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Book Review #37: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

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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 life like 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.

Pre-ReadingListening Thoughts

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After devouring one excellent narrative audiobook after another, I was hungry for more.

Seeing that Daughter of the Burning City was available on Overdrive, was a 2017 release, and available on audio for me to borrow from the library, I immediately snatched it up before anyone else could get their hands on it.

I have seen this book in passing on many Booktube channels & blogs and I was only slightly interested in the premise. I adored the cover though, even the audiobook cover which is significantly less quality.

 

Representation Checklist

✔️ Bisexuality — Sorina, the main character, is Bisexual. Loves men and ladies!

✔️ Demisexuality — Luca is demisexual. source

 

✔️ Anxiety/Panic Attacks — Sorina has anxiety, mentions it frequently, and has panic attacks.

✔️ Lesbian — Nicoleta, Sorina’s sister, loves girls.

 

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Sorina and Luca; you’re both doing amazing, sweetie(s)

What I wanted, no, craved from this book was the LGBTQIAP+ representation. I was surprised to get not only that but also some anxiety representation!

It is so unbelievably hard to find actually someone I identify within literature. Though it was not the perfect representation, I was really pleased with everything. I really liked how it was just commonplace in Gomorrah to be gay and that was it. I also loved Sorina and Luca as characters and they are my babies, okay?

 

World Building, ie. Where the Hell Are We?

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The majority of Daughter of the Burning City is set in the festival of Gomorrah, a city that is perpetually seemingly on fire, with its skies covered in smoke. Gomorrah is darker, and seemingly more sinister than its surrounding cities that it travels to which are more religious and strict (did I mention it’s a traveling city?). Gomorrah has an almost seedier underbelly called the “Down-Hill,” where sex workers, thieves, and assassins roam the streets.

 

Let’s Meet the Characters, ie. New Book, Who Dis?

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Sorina, our sixteen-year-old main character, and point of view. Sorina is an illusion worker, which basically means she can conjure anything she puts her mind on, whether corporeal or not. She can also disguise herself and others using her illusions.

Sorina has what she calls, a “deformity” where she has no eyes, but flat skin in their place. She can still see, however. There is no real, concrete explanation to explain this, other than perhaps extra plot stuff that would constitute as spoilers. This could be some sort of message that people with deformities still go about life, albeit in their own way or I could be reading into things too much. I can’t speak on that further, as I do not have a deformity.

Sorina has created the living, breathing illusions that she considers family.  There’s Gill, the father/uncle figure, Nicoleta, the mother figure, Crown, the grandfather, Hawk, the younger sister, Venera, the older sister, Uno and Duo, the cousins/little brothers, Blister, the baby brother and Tree, well, the tree. They all work in a “freak show” in Gomorrah to survive. She also has others who she considers as her family, including her adoptive father, Villiam, Gomorrah’s proprietor, and Kahina, the fortune-worker.

Luca is a self-proclaimed gossip worker, has a mysterious past and a way about him that Sorina can’t quite pinpoint. He lives in the Down-Hill.

 

Plot Stuffs; ie. What the Heck Is Happening?

I loved pretty much all of everything that went on in this novel; it kept me guessing, dropped appropriate hints and clues, and I was figuring it out along the way with Sorina. I did have my suspicions throughout of who was involved in the killings and they proved to be accurate.

The plot does have some slow areas at times, which made the novel drag on a little bit. It didn’t hinder my experience of it though, it gave more time for development of character and the world.

Along with the basic plotline, as stated in the description of this novel, there was this overarching political plotline of the world that played a role in the story. At the time of this all being revealed to the Sorina, it seemed to be a little info dump-ey and was complicated to follow. Especially when listening to an audiobook where you can have a tendency to zone out. I thought it was a great attempt to add an extra layer to the story, though it didn’t quite meet its mark.

I wish there was more exploration and I could read a whole series that delved into aspects of the world beyond Sorina and her family. If Sorina had been less oblivious to the world outside of her own doorstep, we could’ve gradually been introduced to the political and interesting potential of the world.

