Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a little girl. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. She makes her way as Matron’s errand girl, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.
Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls – but also her life.
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster had me happily entranced from page one. The quickest way to my bookish heart is to write a story that takes place in a complete fantasy world (though with hints of the familiar from our own world, which was neat) so City of a Thousand Dolls was wonderful imagination-sparking brain-food. Only thing to make it better would have been a map of the City! The Dramatis Personae was nice to have, though, especially since I referred to it more than once just to make sure I had all the names straight.
Right away, the reader is swept up in main character Nisha’s mysterious past and ability to talk to the cats roaming the grounds of the city. We get a good sense of what the city is like, and who Nisha is (as well as her love interest) before dropped right into the murder mystery aspect of the plot. Nisha – independent, capable, calm, scared and strong Nisha – is slowly swept up in trying to solve the murders in an effort not just to save more girls from dieing, but to save herself from being sold. Yupp, being sold. The City of a Thousand Dolls takes in orphan girls and basically (very basically. The book has MUCH more detail on this caste system) “sells” them. Usually as brides, but sometimes to apprenticeships and even bondage (slavery) if they owe a debt. They can be groomed for any caste, and can I just say I loved this world? I was completely intrigued by the history, caste system, the way the City functions and the court intrigue that is slowly spilling into the City.
Nisha has a rough time a head of her solving the murders (and it’s one of those books where you think you might know who the murderer is, but there are very few clues, just feelings, and you hope you’re wrong!), but she has the cats to help (love Jerrit, and holy revelations at the end!), and the will to succeed. The romance found in City of a Thousand Dolls is very minor, and secondary to the story of Nisha and the City. The intrigue, suspense, fear and worry that spans the novel is amazingly well presented, and I adored the twists and turns that the plot took in regards to where Nisha came from, who’s killing the girls, and what is in store for Nisha after the Redeeming (a ceremony where the girls 16 years old basically are spoken for and money is exchanged).
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster is an amazing debut novel. The scenes att he end are so crazy good – I loved the Court, Redeeming and wrap up of the mystery. Emotional and beautifully written, City of a Thousand Dolls is so much more than a murder mystery. It explores what it means to have a sense of identity (where you belong and where you come from), friendship, loyalty and what someone will do to keep what they think they is theirs. Miriam Forster has written a richly realized fantasy novel and I definitely recommend it!