Daughter of the Burning City Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.
Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling 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 lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that - illusions, and not truly real. Or so she has 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. 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 her loved ones disappear.
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|Listening Length||12 hours and 37 minutes|
|Narrator||Emily Woo Zeller|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||July 25, 2017|
|Publisher||Blackstone Audio, Inc.|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #254,301 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#388 in Dark Fantasy for Teens
#473 in Mystery & Detective Fiction for Teens
#670 in Paranormal Mystery, Thriller & Suspense for Teens
Top reviews from the United States
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Sorina is more than a performer in Gomorrah; she is also the adopted daughter and heir apparent of the show/city’s Proprietor, Villiam. Because of her youth, he has kept most of the details of Gomorrah’s past and the Proprietor’s job from her until now, but the murders suggest to both that she needs to learn more, and quickly. Readers don’t learn much about the geography and politics of the land Gomorrah travels through until about a third of the way through the book, but thereafter, these elements become increasingly important. Sorina also encounters romance, but her her relationship with Luca, a fellow performer who helps her investigate the murders, develops slowly, and the author does not hit the reader over the head with it.
I was amazed to discover after I finished the book that it was part of a “Harlequin Teen” series. Such an imprint would have led me to expect (mistakenly, perhaps) not only a “YA” book but a rather superficial one, heavy on the romance—but this book is anything but. It does have a teenaged protagonist, and a romance of sorts, but the character development and the issues raised, including the nature of reality and illusion and the painful inner conflict that competing loyalties can produce, make it worthwhile and enjoyable reading for people of any age.
After reading Ace of Shades a little while ago, I knew I wanted to check this book out, and lo and behold, Amazon tossed it my way for $2 on Kindle right around the time my final paycheck from the greenhouse came through, like it was meant to be. Most the paycheck was squirreled away for bills, but that $2 was gone in a flash.
I think I'm mostly happy with how I spent it, too, which is a relief. Daughter of the Burning City was wonderfully atmosphere, set in a carnival-centered city styled as the City of Sin and packed with all manner of circus oddities and shady dealings. It's a moving city, one that travels through the world with its borders ever burning, supposedly enchanted long ago, and Foody does well to describe it, bringing in the sights and sounds in full. There are licorice-covered cherries, bright lights, hazy smoke, but also manure and theft and cheats and gambling, and it's blended seamlessly into this place that could be dangerous but is also home to Sorina and her family.
Speaking of which, WOW, what a concept. Sorina is an illusion-worker, capable of creating lasting illusions with her own magic. She has no eyes but can see, and she and her family, made from her magic, run their own personal freak show to bring in money. There's Nicoleta and her superhuman strength, Hawk and her wings, Venera and her literally boneless flexibility. Unu and Du have two heads and one shared body, Blister is a fire-belching baby, Tree is a tree (okay, so he's the oldest creation), Crown grows nails instead of hair, and Gill is a fish man who can't breathe out of water. They're a family, all close to one another, all very dear to each other.
Which makes it heart wrenching when the illusions start dying.
I shed tears a couple times because their family bond was so strong, and then there was LOSS. You could tell how much these illusions meant to Sorina, especially with the knowledge that they could die despite being born of her imagination and magic, and since this book is at its heart a murder-mystery, it was hard not to spend the book falling in love with them all and fearing for them just the same. Anyone could be next.
And speaking of characters, it was really neat that a lot of them were queer. Sorina is bi, and Nicoleta is definitely a lesbian, while other side characters were mentioned in passing to be gay, and no one really batted an eye at it. Luca was ace (demisexual, actually), too, but I think that warrants some discussion, so hold onto that for a minute.
Actually, no, let's get into that now, because it was really bothering me. It was great that there were a number of characters who weren't straight and it wasn't a big deal. It was neat that no one looked down on sex workers except the obvious antagonists you're not supposed to sympathize with anyway. There was this overall air of "hey, so be it, be you," and I liked that. But none of the characters seemed able to wrap their heads around the idea that someone might not experience sexual or romantic attraction. It was gossip-worthy in the book, almost scandalous, and that really rubbed me the wrong way. In a traveling city full of magic and death and thieves and all manner of things, one person who isn't interested in sex is a big deal?
MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD, though, because it got worse. It turns out that Luca, ace as he is, with eyes only for Sorina, is one of her illusions, one she can't remember making, one she made in her loneliness and desire for a lover. So not only is being ace rumor-worthy, he was created, popped out of Sorina's magic and imagination, as if no one else in that world is ace and he was designed that way. And while the book ultimately comes to the conclusion that the illusions are real people with their own lives and choices, not just imaginary friends, puppets on strings, it still sat poorly with me the way Luca's asexuality was framed.
SPOILERS OVER NOW if you'd like to look again. The rest I can tell you about without giving anything away, and on the whole I was pleased with the rest. I do wish the conclusion hadn't felt so rushed (plus I can't tell if there will be a sequel or not), and that the clues to the mystery had been a little more fairly scattered (a mystery is always more fun if the audience could solve it early because you've given them the hints, but they don't because they don't know what to look for until it's too late), but I liked that it progressed quickly, and I liked how the murders were explained. There were also little illustrations in the book that ramped up the tension and made me worry who was going to die next, which was clever and slightly cruel (I'm already worried enough for these characters!). On the whole, it was a good read, exciting and atmospherically enticing, which is always a delight. If there's a sequel, I hope to hear of it soon, and I wonder what other dangers Sorina and her family could get into.
I thought the demisexual rep was done well. Luca didn’t feel like a stereotype, Sorina respected his identity and boundaries, and the way their relationship progressed felt natural. The terms “demisexual” or “asexual” were never used on the page, but the way Luca described his experiences with sexual attraction (or lack thereof) made it clear that this is how he would identify if the language existed in his world.
One issue that will turn some readers off of the book is the ableism. Sorina has internalized a lot of it — in addition to calling her show the “Freak Show”, she spends a lot of time bemoaning the fact that no one will ever love her because of her lack of eyes, and she wears a mask in public in order to make everyone else feel more comfortable.
Overall, I loved the world building and ace rep in DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, but found the ableism problematic. It was still a unique and enjoyable murder mystery, however.
Top reviews from other countries
So let's start with plot stuff! It's super enjoyable and the world is interesting and well put together. I like how we see how little Sorina knows about both Gomorrah and the outside world, and how we learn along with her. I like all the characters of Gomorrah too. Sorina herself I am a little mixed about - she's a solid character with relatable angst, and I really liked how her having no eyes was dealt with! And her relationships with her family was lovely. But for me, while I liked her, I didn't love her. I wanted her to solve the mystery and sort her relationship but that's it.
Onto the mystery. I guessed the twists around Luca and Sorina about halfway through, but didn't the full aspect in terms of the mastermind. I felt a bit sad to be right, but that was more because I didn't want to be than disappointment in the storyline :)
I also love that the book is so inclusive - sexuality is casually irrelevant in many ways, a main character who is effectively disabled (though more in looks than ability, which I think does make it different).
And then finally, on to Luca. Who I need to mention for being special to me. 😍💙😍 I love everything about him except the twist (despite being a spoilers review I like to not completely ruin it!). Mostly the way he owns his approach to relationships, is honest about what he wants and while letting Sorina lead a bit, he also was good at stating boundaries (or lack of). And Sorina was respectful and understanding of him. And just 😍 everything about that was lovely, including Sorina coming to realise that he was moving from annoying to possibly cute lol! It made me super happy to see something different and supportive and inclusive and on it's own this would have got the book 5 stars hehe!!
Our main character, Sorina, is absolutely fascinating. Though she was born with no eyes, she can still see clearly, and her illusion work is amazing. The only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years, she's the only real part of the Gomorrah Festival Freak Show - an act within the travelling carnival. Her creations are her family, but she's always believed they weren't truly real. Until the murders begin. Sorina is determined to find out who is killing her family, why they are doing it, and most importantly, how it's even possible. Strong and brave, she's a pretty great character all in all. Though she's easily hurt, she's become a master of hiding behind a mask and a sharp tongue. Not many people outside her family really accept her for who she is, and she lives a pretty sheltered life in a lot of ways.