 

Reading vs. Listening

As mentioned above, I read this book on audio. It was narrated by Emily Woo Zeller. She honestly did a decent narration, she spoke clearly, for the most part, and she had voices for the characters.

I had a couple issues with the narration, however. I found that it was hard to hear her narrate certain sections because she was saying something too quietly because the story prompted her to whisper or mumble. It was hard to hear clearly what the character was saying because of that.

Another issue I had was that it was hard to discern what was being said in the story vs. what Sorina was thinking, and Sorina does think of things she would say before she actually says something different. I was a bit confused on that front. Overall, I enjoyed the audiobook experience.

 

What I Loved

  • Sorina and Luca as characters were both really well developed as the story went on and went through major growth that I was really pleased with
  • Representation; LGBTQIAP+ & anxiety
  • The plot was very engaging, I was glued to the story at every turn, and it kept you guessing
  • The world was weird and eccentric
  • The story was not afraid to show horrors, let their characters curse and be angry, and not gloss over grief & sadness

 

What I Did Not Love

  • Sorina’s illusions and the magic surrounding them are slightly confusing and as a reader, I couldn’t really understand how they worked so that hindered the believability a bit
  • Sorina lived in Gomorrah most of her life and traveled a lot with the city, so it seemed a little unbelievable that she was not as aware of the underlying conflicts between Gomorrah and the “Up-Mountain.”
  • Gomorrah as a city seemed a little bit “too good to be true,” in the sense that Gomorrah had so much influence as a roaming city, yet it could still be pushed around by the other cities and citizens of Gomorrah could be killed/injured by Up-Mountain officials. Sorina explained at some point in the novel that Gomorrah had influence over the cities, but at other points, she said that Gomorrah was toeing a very thin line from being completely wiped out by the Up-Mountain

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  • Some of the characters, like Hawk, I feel weren’t fleshed out enough. They either didn’t experience any growth or were only spoke of or told to the reader by Sorina. These characters become pivotal to the story so it’s weird that we have no characterization for them

 

Final Thoughts

All in all, I really loved Daughter of the Burning City. The story was unique and packed with a lot of lovable characters. Although it had moments where I was confused, it didn’t impede my enjoyment. I do recommend this book for anyone who is tired of the tropes in Young Adult fantasy and are looking for a diverse read.

 

★★★★

Four Stars!

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An Award, A Little About Me, & Paying it Forward

 

I have been nominated for a Liebster Award by Jenn from A Page of Jenniely. Thanks for nominating me!

If you are unaware, a Liebster Award is an award given to bloggers by other bloggers to help more people discover new blogs to follow. More information about this award can be found here.

I’m going to answer some questions that Jenn has provided for me, but before that, I will share 5 facts about myself that you may not know about me.

Facts About Me

1) I can be organized in thinking and action, but when I have little energy, that goes to the wayside. I tried keeping a bullet journal and a diary for that matter but had trouble keeping up with it. I’m more into spontaneity as of late. I am going to try and keep up with a bullet journal though. I think I’m going to have to set a reminder on my phone or something to write in it.

2) One of the only things I posted this blog’s for years were HBO’s True Blood commentary/recaps. You can probably still find them if you look hard enough. I’ve since deleted them because they did not match the feel of my blog anymore.

3) I used to be a very picky eater. I still am, but I am starting to become more adventurous with my food choices.

4) I am very sensitive when it comes to consuming media, like say a book, television show, or movie. I empathize with characters in such a way that reflects my own experiences. I also get really emotional.

5) I get very obsessed, very quickly. I find I can get utterly obsessed with something and it can last a day, a week, or even years. Then I drop it like a hot rock and wonder how I got so obsessed in the first place. I guess it is a part of growing older; your tastes change.

 

Questions

 

What is your go-to self-care? Something you do, wear, etc.

My go-to self-care is wearing a couple hair bands around my wrist along with a watch. I can keep an eye on the time, while also tying up my long, thick hair. I tend to get very hot if I don’t. I also try and carry a water bottle with me everywhere. I’m not sure if that counts as self-care, but I guess I would consider it self-care.

 What was the first book that made a difference to you and why? 

