City of a Thousand Dolls
CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS, set in a kind of post-apocalyptic fantasy world, sets out to solve two mysteries. One is a series of murders taking place in the eponymous city, a place where girls are abandoned as infants if their families have already had their allotted two children. They are left in the City to be raised into healers or musicians, wives or mistresses, or even assassins --- whichever discipline they excel at. The other is the mystery of our protagonist, Nisha, a misfit with no real place in the City. Though she, like all the other girls around her, has no idea who her parents are, she was abandoned later in her childhood than them, too late to be trained to specialize in any of the City's disciplines. Instead, Nisha became the eyes and ears of the head Matron of the City and as such, gets wrapped up in finding the killer stalking the city before the annual Reedeeming, a ceremony at which Nisha's best friend will become princess of the land. Oh yeah, and she can also talk to cats.
"Miriam Forster imbues her fantasy land with a rich and interesting history, full of just the types of power struggles, revolutions and mysterious creatures you'd expect in any fantasy novel worth its salt."
If this sounds at all silly, let me promise you it is not. Miriam Forster imbues her fantasy land with a rich and interesting history, full of just the types of power struggles, revolutions and mysterious creatures you'd expect in any fantasy novel worth its salt. The characters are also well-drawn: Nisha is headstrong, yet caring, and her relationships with the Matron of the City, her Doll friends and her cat protectors show her to be protective and loyal, even when she makes poor or uninformed decisions. The supporting characters, even the very minor ones, are memorable and interesting, with the exception of Nisha's love interest, Devan, a nobleman she meets with in secret.
Another strength of CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS is that the two plots --- the murder mystery and the mystery of Nisha's heritage --- are well balanced and equally interesting, though the murder mystery is more suspenseful. Some of the twists involved when we find out more about Nisha's past are predictable, though the fact that Nisha is a great character saves them from being boring. However, the murder mystery is one that leaves you guessing until the murderer is actually revealed, and Nisha's quest to find the killer is one that allows her and the reader to find out more about the interesting history, make-up and government of Nisha's land and of the City itself. It is truly this mystery, as well as the captivating fantasy world Miriam Forster creates, that makes City of a Thousand Dolls a unique must-read.
Reviewed by Erin Allen on March 8, 2013