It's time for a book review. Why? Because this book is in stores today.
What is it? It is a murder mystery. It is a romantic tale set in a fantasy world with Indian and Asian influences. It has talking cats.
Now before I go further, I should mention a couple of disclaimers. The author, Miriam, is my sister-in-law so there might be a bit of obvious bias in my praise. However, she's my wife's sister so I feel I have a little more room to be honest. Second, my preference for fictional reading steers more toward supernatural thrillers and are intended for adult readers. Miriam writes for teens and young adults; I am clearly not her target demographic. Finally, I tend to avoid books with strong romantic themes which seems to be popular in YA fiction. That being said, I enjoyed City of a Thousand Dolls
The story follows Nisha, an abandoned girl living in an isolated estate that grooms orphan girls into a variety of lifestyles. Some will become courtesans, and other healers. Rumors exist that some of the girls are being trained to be assassins. Unfortunately, Nisha was too old when she came to the city to be accepted by any of the city's houses. Instead, she works as an errand girl for the estate's matron. Through this role, she's allowed access to each of the houses in the city. But because of her position, she finds herself in danger when other girls start dying. She seeks to find the killer loose inside the city and to find answers about her past. At risk is a relationship with her best friend, a romantic interest in a noble boy, her future in the city, and her own life.
The city's fictional world is beautiful and filled with colorful characters. There is a strong caste system both inside and outside the city where Nisha lives. I usually struggle reading narratives with female lead characters, but by the time people started dying I was hooked and interested in the well being of each of the book's players - which include a herd of talking cats. I'm not a cat person either, but I genuinely was hopeful that the cats would survive through to the final pages.
Miriam is an emotive writer, inviting her readers to feel every emotional twist in Nisha. The heartbreak, confusion, fear, longing; she takes you on a roller coaster ride with a girl who wants nothing more than a place where she belongs.
City of a Thousand Dolls fits well within the fantasy genre, but has strong whodunit elements. As the pages turned, I spent most of my time trying to figure out the identity of the killer. In some respects, there is a bit of predictability in the mystery. But Miriam throws in enough well placed twists to temporarily keep you guessing. And once you figure out the who, then you still have to figure out the how and why. Even if you deduce the answers to those questions before they're revealed in the story, the question of Nisha's fate lingers until the final pages.
The book is a quick and easy read. I had to remind myself that it was intended for audiences younger than me. However, the simplicity in prose lends itself to the suspenseful elements of Nisha's quest.
Beware, the book does leave some unanswered questions. The heart of the story is wrapped up in a fine package, yet it seems like there are more stories about this world that are still untold. I am eager to hear more of Nisha's past, the future of the city, and the next steps in Nisha's life.
The book is out in hardback. It's also available for both the Nook and Kindle.
You can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Hastings.
For those of you in the Coeur d'Alene area, Hastings on Best Avenue is hosting a signing party on Sunday the 10th from 1pm to 4pm. Feel free to come in and congratulate her, get your book signed, or just say hi. I'll be there with my family. I hope to see some familiar faces there.