YA crowd. On the other hand, it's good that we're getting high fantasy for older MG/young YA readers, and this is definitely the perfect book to introduce them to the high fantasy genre with. While there's some ass-kicking, there wasn't nearly enough for my liking, but considering the demographic...there you go. So in the end, I made my peace with that, and found the intellectual whodunit appeal was pretty powerful for any age group.

But in spite of that demographic straddling, Forester manages to create characters, a world, and a great plot that will suck you in. For less than 300 pages, a whole lot goes on, and it feels like it could work perfectly as a standalone or as the first in a series. Which is perhaps what Forester was aiming for, I'm not sure. I hope it's the first in a series, because I liked it quite a bit, and I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to Nisha and the cats just yet. Not by a long shot. Nisha's adventures were utterly absorbing, and I finished this book in about two sittings.

While I feel like some of the more minor cast characters could have been a taste more developed (Devan is my biggest example here), there is the very delicate balance of this book being both character and plot-driven, and therefore there's not a lot of time to give everyone all of the things, all of the details that will make them 3D. It's not something I like, necessarily, but when trying to balance a book with those two elements, it's just something that kind of happens. However, he does get a small personal journey arc, and by the end of the book, we do get to see him grow and change, which was very gratifying. So by the end, he did feel closer to 3D. The characters that had the most growth and change were Nisha and Tanaya, and they were the most 3D and the most detailed. So eventually, it all kind of worked out.

As for the plot, it moved along really well. There was no point at which I felt my attention starting to wander. Forester knows how to draw the reader in and leave them asking for more. I really hope there's a map that gets included in the final print edition, because I could have used that, but otherwise I liked the way we were led around the Empire through its history both alone and with/concerning the City of a Thousand Dolls. I also loved that it was pretty much one big mash-up of all Southeastern/Eastern Asian cultures (clothing, food, monarchy, etc), though it seemed to rely heaviest on Southeastern the most. Not a bad thing, just something I noticed. It's a risk to do something like that, and I liked that Forester took that risk. She created her own world, but she used a lot of our real world elements to make it happen.

Final verdict? Despite my nitpicking about the age demographic and how it could have been enhanced, I really, really enjoyed this one, guys, and I really hope this isn't the end of Nisha's adventures. "City of a Thousand Dolls" is out now from HarperTeen in North America, so definitely check it out when you get the chance!

(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)
Profile Image for Princess Bookie.
960 reviews97 followers
February 11, 2013
My Thoughts: This was so different.

We are introduced to Nisha who lives in a little area called City Of A Thousand Dolls. It’s basically a small community where girls live who can be bought and who are trained in different areas.

Right from the get go, I knew this one would be unique. She can talk to cats. How awesome is that? She understands them, they understand her, how cool!

She is also seeing a young man who just happens to be royalty. She wants him to choose her as his wife.

Girls start dying and Nisha gets curious. She wants to find out what happened to the girls and who did it. She needs to know!

As she finds more and more clues things aren't seeming to go her way and she’s left feeling useless and not as hopeful as she once was.

I loved Jeritt. Oh man, he was so cute! And funny, and quirky.

I actually really enjoyed this one. I can see where some might not but I must have just been in the mood for this because I raced right through it and found myself laughing and smiling quite a bit. And, I liked how it all played out. I’m happy to see how it ended.

Overall: I really enjoyed it. I liked the plot, and the characters, and all the other little weird stuff about this one.

Cover: Like it. A girl standing between those big statues! It would draw my attention right away!

What I’d Give It: 4/5 Cupcakes
Taken From Princess Bookie
Profile Image for Jeanette.
Author 29 books131 followers
April 19, 2015
I think perhaps 4 1/2 stars for Miriam Forster's City of a Thousand Dolls.

It is a few days before the Redeeming and sixteen year old Nisha Arvi hopes fervently that the dashing noble Devan tar'Vey will speak for her but then girls begin to die within the City of the Thousand Dolls. With the help of her spotted-cat friends, Nisha must find the killer if she is to hope for a future. In the Bhinian Empire, a realm cut off from the rest of the world by a catastrophic magical apocalypse , unwanted girls (due to the two-child policy) are brought up and trained in Seven Houses to give them a future in the a hierarchical and caste-structured society of the Empire.

