Book Club: Daughter of the Burning City

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Author: Amanda Foody
ISBN: 9781489242068
RRP: $19.99
Publisher: HQ Young Adult
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Daughter of the Burning City is a captivating debut that I would love to see expanded into a series. The world building is both captivating and convincing and this was a young adult fantasy novel that I found to be truly unique.

There has been a lot going on around me lately which has messed with my focus, my motivation, my reading time and my writing time. It has now been a week since I finished the book and I need to get back in the zone to review. It took me a lot longer to read Daughter of the Burning City than I thought it would and that left me trying to work out why. I have always loved the fantasy genre and expected to get dragged right in from the outset but it took me ages to get hooked. It seems I need to be in the right headspace to be able to lose myself in a fantasy world, to be able to get my head around the world building required of a fantasy novel.

Gomorrah is a travelling city, and it travels in formation. It is a festival city, a circus of the strangest kind. The Gomorrah Festival began as a city 2000 years ago and what we learn of it’s history we learn from our leading lady Sorina.

Sixteen year old Sorina is a performer and heir to the proprietor, she has grown up within the fiery borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Even surrounded by those who are different and wield all types of magic, still Sorina stands out.

Daughter of the Burning City, and the Gomorrah Festival, are built on magic. All types of magic come together and still Sorina is an exception. Sorina is the girl who sees without eyes and is the only illusion-worker to be born in centuries. Sorina’s abilities as an illusion-worker allow her to create a family to surround her, a family of illusions that people can see, feel and touch and who make up the cast of the Gomorrah Festival Freak Show.

Illusions, created in the mind of Sorina, corporeal though they may seem are still just that… illusions. They may seem very lifelike but they aren’t truly real. So, if that’s the case, how then does someone murder an illusion?

Sorina is desperate to protect her family so she sets out to discover who is killing her creations, and more importantly… HOW. So begins a race against time to solve the situation before she loses anyone else.

There was a lot to love about this book and it’s world building. The scope is massive with the creation of an entire world, a host of different magic workers and a history that ties all the pieces together. It was a lot to take in and I found that I needed focus to be able to get in the zone and be able to keep it all straight in my head.

My biggest issue is that this seems to be a stand alone single title, with the depth of the world-building and character development I would have loved more books in the Gomorrah Festival. I would love more stories centred on Sorina and her adventures within the Gomorrah Festival.

Sorina is a strong and capable young woman, she created her very own family out of her very own imagination and gave them life, even if they didn’t turn out quite the way she planned. She is destined to take over the festival one day but she still has quite a naive understanding, being fed what her father wants her to know.

Daughter of the Burning City is a captivating young adult title that is more about the mystery and uncovering the culprit than anything else. There is an element of romance but it’s quite understated and well written. There’s no love at first sight, no love triangles; only a young woman who has never met anyone like herself that wonders if she will ever meet anyone that can accept her how she is. The suspense is well written and we are offered clues throughout but I certainly didn’t get close to working out what was going on.

Magic workers of every description, political power plays and religious fervour came together in a captivating story that tied the ending up quite convincingly, yet still left me wanting more. I think it will be a hit with fans of young adult, fantasy and suspense gneres.

Amanda Foody can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and

Daughter of the Burning City is published by Harlequin and available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Harlequin 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading Daughter of the Burning City so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.


20 thoughts on “Book Club: Daughter of the Burning City

  1. Daughter of the Burning City is a slightly weird but still a fascinating book, that meshes together a fantastical world, unusual magic, a coming of age love story, a political drama, a social commentary on prejudice and bigotry and a murder mystery ALL into a single novel.

    The story is set in Gomorrah, a traveling city, as well as a festival of misfits and freaks – a carnival that “caters to the strangest of dreams and desires”. And, it is told from the point of view of young Sorina, the festival proprietor’s adopted daughter and heir, and a skilled jynx magic worker and misfit herself. She has the best freak show around. Her performers are all illusions – creations from her own mind – a gilled fish man, a spineless acrobat, a swooping hawk girl, a giant tree man, a fire-breathing baby. But Sorina’s creations are more than just mind puppets to her, they give her a sense of belonging. They are her surrogate family. Each one helping to guide the young 16 year old with advice and help as she grows up in Gomorrah. They are portrayed as more real than illusion, with each having his/her own distinct personality and idiosyncrasies. But they are nevertheless illusions, not real people, which is why Sorina is so perplexed and completely devastated when someone begins to systematically murder them…
    It is like part of her has been attacked. And how is it even possible to kill an illusion, a figment of her own imagination? This is the question Sorina seeks to find out.