The first book that made a difference to me (besides the obvious Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which I’ll save the explanation for because it’s not unique) that I can remember was “Freckle Juice” by Judy Blume. Looking back I did not realize that book was by her.

The basic premise of the book was that there was a kid in second grade who wanted to have freckles but didn’t have any himself. A friend (or not so) tells him if he drinks this “Freckle Juice” concoction, he can get freckles.

The moral of the story, that the boy learns is that he’s perfect the way he is. Freckles or not, and if you go to drastic measures to change yourself, you’re not truly embracing yourself.

I ended up reading this over and over as a child, often in one sitting. I did do a book report on it in fourth grade. Somewhere in my old school stuff, there is probably a copy of my presentation or it may be lost. My fourth-grade teacher really liked it, and along with another presentation I did, said that I should go into dramatic arts. I did just that in Middle School and High School.

 

What is your favourite time of year? 

My favourite time of the year is Autumn. Just before the snow falls, but escaping the heat and rain of summer. It’s a little chilly, enough to wear a sweater.  But, not so much as you have to wear thirty pounds of clothing. I also really love Thanksgiving.

I also really love Thanksgiving. It’s a time to eat good food and enjoy good company. It’s also a time to be thankful for what you have, (even though the history it’s based on is about greed and genocide).

Halloween is probably my favourite part about Autumn. Eating sweets till you’re sick, watching/reading creepy things, dressing up, and having fun. I love seeing everyone’s creative costumes. It’s the holiday of cosplay.

 

Where is your favourite place to read?

My favourite place to read is at home. I love being at home because one, I’m an introvert and I honestly prefer it. Two, I can have visceral reactions to books at home because no one else can see me! And three, I just find it more comfortable as it has so little distractions.

I usually read on the couch or in bed. When I listen to audio books, I usually clean/organize while doing so.

 
Which book would you buy as a gift for someone right now? 

I would buy “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd and illustrated by Jim Kay. It has so many lessons to teach and it’s truly a beautiful story. More of my thoughts on A Monster Calls can be found in my review.

The book is also, I think, a must-read for anyone who wants to understand grief or anyone who wants an excellent story.

 

What do you find the hardest thing about blogging?

The hardest thing about blogging, for me, is having the motivation to write. I tend to be a very anxious person and my mind goes everywhere else besides my blog. I do love it though. Getting bogged down by thoughts is my hardest thing I have to overcome. Having thoughts go every which way, not doing the thing you most want to do and then feeling guilty for not doing it.

I think of myself as more of a spontaneous writer. When I get an idea, I have to do something about it right that minute, or else I would lose it.

 

What is the most fun aspect you find about blogging?

The most fun aspect of blogging is having full creative freedom over what I write. I don’t blog for the followers or the number of views. I blog because I enjoy it. I love being creative and sharing new ideas with the world.

 

If you could offer year-ago you any advice, what would it be?

Get out of school while you still can; you won’t be an awful person. Stand up for your health. It’s okay to say no and quit. You won’t be a lesser person for it. If you can’t handle it, then don’t do it. Start looking hard for a job in your field, you’ll thank yourself for it later.

 

Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging because I wanted somewhere where I could talk about books. I had recently moved into the city where I currently live and had very few friends who I could discuss books with. I still have very little people in my personal life who I can discuss the books I love with, so here I still am.

I initially started my blog on Blogspot, but it broke for me, preventing me from posting anything. I ended up re-starting my blog on WordPress in July 2011.

 

What is your dream holiday?

My dream holiday would be to a bookish convention like BookNet Fest, (next year I hope it happens again)! I hope to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida too.

I would honestly rather travel with someone than alone. Maybe my boyfriend could also be a travel companion on these adventures? He has said in the past a flat-out no to anywhere in the United States, so I don’t know who I would go with. Anyone want to come with me?

 

What would be your ideal bookish gift?

Tickets for a bookish convention or an author signing. Not sure which author though. J.K. Rowling, I would probably drop everything for. Basically being an author is an amazing feat in my eyes and I would probably love to have a chat/signing with any author I can get to meet with me.