City of a Thousand Dolls is part fantasy dystopian, part detective mystery. And while the plot is predictable at times, Miriam Forster does a fantastic job of weaving a believable and fascinating world, drawing inspiration of Japanese and Chinese culture and history. Nisha and her cat friends are likable characters and Forster maintains suspense with a dramatic and clever finale at the end.

I look forward to reading more books about Nisha and the Bhinian Empire.
Profile Image for Gabrielle Carolina.
1,183 reviews158 followers
January 8, 2013
I don't think I've ever been so disappointed. I thought for sure CITY would be amazing, that it would be a favorite of the year full of intriguing characters, luscious world building and fabulous fantasy plot threads.

Not so and I am sad, so regrettably sad to say it.

I DNF this one; by page 65 I felt I knew where the story was going, or better yet, where it wasn't going.

The narrator's voice was way too immature, and not in the way where you expect the MC to be set on a path of great growth, but in the way that you skim paragraphs and roll your eyes at their dialogue.

And for all the telling, and no showing, that Forster did I was confused on several points.

Point is I live by this literary philosophy, that if a book doesn't begin well, does it matter how it ends? I don't really think so.
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews546 followers
March 20, 2013
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales.

Quick & Dirty: A girl who’s an outcast discovers her heritage while also trying to solve a murder mystery inside the City of a Thousand Dolls.

Opening Sentence: “Don’t move, Nisha.”

The Review:

I think the synopsis is a bit misleading. I started this book thinking it was going to be about a school that trained assassins or something to that degree, but instead, the book focused on a orphaned girl with a lot of secrets. The assassins are just a small tidbit of a much more complex plot.

Nisha is an outcast. Her parents left her at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was a toddler, and now she’s a jack-of-all-trades without a true place to fit in. There is one positive though: for some reason the Matron of the city appointed Nisha as her assistant right from the start. With at least one leader on her side (and her band of trusty cats), Nisha feels somewhat protected from the greedy council who want to sell her as a slave. But then…girls start dying. Accidentally. Or coincidentally? With a new purpose and determination to clear her friend’s name, Nisha is on the hunt of the killer, despite the risk to her own life.

My feelings for this book are similar to when I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Interesting at first. Slow in the middle. Exciting and heart-pounding at the end (with great potential for the next book). The overarching plot didn’t actually bloom until the middle of the book, but there were minor arcs that kept me reading. Throughout the middle there would be sections of nothing happening then a big event/secret reveal, then another few chapters of nothing, then another event. You get the idea. Those big events drove the story throughout the middle of the book – not the characters. It was mainly Nisha on quests to uncover a clue about the murders. Every now and then we’d get something about her heritage, but those were vague and few and far between (not that vague is bad. Just boring.)

As the story grew on me, the main character, Nisha, also grew on me. In the beginning I wasn’t too fond of her. She lacked independence and took rash actions. But throughout the entire book you can see her motives change and develop. She discovers her identity, makes new friends and breaks others. The only thing I didn’t like: her boyfriend.

Devon and Nisha had already met and started dating three weeks before the book started. He is part of the royal family and could have a higher job than courtier, but any other job would take him away from Nisha (Sweet right? Did I mention they’ve only known each other for three weeks?) Already, Nisha has been thinking about Devon speaking for her at the Redeeming – basically an auction to sell the girls either as wives, apprentices or just company. Since Nisha is castless, for a royal to speak for her would be preposterous, and if someone found out about their secret romance before the Redeeming, it could cost Nisha her life. I didn’t like Devon from the very start. He was oblivious to the risk Nisha was taking just to meet with him and ignorant of the unspoken rules of the royals. Nisha practically idolized him while he treated her as a cute pet with benefits. But there is hope! There’s potential for another suitor in Nisha’s future…

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book. It wasn’t a book I fell head over heels for either. Although the cliffhanger isn’t at all awful, I still cannot wait for the next installment. There is so much potential in the next book, plus I just want more of Jerrit.

