Monday, February 18, 2013
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she makes her way as Matron's assistant on the grounds of the remote estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans. . . and assassins. Only when Nisha begins a forbidden flirtation with a handsome young courtier does she let herself imagine a life outside the city's walls. Until, one by one, girls around her start to die.
City of a Thousand Dolls is set in a fantasy world governed by an Emperor, nobles and a caste system. Individuals have few personal freedoms and membership in a tribe, group or powerful family is essential.
Families are only allowed to have two children. To support this strict requirement, the kingdom supports the City of a Thousand Dolls which accepts, trains, and places young girls. Once accepted into the City, the girls lose their previous caste and they are all supposedly treated equally. The City has several different Houses, each with their own area of specialization: House of Music, House of Pleasure, House of Discipline, House of Shadows, House of Combat, and House of Flowers. Every year, the City holds a Redeeming. During the Redeeming ceremony, the City has an elaborate masquerade and a grand party to show off the novices in the best possible light. Those 16 years old will be presented to nobles, healers, merchants, and the general public for pairing. Each girl waits and hopes for a formal announcement that she's spoken for - and to discover the life that she'll soon live.
Our heroine, Nisha, was left at the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was 6 years old and too old to be placed in one of the Houses. Instead, the Matron raised her to serve as her personal assistant and her eyes and ears in the City. Nisha is not comfortable with her role as spy, but she acknowledges that the information she relays has occasionally been used to move a girl from an unhappy position to a more suitable one. Nisha is not particularly popular. Her plain clothes and lack of connections occasionally leave her open to the taunts of the beautiful and popular girls. Though her best friend Tanaya helps make up the worst days. They first met when girls from the Flower House were taunting Nisha and Tanaya swooped down to tell them off. Tanaya is noble, beautiful, and will soon be the most famous and highborn of all the girls to have ever lived in the City of a Thousand Dolls as has been matched with the Prince.
When we meet Nisha, she's sixteen and hoping to escape her life in the City. She's fallen in love with a young noble and risks the punishment of death to regularly meet with him. She dreams that he'll speak up for her during the Redeeming. Though, like a good adventure/mystery, there are other factors in play. A young girl is found dead, possibly murdered. The loss of the income from the girl's "redeeming" and the new head of the Council have decided that Nisha can be withdrawn from the roster for the Redeeming and will instead be sold as a bond slave to cover the cost of her ten years of training in the City. This could mean a life as a slave if Nisha is unable to repay her purchase price. Nisha may lose everything unless she can come up with a plan acceptable to the Council.
Nisha faces dark opponents and hidden enemies. But she has her own secret allies. She has the unique ability to speak to the many cats in the City - they comfort her and help her during these turbulent times. While she does not know much about her parents, their legacy lingers and resurfaces when she needs them most.
In City of a Thousand Dolls, Forster gives us a new and entertaining young adult fantasy novel that is very much a story of friendship, intrigue, and loyalty.
ISBN-10: 0062121308 - Hardcover $17.99
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 5, 2013), 368 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Prime program and the publisher.
About the Author:
Miriam Forster lives in Idaho with her husband. City of a Thousand Dolls is her debut novel. You can visit Miriam online at www.msforster.blogspot.com and follow her on twitter @miriamforster