My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There were more twists and turns in the story than the labyrinthine paths through the Gomorrah Festival. I was impressed that this was Amanda Foody’s debut novel, but that does not mean it was without its faults. Overall, I felt that the Festival itself as a setting was the most intriguing part of the story.
I didn’t feel that the magic system was as developed as it should have been, or perhaps it was too developed. It wasn’t always clear what people could have as abilities. The added element of being able to have multiple abilities that alter how each other works or each ability manifesting itself completely differently in people made following how the magic worked very difficult. There were also rules or examples that you read that seem to contradict one another. You just had to accept that it wasn’t entirely clear and anything could happen.
The setting was certainly the most intriguing part of this story. The Gomorrah Festival, also known as the City of Burning Desires, is a traveling Carnival full of thieves, strumpets, charlatans, performers and fortune tellers. The gates of the city have ever burning flames and the cloying scent of smoke, perfume, and sugar cloak the tents. Amanda Foody’s writing brilliantly brings the city to life, although we sadly see very little of the actual Festival. I loved the performance elements of the Night Circus and Caraval, so I was a little disappointed that the locale didn’t play a bigger role.
I never really connected with the main character, Sorrina, our thread through the entire story. She is a magic worker who can create illusions with her mind, despite having no eyes to see for herself. Since coming to the Festival, she has begun creating illusions to become her family. They perform with her and despite not being truly real, are quite beloved by Sorrina. Unfortunately, one night a member of her illusion family is killed – but how can illusions be killed?
Sorrina vows to discover who hurt her family and protect the remaining members no matter what. Soon she meets an Up-Mountainer named Luca who is definitely the best character in the book. At first, he seems like the stereotypical sassy, “bad boy” love interest, but he is actually incredibly intelligent. I really enjoyed the dimension he brought to the story and how he balanced out Sorrina’s more romantic, unfocused, indecisive character.
Despite the fact that Sorrina’s family are illusions, they do feel like real people. Some are more developed than others. You feel for two of her sisters, one who bears the weight of the family on her shoulders and the other who just wants to be a real person. Those two will tug at your heartstrings and make you forget that they are illusions. I didn’t feel like I got to know the other family members as well and that was a shame. They were such unique creations that they deserved that connection and time.
The story was fantastical, yet I enjoyed the mystery element as you puzzled through the clues with the characters to discover who killed an illusion, and how. The plot was a little convoluted so at times my attention waned, but overall I enjoyed the book. There were some pacing issues that could have been resolved by some additional editing/culling of scenes. Sometimes when I sat down I was completely engrossed in the plot, but there were also others where I picked the book up and put it down moments later.
I felt that the story was tied up satisfactorily and it didn’t leave me with too many questions, but I won’t lie and say I wouldn’t enjoy another book set in that world with different characters. The level of development is still impressive for a debut novel and I cannot wait to see more from Amanda Foody.
I would definitely recommend this to young adult/teen readers who enjoy fantasy novels with really intriguing worlds but don’t expect too much of the carnival element to be present in the plot.