    Daughter of the Burning City really does pack a lot into it, and while I did enjoy it, I was also left with a lot of unanswered questions, and felt it was trying to cover a bit too much. It starts off well in building the fantasy world with vivid descriptions of Gomorrah, and the wild and wonderful sights there, such that you can really feel the slightly seedy and dark atmosphere of the carnival. Also many of the characters are developed well, but because so many people, things and subjects are touched on there were some characters and some areas which seemed very under-developed and seemingly irrelevant to the story. What for example is the basis of the political rivalry (hints are dropped but it is not fleshed out) and why is Villiam so caught up in it. I would also like to have understood more about the jynx-work magic, why some have jynx ability and others dont, why Sorina “sees” but has no eyes. I enjoyed the book but was left with many questions, perhaps s prequel and a sequel would help?

  2. well with all that is written above, what can I say… I found this was an unusual story, one that I have not been reading before, but I still enojyed it. I found that it was best not to put it down, as for me, it was harder to pick up and remember the story line… wonderful world is the reading and writing of words, and this one is one of those. It was for me, a book to read, and then go back and refresh my mind with some of it again. I will not write and tell you the storyline, and by the time, those that eventually receive and read, and do a review, you will be able to follow it perhaps better.

  3. I wish to thank Harlequin Publishers and Beauty & Lace for supplying the book ‘Daughter of the Burning City’ by Amanda Foody, for review

    Well it was different, but in a good way. When first reading the early chapters I did find it hard to get my head around the startlingly different environment the author was describing and the strange characters she introduced to us. It was a compelling novel that concentrated on prejudices toward the wandering, nomadic circus community; prejudices against those looking different to the norm and all things magical.

    A story set in an imaginary land where the upper and lower lands were substantially differing in political and financial power and the wandering circus troupe who were 10,000 strong and a separate stronghold of it’s own, called Gomorrah.

    The book introduces 16 year old Sorina, the adopted daughter of Gomorrah’s proprietor. She possesses amazing illusion abilities were she can cast illusions that appear real. She also has the amazing ability to create people as her substitute companions; illusions that appear real, live, breathe, eat. She was of the understanding that her created illusions could never be killed, as they weren’t ‘real’, until her family members are murdered off one at a time. So begins her battle to discover the true perpetrator before any more of her family members are killed. She seeks the aid of newly found friend and fellow Gomorran, Luca.

    An unpredictable story line that kept the reader guessing, even to it’s surprising conclusion. I must admit the author left me with unanswered questions. I still don’t have an acute understanding of how the illusions became real and their ultimate link with another human. I guess it could lead to another book, answering these anomalies.

    I enjoyed the book, although I’m not sure I’ve become a fan of this story line. I suspect it would appeal to its targeted audience, teens and young adults, but I also suspect they would find it a little more difficult to understand the concepts and unanswered questions the author leaves us.

  4. I am a huge fan of SciFi books but this one just didnt tickle my fancy. I loved the character development of the main characters however there was too much detail written about irrelevant characters who added no value.

    Whilst it was an interesting read, it felt like it was trying to be all things to all people with too many subplots not fully explored.

    I did however really enjoy the emotional link between Sorina and her creations. This was a great story line of how they were able to be one created, but more importantly how they could be destroyed (and not by her). Sorina’s original creation of them and the personality and character traits were well told and created a great avenue to tell the story of the different sides of Sorina.

    I did like the progress through the story where just when you though you knew what was happening, something changed which had you guessing again. Definitely not a predictable story.

    With a little bit of character culling, this book would be great. I would like to see how this author develops over time (and a few more books) as Amanda certainly has the skill to be a great story writer.

  5. Daughter of the Burning City is very different you have to use you imagination with this one. It is spooky and scary the characters are putting on a traveling freak show to make ends meet it is a crazy time for them. Looking for a book to take you out of you comfort zone this is the one.

  6. This is without a doubt a mind boggling experience, but honestly I really enjoyed this story and how different this was! It was unlike anything I’ve previously read.

    And such a hard book to review without telling the story, so in brief, to quote Monty Python.. And Now for Something Completely Different…read this book

    Will be interesting to follow Amanda’s ( authors) progress.. would be very interested in reading more of her

  7. “Daughter of the Burning City” is a strikingly original fantasy, aimed at young adult readers but also likely to be enjoyed by many older readers. Foody has created a convincing world, and populated it with empathetic characters, moving through an interesting plot.