 

I bestow the Liebster Award upon…

 

Chris

@Mouseiana | modernaugustan.com

 

Cam

@justabookeater_ | boricuanbookworms.com

 

Sophie

@23reviewstreet | 23reviewstreet.com

 

Lauren

@Lauren817 | laurenscrammedbookshelf.blogspot.ca

 

(I don’t know that many bloggers so I hope this is enough!)

 

Here are your questions! Please answer these questions in your post and comment the link on this post!

 

1) What is your favourite blog post (or posts) that you have ever done and why?

2) Do you have a favourite genre of books? What is it?

3) What was the subject you enjoyed most in school and why?

4) What are your favourite methods to reduce stress?

5) What is a hobby you are proud of that doesn’t involve the internet?

6) Who is your favourite person, living or dead, fictional or real?

7) Do you use a schedule/to-do list in your day-to-day life? Why or why not?

8) Do you speak any languages other than English? If not, what languages would you love to learn?

9) Do you have any recommendations for television, music, and movies? What should everyone watch/listen to?

10) What is your dream career? What would be a day-in-the-life of your career?

Getting Back Into Things… What Things?

Here we are again. Another two months have flown by and I have been quiet. Too quiet for my liking. Rather than make excuses or make promises, I’m gonna be honest and say that I probably won’t have a succinct schedule for the foreseeable future. Meaning, I can’t post every day, week, month, etcetera. This is for both my YouTube channel and this website.

It was hard to find some schedule that fits me, like once a week or every two weeks or whatever. I basically decided just to throw the schedule out the window for now and get a move on.

If you haven’t been on my site for a while, you may have noticed some differences. Firstly, my beautiful new banner and profile picture, photography by my boyfriend, Chris Chase-Onions (you can find his blog here).

I also went back on what I mentioned in a previous post, (I do not want to go back and read it to find out what I actually said because honestly, it isn’t my best post). I re-launched my Patreon. It was a hard decision. It honestly took a lot of self-talk. I had to tell myself that I wasn’t a failure for my last campaign not working out. I am not a failure, I just went about the first campaign too soon and I didn’t put a lot of work into what I was doing.

This time in creating my Patreon page, I wrote and rewrote sections multiple times, had my page proofread, tested my page on perspective patrons (ie. my mom and my friends), studied guides for success, asked my boyfriend if I could use his beautiful photographs, and made sure that I was happy with everything before I launched the page. Weeks of preparation lead to the simple click of a green button.

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Photography by Chris Chase-Onions

Within 48 hours of launching, I already had 5 patrons and had reached my first goal, the Rory Milestone! I didn’t think I would even reach that goal, let alone that quickly.

The feeling of your first patron pledging to you, for me, only can be described as giddy excitement. It meant that someone believed in me, so much so that they decided to pledge actual money.

Now that I’m back on Patreon, I just want to make something really clear. I won’t stop posting publicly on my blog, or my videos on YouTube just because I have this new Patreon community. Ultimately, my content is gonna be free no matter what occurs. Unless I get published (like that will ever happen), and you have to pay for copies of my book! I will, however, be posting exclusive content for patrons like behind the scenes content, scripts/notes early ideas, etcetera. More information about what I share is on my page.

What are “things,” as mentioned in the title of the post? Things are content that I have always posted, like blog posts, reviews, and YouTube videos. They are coming back and that’s a definite thing. I don’t like quitting things. The schedule as I mentioned is a little wonky, as I work a lot to try and pay for rent, utilities, and food. I do have ideas for the future of ReadingArsenal, as both a website and a YouTube channel.

Managing the crux of subscribers and views on YouTube and even on this website is also very difficult as I know I don’t have a huge following. I don’t care about numbers; I just care that people actually enjoy what I’m putting out and are communicating with me through comments. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be just a fan also. I just love feedback, discussion. I love human connection!

Future is a big unknown, but I’m trying to make the most of the present. I am thinking about what other projects I want to do, like maybe an audio podcast, (maybe not even related to books!) or continuing writing my novel (that I have been writing since I was thirteen).

I think that about covers what I want to discuss in this post. Thank you to my new patrons, and fans who have been there since the beginning.

 

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