Release Date: February 5th, 2013
Number of Pages: 361
Rating: 2 stars
An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.To be quite honest, I'm not entirely sure what urged me to read City of a Thousand Dolls the day it was released, or even at all. I'm not, and most likely never will be, a high fantasy fan, and usually steer clear of high fantasies in general, unless they've received positive reviews from many friends of mine. City of a Thousand Dolls did not receive very many positive reviews from friends of mine, so in retrospect, I honestly have no clue as to why I picked this one up. I suppose I was intrigued by the title? The allure of an 'unpredictable and thrilling mystery', intertwined with high fantasy? The cover?
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. 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. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, 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 her own life.
Unfortunately, even with my not-too-high expectations, I am left quite disappointed with this poorly structured novel. For me, the main issue with City of a Thousand Dolls was its pacing, which seemed to never pick up once in the entire novel. City of a Thousand Dolls could have easily been an entertaining, thrilling, and briskly paced novel, given the intriguing murder mystery we're provided with, but it felt like the entire murder mystery really only took center stage in the second half, and by that point I was a lot less invested in the mystery than I was when the murders were first introduced.
As opposed to the murder mystery, the first half of City of a Thousand Dolls was focused strictly on social aspects of the world - such as social classes, clothing, et cetera. And for the first quarter or so, I ate that all up. After that first quarter, however, the social aspects of the world only became redundant, and what made it more frustrating was the fact that murders are piling up and piling up, but everything was still focused on the less interesting aspects of the novel.
And as for the murder mystery, it isn't too great on its own, either. While I did find it to be intriguing at first, it has been done before in a similar fashion, and has been done better, too. What frustrated me most concerning the murder mystery, though, was how blatantly obvious the revelation of the culprit was. Character development would have benefitted this book, and more prominently the mystery a lot, but considering the fact that we're given cardboard characters in a cardboard world with a cardboard plot and a cardboard mystery, I was able to pin down the murderer within the first few chapters.
While City of a Thousand Dolls does have some unique aspects to its characters and world, those few unique and positive aspects didn't amount to much in the midst of all the negatives. Without thorough world building, developed characters, and an exciting mystery and plot, which are all practically necessary for a well-written high fantasy novel, City of a Thousand Dolls only ended up being as thin and bland as the paper it was written on.