Notable Scene:

It happened so fast that Nisha barely saw it. One moment she was holding Tac’s hand; the next, Tac had sprung up and backed Devan against a tree. The gleaming point of a dagger rested on the courtier’s throat.

The young nobleman’s eyes were wide with fear. “Call him off, Nisha,” he said, his voice cracking. “Please, I’m begging you.”

Nisha wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. But she had no more tears, and it wasn’t that funny. “Let him go, Tac,” she said through dry lips.

Tac lowered the dagger. The look he gave Nisha was one of mixed frustration and grief, as if he had taken her heartbreak and made it his own. Then he spun and punched Devan full in the face.

FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of City of a Thousand Dolls. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Profile Image for starryeyedjen.
1,640 reviews1,232 followers
February 21, 2013
I am going to be completely honest here.  The sole reason I added this book to my TBR was because of that exquisite cover.  It's so reminiscent of one of my favorite childhood movies ever that I knew I'd read it, no matter what it was really about.  But with a gorgeous cover like that, there's little chance the book will be a big ole fail, right?

The story wasn't a failure...not really.  It only failed at being the epic fantasy novel indicated by the cover, and the author even admits as much in her acknowledgements at the end of the book.  Even the book trailer makes this book seem infinitely more epic than it is.  But despite the fact that the novel didn't quite live up to the amazing cover, I still found it relatively engaging, full of murder and intrigue.  However, the rather slow pacing and the not-so-mysterious mystery both left something wanting.

Nisha is an orphan, as are all the girls in the City of a Thousand Dolls, henceforth known as the City in this review.  But somehow, Nisha is different.  Unlike the rest of the girls in the City, she is not trained for a specific house, to be purchased by the highest bidder at the Redeeming.  Nisha learns what she can from a couple of the houses, including wielding a weapon and dancing, but what she excels in is collecting secrets for Matron, head of the City.  She is already not very popular with the other girls, but this skill leaves her even less so.

Her only true companions are the cats that follow her around the City and speak to her in her mind.  At first, I was afraid that the presence of these feline friends was going to annoy me, but the spotted cats actually ended up being one of my favorite aspects.  The murder mystery and the romance both took a backseat to these creatures who seemed to know way more than they were letting on.

This is a book full of secrets, just waiting to be uncovered.  Sadly, though, by the time Tac made his first appearance -- could that subplot have been any more glaringly obvious? -- I had every secret and mystery sorted out and compartmentalized until nothing surprised me anymore.  All of the deceptions and trickery were very obvious and not at all subtle, at least not to this avid reader.  Had I not been able to guess literally every element of the ending ahead of time, this might have been an even more enjoyable read.

As it stands, I liked it.  I wouldn't recommend it to those who get bored easily or who are expecting high-action fantasy.  But if you love a multi-layered plot full of mystery and intrigue, or if you just love cats, this might be a good fit for you.  I'm definitely interested enough in the characters and the storyline to continue it should this turn into a series, but I'm also happy with the material presented and the way it ended.  I'm game either way.

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
Profile Image for thelastword.
74 reviews20 followers
December 6, 2016
‘There is more than one kind of secret… There is the secret that no one may know, the kind one kills to protect. And then there is the secret that everyone may know, but no one will admit to knowing… Then there is the secret that everyone knows, except the person the secret is about.’

A girl with no caste, family, or fraternity has to find the criminal behind a few murders in order to escape being sold or being killed. Along the way she learns more about herself, her peers, her mentors, and the world she lives in. Overall it was told with the right amounts of fantasy and the right amounts of realism, and I enjoyed it in a simple way.

One star for a good mystery. Even though it took a while, I liked that we got to sympathize, even if it was only a little bit, with each victim. The story unwound along with the story of Nisha’s true identity and the grander politics of the world, but it came along nicely, and an issue so prevalent in all societies was well put .

I also enjoyed the different Houses and the characters within them. I thought it would be overwhelming when I saw the name list at the beginning, but the writer introduced everyone nicely.