Enter Luca. We know nothing about this kid, other than that he's been with Gomorrah for about a year and has earned himself a bit of a reputation as a gossip-worker. Oh, and there's the little fact that he can't die. He's a pretty interesting guy, really. Though Sorina doesn't particularly like him when they first meet, they slowly form an unlikely friendship, which of course leads to more. A lot of authors try to get their relationships ignited early in standalones so the reader gets as long as possible with the romance. That's how insta-love happens. But Amanda Foody turned that on its head. Despite being a standalone, the development between Sorina and Luca was slow and, quite frankly, believable.
Scattered throughout this book are the "blueprints" for Sorina's illusions, complete with sketches which is just amazing. But these blueprints have been added to. Defaced. Turns out, the killer has used these blueprints as a cheat sheet for murder. These additions really make everything come to life and I absolutely loved them, as few and far between as they were.
I don't read standalone fantasy very often, but when I do, I'm generally left feeling a little underwhelmed. That wasn't the case here. Despite my love for a long fantasy series, this story worked beautifully as a standalone. Would I have liked a sequel? Absolutely, but not because it necessarily needs one, but more because Gomorrah itself is so dang fascinating. It's not merely a travelling carnival, but rather a travelling city. That's crazy interesting!
I'm blown away by the fact that this is a debut novel, and it definitely made me even more excited to read Ace Of Shades (which I finished at the end of August, heh). Something Amanda Foody did incredibly well in this book was the mystery. I found myself flip-flopping between characters I believed to be the killer, and in the end, I was totally wrong anyway!
Overall, if you're looking for an interesting YA fantasy/mystery, check this one out. It's only 400 pages and is fun, super quick, and utterly captivating.
Zuallererst handelt es sich bei Daughter of the Burning City um einen Einzelband! Mehr sogar noch – obwohl es in einer komplett fiktiven Welt spielt, kann Foody diese in den knapp 400 Seiten ausreichend entwickeln, ohne, dass sie überwältigend oder verwirrend wirkt. Auch die Geschichte ist optimal in sich abgeschlossen, keine Frage bleibt unbeantwortet.
Nach nur wenigen Seiten hatte ich Sorina und ihre Familie voller Freaks (wie sie im Buch bezeichnet werden) ins Herz geschlossen, und ich war überrascht, wie sehr es schmerzte, als einer von ihnen ermordet wurde – und das nach so wenigen Seiten. Daraufhin entwickelt sich eine Suche nach dem Mörder, die überwiegend wirklich spannend ist. Lediglich in der Mitte des Buches verliert sie etwas an Geschwindigkeit, da der romantische Subplot in den Vordergrund tritt, aber dafür ist die Auflösung umso genialer. Was während dem Lesen beinahe hoffnungslos erschien, da Sorina kaum Hinweise hatte, macht rückblickend unglaublich viel Sinn … wenn man die kleinen eingestreuten Hinweise entdeckt. Besonders "cool" ist, dass manchmal zwischen den Kapiteln Skizzen des Mörders enthalten sind, die dem Buch fast schon eine Horror-Note verpassen. (Sie machten mich extra paranoid, um es anders auszudrücken.)
Zuletzt bin ich einfach begeistert davon, wie divers das Buch ist – Sorina ist bisexuell, ihr Loveinterest befindet sich auf dem Ace-Spektrum und eine Freundin von ihr ist lesbisch. Besonders schön zu lesen war, dass Foody eine Welt erschaffen hat, in der jede Sexualität kommentarlos akzeptiert wird; darüber hinaus gefiel mir auch der Dialog, der um die einzelnen Orientierungen der Charaktere entstand.
Kurzum – Daughter of the Burning City ist ein brillantes Debüt, das lediglich in der Mitte etwas den roten Faden verliert. Was die Spannung anbetrifft, beschert es viele aufregende Stunden in Gomorrah.