Review: The City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
PJV Quickie: The CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS was a total contradiction of plot, belief structures and characters. Rich world-building that fell short before it was realized, characters that came to conclusions without proper proof given. Then, the immense amount of boring details that were relegated over and over again led to a less then satisfactory read for me.[frame align=”left”][/frame]
Author: Miriam Forster
Type: Young Adult Fantasy
Published: February 5th 2013 by Harper Teen
Source: Amazon Vine
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Within a broken empire, lies The City of a Thousand Dolls. The government regulates the number of children that each couple can have and they put great stock in male children, so the City of a Thousand Dolls has become the refuge for all the abandoned female children. Each child is taken within the walls of the city and trained in a different art form. From the plat work of the healer, to the intricacies of a courtesan, even the deadly art of the assassin. Nisha has not been trained in any of the specialties that the City of a Thousand Dolls specializes in. She was abandoned late in her childhood and was too old to be trained. She was given a position as the Matron’s assistant. This position enables Nisha a lot more maneuverability then the other girls, but doesn’t give her the security of an expected position in a household upon coming of age.
When girls begin to die, within the city, Nisha is put in a terrible position, because of a lot of sketchy politics. She is given a way out of her inevitable “sale” by investigating the deaths. Nisha is hoping by finding the murderer she will buy herself more time, so she can make it to the Redeeming where the girls are “purchased” by men and placed in good homes. By getting to the Redeeming she hopes that the boy she has been hooking up with, the boy that delivers the mail, will speak for her, marry her and they will ride off into the sunset.
The world of the City of a Thousand Dolls was literally India and China meshed together with a bit of mythological magic mixed in for exposition purposes. Yet, the cultural interplay of the two belief/culture systems was so shallow that it was as if the author saw two documentaries on Chinese and Indian lifestyles and then interwove them into her book. The India part, is the saris and the caste system, the look of the people. The Chinese part is the birth restrictions, misogynist society and Empire like leadership. Yet, the characters all have a sort of Western mentality which isn’t cohesive with the lifestyle of the world that Forster created. I think Forster took a wrong path with the “real” cultural aspects of the novel. She could have taken bits and pieces of the systems and changed them up enough to not look like mirrors. Isn’t that what Fantasy is about?
That is just the cultural aspect of the book. The pacing and the silly mystery aspect of the story made things worse and worse. The book actually started off really well, it went right into the world building and I took a liking to Nisha, but as I got deeper into the story it floundered. Especially as the mystery unraveled and Nisha did very little to “solve” this mystery. She literally just kept on bumbling into the path of the killer and stumbling to a conclusion. The “magic” aspects of the book were also just there. Nisha could speak to cats. Later on you realize it is a mental communication, but at first I had no idea. Was she really talking to them? Were they talking back? This was never explained and Nisha never thought to question that she could talk to cats. Also at first, the cats seemed like just buddies, but as the book progressed they seemed to control Nisha and took charge of the situation…which was not how they were at first. They also made the cryptic statements “she’s not ready to know.” You know, the whole secrets-not-to-be-revealed trick, authors use. The cats said this in front of Nisha – and she NEVER questioned them. Sure, believable character behavior. (That is sarcasm)
Even the romance was unsuccessful. The couple was together before the book started and you barely saw him. Nisha thought about their love all the time, but there were no events that substantiated this love. Again shallow and poorly represented, which was basically most of this book. I’ve found better mystery in an episode of The Babysitter’s Club and there is much better Young Adult Fantasy out there to waste your time on a book of this caliber.
I do think the idea was a brilliant, the basis for the book and it’s contradictory cultural foundation could have been positively inspiring. Yet, I always find myself tragically uninspired by Western Authors trying to extrapolate on Eastern mentalities.
Judge for yourself though, you may enjoy the story of Nisha and the mystery she has to solve. I just didn’t like it at all.
Recommended for young audiences without discriminating tastes. Fantasy lovers might enjoy along with anyone with a penchant for mystery.
Better Young Adult Fantasy Novels & 2 Star Ratings:
Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms, #1) by Morgan Rhodes, Michelle Rowen
Poison by Bridget Zinn