Another star for a realistic portrayal of romantic love: Our lead, Nisha, is in a sort-of relationship with a member of Royalty. (This wasn't all there was to her love story, but I won’t say much). I like that he was not made out to be a good man or a bad man, but rather a man who was the best he thought he could be, instead of the best he actually could be. In reality, these sorts of people far outnumber others, and it was nice seeing it in a book. In the end, I liked that he wasn’t totally disregarded, but given the closure this sort of relationship deserved.

And finally one star for girls being friends - it was so refreshing! It may have not been the focal point, but it enveloped the story so nicely that it made me smile. You don’t have to be bosom pals or arch enemies to have a full relationship. It showed that sometimes feeling for someone you’re only acquainted with is good enough also.

Minus one star for the rather inappropriate jumbling of Asian influences. The use of Japanese, Chinese and Indian cultures (and maybe more that I am not aware of) all at once came off as ignorant, not diverse. Furthermore, was it really necessary, to add the whole ‘fair-skinned people are rare so therefore more desired’ thing? Do female readers need this is their fantasy stories?

Minus another star for the acceptance – almost approval – of the existence of a ‘City of a Thousand Dolls’. Our lead and the people she admires consistently sugarcoat the purpose of the city, which is the grooming and sale of females. I suppose it was already an established practice in the world, but I wonder why no other method of curbing the abandonment of females was tried, or even mentioned, before this male-serving practice came into existence.

Overall, despite its flaws (like the special snowflake cliche and a few others), it had a few genuine moments (like the portrayal of royalty, family, and friendship), and I felt that these moments outweighed its flaws.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,128 reviews819 followers
December 18, 2015
i was reading this book perfectly happily until the first murder, when it, quite casually, commented that - in an empire where the author describes everyone as having "bronze, amber, or gold" skin - the pale skinned girls (apparently rare) were most highly sought after and regarded.


the book would probably merit two stars otherwise - the plot was pretty easy to guess at ( and come on no one likes a murderer you can see a mile off. there's foreshadowing, but then there's whacking the reader over the head with a shovel in an attempt at it) and not at all complex, although the empire the author has created just seems to be a hodge-podge mix of various cultures. for example, there's this group of people who are shapeshifters who call themselves the sune. and to distinguish them, as a prefix, you add the animal they become so you get things like "cat-sune". sounds a bit like 'kitsune' wouldn't you say, not that the author seems to be taking random bits of various cultures she likes the sound of and shoving it all together (sarcasm). if you're going to do that, you could at least make the sune completely based on japanese mythology or culture instead of taking just one bit from it? urgh.

i had high hopes for this book (it sounded good! i mean, a fantasy murder mystery? sign me up) but no. this is what i'm stuck with.
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,725 reviews1,277 followers
June 23, 2014
(Source: I own a copy of this book.)
This was an okay story, but it was really, really slow.

Nisha was a bit of a baffling character. At times she was stupid, she took ridiculous risks when she didn’t need too, and she also made some seriously suspect decisions. That being said she was also loyal (to a fault), she had faith in people (even if it was misplaced), and she liked things to be right, even if she had to sacrifice herself to try and make sure that this happened.

The storyline in this wasn’t bad, the pace was just so frustratingly slow though that it drove me nuts! The story dragged and dragged, Nisha kept making more and more bad decisions, and still the murderer wasn’t found! To be honest it was the mystery element that kept me reading this book, and thankfully that improved right at the end, saving this book for me.
There was some romance, but I didn’t care for it unfortunately, and the boy that Nisha liked was not a nice person.

The end was when this book finally picked up; there were a couple of twists, and I liked the way that we finally got some explanations. I was pleased at the way Nisha got her happy ending, and I was surprised by who the murderer turned out to be. It was just a shame that this book didn’t become interesting until the last 10% though, and I’m not sure if I want to read the next book in this series now.
Overall; very slow, and didn’t get good ‘til the end.
6 out of 10.
Profile Image for Nonah.
201 reviews56 followers
March 30, 2016
So I finally finish reading this book Yesterday.. Or we this moring cuz I got stuck in it and actually finished it around 05 this morning/night xD This will also be quiet long review so lets get started!!