    Sixteen year old Sorina is oddly sheltered for a girl who’s spent most of her life within the Gomorrah Festival, and who is intended to take over as proprietor one day. She knows very little of life, it seems to me, and her only friends are the illusions she creates. Illusion working is a rare talent, and Sorina is particularly strong – her illusions have distinct personalities, and seem to have a life separate from her own. Still, they are illusions, not real.

    And then Sorina’s world is upended. One of her illusions is murdered. How is that even possible? Who would want to murder an illusion? Sorina suddenly finds she has to stretch herself, step out of her comfort zone, and take an interest in people and events beyond those in her tent.

    This is a well paced plot. It’s well constructed, and although the twists at the end are not that original, events move fast enough that many readers will feel they’ve been surprised. The main characters are strongly drawn and original, though I felt that some of the less prominent characters were less convincing than I would have liked. It was hard to care much about some of the illusions who were murdered, for example, as they hadn’t been drawn well enough to feel like real people.

    The novel isn’t perfect – some of the world building, for example, might need a little work if Foody returns to this setting. For example, how Gomorrah moves wasn’t well explained. If it moves as one entity, as seems to be suggested at times, why do the inhabitants need to pack up each time? Some scenes lacked the emotional punch I might have hoped for, and not all the characters are strongly drawn.

    For all that, this is an impressive debut. Sorina is a fascinating character, one many readers will empathise with and want to follow through the book quite breathlessly. The setting is original enough to set the book apart from the crowd, and the plot, if not entirely successful in being shocking, is well constructed.

    I really enjoyed this. I read a lot of speculative fiction, and this is an above average fantasy with far more strengths than weaknesses. Although aimed at young adults, it’s also likely to be enjoyed by older fans of the speculative fiction genre.

  8. The first thing that attracted me to this book was it’s title, then it’s cover, I was definitely wanting to read! And then I read the synopsis and realised it was fantasy, something I have never been able to get into but thought what the hell let’s give it a go!

    I am so glad that I did!! I really enjoyed this book!

    I loved the characters, their diversness and sense of family they all possess. I loved the storyline and the whole idea of a traveling city. The city was alluring and Amanda seemed to bring it so vividly to life you almost felt like you were walking through it with them.

    It is a hard book to review and not give too much away but I enjoyed the twist at the end.
    I would recommend this to all, even someone like me who has always avoided this genre. It was a great debut novel and I would love to see the story continue.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for the opportunity to review such a enjoyable book.

  9. I dont really know what to say about this book but here goes-I found it to be different, fascinating, and yet at times confusing and a little tedious. I think the story line had potential with the magic, theatre, illusion workers and jinx workers being delightfully portrayed to the point where I could almost hear, smell and touch Gomorrah and its citizens. I enjoyed the portrayal of Sorina and the depth of her emotions. At times I found myself skimming through some of the pages , especially the murders of the less interesting illusions because it was for me, rather drawn out. Overall it was an interesting read, and I thought the beginning and ending chapters to be very well done. I will pass this book to my teenage grandson and will be interested to hear his perspective.

  10. Daughter of the burning City! A completely different sort of reading to my usual. At first I found it hard to get my mind around what the author was trying to get me to think. I really had to concentrate on keeping the characters in place. Once I got the grasp of the story and the storyline, how the characters were linked to each other it became a really fascinating change. I had to create each character in my mind and visually picture them and the actions to understand it, kind of like a movie (or how I would create the movie) Same with the actual city,, especially a moving city. It did take me a bit to pick up the thread of where I left off the day before as I had to again mentally put everything back together. Well done to the author for creating a world that was beyond the normal. How did she come up with such an unusual fantasy world is beyond me. ?

    I did enjoy the descriptive way the author explained the world around the main character, Sorina. We get right into her head and thoughts, see what she is seeing and feel what she is feeling.

    I did not expect such an ending and it totally threw me, therefore once I finished reading and reflected I found that I actually enjoyed Daughter of the burning city. It brought the whole book together. I will be reading Daughter of the Burning city again as I think the second time around I will have a much better understanding of the book as a whole. Sci Fi lovers will enjoy this book and embrace its weirdness.