First of all I has to say that this is diffently one of my favorite books! I love it!!

Soo this is and world where girls is not wanted as much as boys because of a two children rule in the land. Then there is this city where the girls get trained to be wives and misstresses(?).

I love the main character, Nisha. She is lovely, caring, care more about others than herself, she is brave, strong, and smart!!

I love how the story is made so won't know the end before you get there! I love the world!! I how the writting are made, hos the charcters are and I wouldn't figure out the murderer on my own!!

I love Jerrit, Josei, Aishe and Sashi!! I totally ship Tac and Nisha!! I love it soo much and if Tac and Nisha doesn't get together in the next book I will kill someone ;$ I love the cats, and Esmer is amazing!! I love love love it!!!
Profile Image for Fari .
375 reviews73 followers
February 3, 2015
Even though at page 75-ish, I'd spoiled myself on who the killer was, it didn't make any difference! (mostly) I still quite enjoyed it and oh, how I loved the ending! This book is pretty awesome and there are so many things I liked about it (how there wasn't AS much romance, which made perfect sense here since people were DYING and stuff and how not everybody turned out to be super incredibly good and how ) It would've been 3 stars for the first 75% of the book but the last 25% was awesome! :D
Profile Image for Mel (Daily Prophecy).
1,081 reviews465 followers
October 30, 2014

It’s very important that you go into this book with the right expectations. After some reviews I found out that this book is pitched as ‘fantasy,’ but there are not many fantasy elements. This gave me the chance to read this book for what it is: an entertaining story that made me curious for more.

Nisha has been abandoned at the gates of the City of a thousand dolls when she was eight years old. This is the place where unwanted girls grow up in order to gain a future. They are placed into one of the Houses (like House of Jade for wisdom or House of flowers for the nobility) where they learn a trade. Other people, most of the times males, can buy them at the Redeeming. Nisha has never been placed in one of those houses, but she grew up as the spy from the Matron, the leader of the City. This has given her opportunities to learn all kinds of trades from different houses, but it doesn’t make her loved. She has two friends, but her best friends are the cats. Nisha can talk with them and Jerrit is always there for her. He tries to help her figure out why girls are dying and Nisha must hurry up before she is sold into a life she never wanted.

Be aware that this book is slow-paced. It’s a nicely crafted story, but the middle part isn’t exciting or mind-blowing. It’s a subtle story that takes it’s time and I really liked it, but it’s not a story everyone will fall in love with. Most of the book is about Nisha and the mystery around the dead girls. There is a connection and it does take her a lot of time to figure it out. I felt a bit annoyed that she didn’t figure it out any sooner, but I could also understand why she was blind for the true killer.

Her relationship with the cats, most of all Jerrit, was adorable! I loved their conversations and it’s very clear they care a lot about Nisha. It was an unique connection and I've never read a book about such a friendship before. I also had a feeling there was more to it and I was happy that I was right, because it gave the story a fairytale-like aspect.

The romance was pretty good. It’s on the background and plays an important role in Nisha’s life. I never liked Devan the way she liked him, but the moments they share were cute. It shows how desperate she is to have someone in her life who cares about her. Nisha still feels abandoned by her parents and she doesn’t understand how they could have left her. It doesn't make her weak though and she doesn't let herself get overwhelmed by her feelings for Devan.

The concept of the City and those houses was fascinating. It’s horrible how the girls are sold, but at the same time the Matron does seem to care for the girls. She makes sure they grow up in the right house and the buyers aren’t so bad. It’s at least better than being left to die, because there is a two-child policy and a lot of girls are cast away. I liked how every house could be identified by certain specific trademarks.

Nisha was a solid character. She cares for her cats and has a strong loyalty to the people she cares for. I could connect with her and I understood her loneliness. She was sometimes not the brightest (as in: looking in all the wrong places to solve the mystery), but all the decisions she makes are made with her heart. She is a good girl and in the end, she showed her cleverness in other ways. Her past was fascinating and I loved learning more about it.

If you don't mind a slow-pace book with an interesting setting and cats, you might want to check this out.
Profile Image for Lexie.
2,073 reviews297 followers
February 21, 2013
City of a Thousand Dolls was an engaging read, though the ending felt rushed. Whereas at first Forester hoarded clues and secrets like a squirrel with acorns, the last quarter was revelation after revelation, giving me very little time to adjust. Some of the secrets were subtly woven in, often buried beneath each new murder so that in the end I was able to look back and recognized the signs. And some became painfully obvious far too quickly.

At first I didn't understand the big deal about Nisha. She alternated between being unbelievably naive and independent. I blame Devan for this mainly. The entire family of his were a thorny manipulative bunch of of jackals, though to his credit I think Devan did genuinely care for Nisha...he was however a spineless coward as well. Nisha rose above her early unlikeableness though. Her interactions with the cats, her investigation and insistence for the truth drove this story.

In some ways I think this reminded me of Avatar: the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. At least what I enjoy most about those shows. This story was about balance in the end. The Empire finding a balance between what was working and what wasn't, the girls of the Houses finding a balance between their wants/expectations and reality, the balance of past mistakes and potential failures in the future and lastly Nisha finding a way to come to terms about where she belongs.

I can't help but think that there will be more books about Nisha and this world, and for that I'm hopeful. While Forester does a good job wrapping up Nisha's story in this novel, there are by far more mysteries and secrets to uncover before I think her story is fully told.
Profile Image for Krystle.
893 reviews337 followers
April 5, 2015
I think the driving force behind this novel was the mystery behind the killer of the girls. The other elements of the story – world building, characterization, character relationships, romance – don’t really add too much of an engaging factor to the book.

I really liked Nisha’s determination to figure out who the killer was, even if some of her hasty conclusions were wrong or misguided. I loved that she always wanted to prove the innocence of someone even when the facts were screaming otherwise. I loved her interactions with her peers, teachers, and other individuals around her.

The writing and pacing of this book was swift, smooth, and easy to read. It was very easy to roll through the chapters in one sitting. The author manages to decently bring about suspense, tension, and a satisfying climax, although there were areas where the excitement dipped from time to time. The world building seemed like an amalgamation of all different sorts of Asian and Indian cultures. While it was interesting and refreshing to read how she combined them all together, they didn’t really have any cohesion and seemed just like a fancy dressing instead of a fully thought out world.

The romance, though, left me dry. I did not feel the connection or build up or even the deep intimacy and connection she had with either of her suitors. One seemed more superficial and shallow, the other just came out of nowhere. Which tied into the overly clean, cheerful, and happy ending.

A nice, fun read to pass the time but nothing ground breaking or amazing.
Profile Image for Jilly.
1,838 reviews6,163 followers
August 7, 2014
I'm a dog person, and quite frankly I'm glad my Labs can't talk to me because they would be just begging me for food all day. " More treats, Mama? Now? How about now?" Yeah, no...

So, Nisha has talking cats who communicate with her by speaking to her in her head.She has always been an outcast in this city of girls, where they are trained to be "redeemed", or bought, into various functions in society at age 16. Nisha is about to have her first chance at being redeemed, and just happens to have a nobel-born boyfriend, so things are looking good. But, then there is a murder, and next she is being threatened. She needs to find out who is killing girls and make it to her redemption night, which won't be easy.

The writing in this book creates really pretty images of asian culture, but the story itself moved a bit slow for me. I got pretty bored at times and just wished things could have kept happening, instead of so much down time or thinking time in between small events. I also became irritated with Nisha when she made a very stupid decision which involved breaking an oath. She seemed smarter than that.