  11. I’d like to start with thanks for the opportunity to read “Daughter of the burning city” as it was such a good tale.
    Join Sorina and her illusional family within the ancient moving festival city of Gomorrah. Gomorrah is all that is intrigue, fun and games of a carnival or festival, but also includes the dark and seedy side of the same. Masked in smoke from ancient charms the city brings with it mystery to those it visits and for the cities in the up-mountain it contains everything that they dont have.
    The mystery within begins with the death of one of Sorina’s illusions, part of her jynx work and essentially a non-living thing. So how then can it be killed when it is just an imaginary being and who would want to kill him?
    Journey with the festival as intrigue and mystery progresses as more of her “family” are killed. She searches for answers, employing the help of her step-father and proprietor of Gomorrah and her new “friend” Luca.
    Watch for the details as what you see/read may not be exactly as you think it is.

    Loved the read… don’t suppose there’s a sequel!

  12. Daughter of the Burning City is an interesting read, a fantasy, not a genre I usually follow. The story was well written and I could easily create a mental picture from the written description. It kept me intrigued enough throughout the story, but not enough to be disappointed when the story ended

  13. The plot twists and the pacing is good. The characters have their own life and the world is real. This is a clever novel with very good writing.
    I actually didn’t want this book to end and forced myself to read it in small bursts
    A new genre for me- would it be called YA gothic/fantasy? Purists don’t beat up on my ignorance.
    Loved the Festival world and as we slowly see more of it I loved it more.
    Yup a good read.

  14. Thoroughly enjoyed this book – once I got into it. It wasn’t an easy read by any means and took a bit of thinking to place yourself in the story and truly follow it. I got lost a bit at first with the illusions and how it all worked, but once I got immersed it was a great book to be in.
    There were many twists and turns and in this book I was not able to predict who would be the next to fall, whodunnit or what would be around the next corner. I really enjoyed that – not being able to guess what was coming next.
    This is not my usual read, but I am so glad I was chosen to review this book, am about to pass it on to my husband to read as I think he will enjoy it too.

  15. This book is in my favoured genre but I found it one of the strangest that I’ve read. Having said that, I did get caught up with the story and the mystery of just who was killing Sorina’s ‘family’. And I was completely blindsided by the ending and eventual culprits, I actually had no idea it would end as it did.
    I thought that the premise of the illusionist could have been fleshed out more and it was never really explained how an illusional person (i.e. not real) can be killed.
    The city itself is also very strange with a forbidding feel about it, dangerous and eerie at times. I did feel that it was a little unbelievable that the whole city could travel without losing its spatial area of ‘uphill’ and ‘downhill’ areas, it doesn’t seem feasible to me.
    I think this is one of those books that will come back to haunt me at odd times. Simply because it is a little strange, ‘out of left field’ and thought provoking. Even though it felt somewhat unfinished to my taste, I did enjoy reading it.

  16. I was engrossed. Amanda Foody writes in such a creative way and is so descriptive I felt I could see, feel and smell what she was describing. Daughter of the Burning City is a young adult fiction that can be enjoyed by adults as well which is great.

  17. Thank you Harlequin and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read Daughter of the Burning City.

    I echo many of the thoughts and opinions already expressed by fellow Beauty and Lace book clubbers.

    I was drawn in also by the title immediately. Fantasy and Sci-Fi is my favourite genre. Whilst I enjoyed it, I also felt a little overwhelmed with description sometimes, or maybe it was a mood thing.

    It is intriguing, interesting, weird, unusual, Nothing that I have read before but…..saying all that I did enjoy the authors unique voice and would try another of her works. By the end I definitely felt there was more to tell…!

    A Sequel OR Trilogy maybe?!?

  18. Thank you Beauty and Lace for letting me review Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody.

    Set in Gomorrah which is an imaginary place with unusual characters. Sorina who is sixteen years old and one day is expected she will be proprietor.

    Sorina has great powers, she makes illusions seem real. She seems naive and very sheltered, she creates illusions which are her friends.

    I found this book unusual and hard to read as it’s not normally the type of book I would read. It would be great for any fantasy and sci-fi fans.

  19. I thought this was a cleverly written book which challenges the reader to keep up with the various characters. Whilst these are well developed there are quite a few to keep track of and I do wonder why some of them have been included. Perhaps for sequels.

    I did enjoy the concept of the imaginary characters, their back stories and their creation and the very fact that they were being killed off. How do you kill a character made from your imagination?

    The twists and turns had me and ensured I read to the very end – no spoilers here!

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