Although it had the potential to be more, overall, it was just a mediocre book, in my opinion.
Profile Image for Francine.
25 reviews11 followers
March 9, 2015
I really liked this book. I love how different the world is. City of a Thousand Dolls is a city where orphaned girls learn a certain trade and when they turn sixteen they can get "spoken for" by a guy (which is just a fancy way of saying sold). But when girls are starting to drop down dead it's up to the main character to figure out who is behind these unfortunate deaths. And yet somehow I'm disappointed. I felt there were so many more possibilities! But if I ignore that feeling and just look at the story on the whole I find that the plot was well executed and that I can really understand the main character (btw, the main character can talk with cats, how cool is THAT?!) This is not the best book I've ever read but certainly enjoyable enough.
Profile Image for Kayla.
123 reviews49 followers
Want to read
August 18, 2012



Profile Image for Katy.
23 reviews4 followers
May 10, 2013
also posted on my website: http://ablightedone.wordpress.com/201...

The summary sounds exciting but the book was disappointing. The entirely original, fantastical world doesn’t seem very original. There is an extreme class system, magic that used to be, mistreated women, and talking animals.

In Nisha’s world, there’s a two-child limit because resources are slim. People prefer boys because boys can be important and when they aren’t important, they can be apprentices. They have power and opportunity on their own. That isn’t exactly original either. But girls are a problem because if they can’t do anything and you can’t marry them off, they are useless. So it’s best to just drop them off at the City of a Thousand Dolls.

In this City, unwanted girls are groomed to be useful to others. In this world, the City is good because otherwise I guess they’d just drop the orphan girls off in a forest or something. Instead they are fed and given skill sets that will help them rise above their meager beginnings. Find worth in the House of Pleasure (are girls younger than 16 being taught to be sexually pleasing to men? squick), House of Beauty, House of Jade, House of Flowers, House of Combat. If you are found to be worthy you can be purchased on Redeeming Day, oh excuse me, “there’s a redeeming fee to pay, but it doesn’t mean you actually own the girl afterward.” Ohhhh, good. That’s a lot better. Then you will be married, a mistress, or employed as a healer, musician, fighter. Oh, the possibilities. But if the girl isn’t er- redeemed- the city provides her with money and sets her “free” to find a life of her own.

Nisha isn’t in any of these houses, though. She’s an errand girl and narc for the Matron (the director) of the City. She receives training but doesn’t really have an area of expertise. She knows nothing of her past or her family. She is very naive and she converses with cats in her mind. Nisha is 16 but she seems so much younger. I’m not sure if it’s the cat thing, but when she would think and talk to House of Pleasure matron, it felt uncomfortable because it didn’t feel like she was old enough. Not that any of the girls are exactly old enough, but still. She does have a secret and forbidden romance with Devan, a noble’s son slash mailman (oooh Mr. Postman). She has hopes that he will buy her on Redeeming Day, but if they’re caught before then she’ll probably die.

It’s getting close to Redeeming Day when murder strikes and chaos enters the City. Is the orphan haven safe? Who is out to get them? Some of the house mistresses are convinced it’s an accident. But of course, they are sticking their heads in the sand. Nisha, being an important assistant, must find the truth. This mystery of the dying girls should be big, but I think I was too distracted by everything else going on to care much. She eventually figures out the truth about her questionable background (that was obvious to the rest of the City) and discovers the obvious murderer. Despite everything going against her, the book ends easily and neatly.

For me, this book seemed weak in every aspect. There was a magical background, but not enough magic in the story to actually make it interesting. The background of the talking cats is interesting, but their portrayal made Nisha seems younger. The politics and misogyny were disappointing and boring. Even the big mystery was predictable. This book had a lot going for it, but needed a lot more to be great. I wouldn’t want to read it again and I won’t be checking out the rest of the series. However, if you’re a fan of fantasy and talking animals, you might actually enjoy it.
Profile Image for Maureen E.
1,137 reviews50 followers
February 26, 2013
[caption id="attachment_3480" align="alignleft" width="198"] Image from Miriam Forster's website Image from Miriam Forster's website[/caption]
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. 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. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, 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.

Summary from Goodreads

The disclosure that I have to make here is that I've been following Miriam Forster's blog for several years. At least since 2009, according to a quick search, but I had apparently been lurking before that. Regardless, I follow her blog and we occasionally chat on Twitter about how hard it is to eat oatmeal.

And you know how I work? When I read a book written by someone I know, it makes me really nervous. What if I don't enjoy it? What if it's downright bad? How can ever talk to them again?

Fortunately, in this case I had no problems. City of a Thousand Dolls is awesome, and just my cup of tea. Nisha is a great narrator, full of understandable questions about her own future, but also curious about the world and the mystery hidden inside the City. She is not the awesomest ever at everything, but she does have a special place within the different Houses.

And the worldbuilding is lovely. Without being an exact analogy, Nisha's world is based on Southeast Asia. There are lots of nice details about everyday life, but also about things with larger stakes, like the clothing the girls wear. How you present yourself is tied to who you align yourself with and, especially for the girls in the House of Beauty, you can literally send a message with your clothes. I loved that the details of the worldbuilding tied into the larger political struggles going on in the Empire.

Moreover, as a mystery fan I was happy with the way that strand unfolded. Nisha is overall a smart investigator, and although I guessed who the culprit was, I think that's more a function of having too many mysteries under my belt. And the way the denouement played out was unexpectedly moving.

I also appreciated the way Nisha's attitude towards romance changes during the story. At first I was not sure if I would be okay with this aspect at all, but in the end I thought the way my expectations were set up and then slowly eroded was pretty awesome. There are huge spoilers involved, so I can't go into much more detail than that, but I thought the treatment of that sub-plot was fresh and surprising.

There were a few moments where I thought the sentence level writing was a little clunky, but overall this was a very strong debut and one I wholeheartedly enjoyed. I'll definitely be reading the sequel.

Book source: bought
Book information: Harper Teen, 2013; YA (potential crossover for upper MG)
Profile Image for Nicole.
631 reviews265 followers
May 18, 2013
Jumping straight in, the one issue I really had with City of a Thousand Dolls was Nisha. She was just so annoying and naive in my opinion. She thought she knew everything about the City and acted like such a know it all! And, even though I could understand why, it was annoying when she couldn't forgive herself for something someone had done to herself. She was too impulsive for my liking and I felt myself groaning in frustration so many times. She was so...hmm...
On the other hand I loved how she could talk to the cats and how much they seemed to adore her. It definitely made for some interesting conversations. I also looovvveeddd Jerrit. I want a catty best friend. Literally.

"There is more than one kind of secret, Nisha"

The worldbuilding in this was simply amazing and I loved finding out more about the City, the Redeeming, and the Houses. It was done so neatly and I loved how much Asian culture was included! I was excited to discover what lay beyond the gates and what happened to Nisha's parents all those years ago. The City was a fascinating place that was filled with contradictions--that "Beauty is serious business" and that worship of beauty is dumb, that women should be able to be free to do what they want, yet trapped into a marriage or apprenticeship, and so much more.

"There is the secret that no one may know, the kind one kills to protect."

I loved the plot twists. While I could see the major one coming (it was a bit obvious, if you've read most YA), it still left me in a breathless feeling, the way it was executed. There was barely any hesitation, and doubt, and that definitely made me like Nisha a little more. The other twists? I couldn't see them a mile away. They were so unexpected, yet so perfect for this book. This was truly a thrilling read that was pretty impossible to put down!

"And then there is the secret that everyone may know, but no one will admit to knowing."

The romance is something...I can't quite discuss. But let's just say, I'm happy with the way it ended.

While I've heard some complains (and a few squeals) about another female assassin book, let me say this: this isn't really about an assassin (unless you count the one killing the girls). It's more of a book about trying to find out who you are, where you came from, and how much your freedom is worth to yourself. The idea of a City of girls is definitely original and most of the plot is too, so I had nothing to complain about here except that City of a Thousand Dolls? Way too short for my liking!

"Then there is the secret that everyone knows, except the person the secret is about."

A fantastic read that brought you to it's fantasy world with vibrant descriptions and scenes, City of a Thousand Dolls is definitely one I'd recommend to all epic fantasy readers and lovers and to paranormal readers ready to try something new! It's an amazing debut and I'll be here, eagerly anticipating the sequel, and wondering what house I'd belong to. Currently stuck between House of Jade or Combat.

"There are more secrets in the City than you could possibly know about. Which ones do you really care about?
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