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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

Publisher: Harper Teen
Published: February 5, 2013
Pages: 361
Source: For Review from HarperCollins Canada
Rating: 4 Stars

An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.
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.

In short: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster is an entertaining and addicting read with lush and fascinating world building.
At six-years-old, Nisha was abandoned by her parents at the City of a Thousand Dolls - a community that takes in unwanted girls, trains them in a specialized area like fighting, beauty, healing, or pleasure, and then sells them off to the highest bidder at sixteen-years-old. When one of the girls is found dead in the City, Nisha decides she is going to track down the killer in order to protect the girls, as well as herself. Along the way, she also uncovers secrets about her past.

The world building is where City of a Thousand Dolls truly shines. Debut author Miriam Forster integrates South Asian culture into a lush and fascinating world to pleasing effect. I loved spending time in the City of a Thousand Dolls, learning about the different houses and castes, and the training and schooling for the girls. And, OH YEAH, Nisha can speak telepathically to the cats that roam the city and these cats are basically her makeshift family. I thought that was cute! There are so many ways that the concept of telepathic cats could have gone awry, but for some reason, I found it worked and was never super silly or cliched.

I feel a bit conflicted about the plot and characters in City of a Thousand Dolls. On the one hand, the mystery was a good one and the reveal was shocking. But the execution of the mystery was a little clumsy at times and the plot twists were predictable. And the ending was tied up WAY too neatly and quickly for my tastes. Similarly, I did like Nisha most of the time - she was ultimately brave and good - but she often made questionable choices and could be a little slow on the uptake. The romance was very limited and nothing particularly special - but sweet just the same.

Okay, okay - so that may sound like a lot of faults that I've just listed, but the fact of the matter is that I enjoyed myself while reading City of a Thousand Dolls. It was addicting and easy to read. And I must reiterate that the world building was super interesting! There may not have been as much depth as I was hoping for, but I had FUN reading it and isn't that the most important thing?

City of a Thousand Dolls works well as a standalone, but there is room for a sequel. Recommended for readers who like fun and easy books and cat people.

Authors Links:
HarperCollins Webpage


  1. What a neat idea! This one doesn't sound like one for me but I have to say it sounds interesting and unique. Should could speak to cats with her mind? That is neat! She had a family of Alley Cats! Happy that you enjoyed this even though you did take some issue with it.

  2. I'm a little bummed the mystery is predictable and Nisha can be slow on the uptake at times, but overall this sounds like a great read. I've had it on my list for what feels like forever and can't wait to read it. I'm so glad to see it got 4 stars from you Aylee! Lovely review:)

  3. I had a feeling this one would have fabulous worldbuilding and I'm so very curious to learn the details. I'm a sucker for well-built worlds and ready to forgive almost anything for it.
    It's too bad that the excellent, shocking revelation was poorly executed. I realize this has a few flaws and I'll be ready for them, but still, I expect (hope) to enjoy it at least as much as you did.
    Fantastic review, Aylee.

  4. Gross. They train girls in pleasure. That's messed up. It's like their prostitutes. Hmm... this book is nothing like I expected. Telepathic cats sound silly but if you said it was okay I'm sure it was. Huh. I'm rethinking wanting to read this now. I really liked your review but this doesn't seem like a book I would like. I do like the MC and training some girls to fight.

  5. Ohhhh, I love the sound of the world-building! I must say that the telepathic cats sounds wonderful to me, haha, but I can understand that it could have become silly. I can't wait to read this book despite the quick wrap-up at the end.

    (And all right, I'm in love with the super gorgeous cover)


  6. This one's cover was always kind of off=putting for me. I know a lot of people like it, but it always just seemed too animated to me. Though, the description sounds awesome. And I love that the world building was good. I hate main characters who are slow on understanding things..., but overall this still sounds like a lot of fun! I think I will have to get to it eventually. Great review!

  7. Sounds like it's a really good book but it needed a little more polish on certain areas. Which is not bad, particularly with a debut author. I know I'm always saying this, but this is the kind of thing I LOVE watching like in anime or a movie, but I don't actually enjoy reading.

  8. I am getting more into fantasy, lately, and this looks really interesting! Good world building is a must....

  9. I'm definitely a cat person, and this world sounds so epic. Speaking to cats telepathically? And I love how there are different castes and houses and so on. It sounds fantastic despite its flaws. I would definitely read this because it sounds like a fun read, and it has such a unique world building. That is a definite plus! Wonderful review, Aylee! :)

  10. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this novel overall, Aylee! It bodes well for a debut author if his/her first book is pretty good. I will admit, what draws me most to this book is the setting. South Asia, how cool! I don't read nearly enough books that take place in Asia. I am also curious to see how this schooling/education works out for these girls. As one of the most oblivious readers ever, I'm sure I won't be bothered by plot twists that others assume are fairly predictable. Wonderful review and I can't wait to read it myself!

  11. Oh I'm so happy that you liked this one overall! It is a bummer though that things weren't fleshed out a bit more where the characters, relationships & action was concerned. Though I LOVE how the world sounds...and being a HUGE cat-person, I can see totally loving her ability with felines ♥ This sounds SO fun to me despite it's weaknesses. I can't wait to read it and compare notes :) Sweet review Aylee!!

  12. I'm glad you did enjoy this. I like books that are fun, so that is very important. It has to be an enjoyable story overall. I don't know the age range, but it makes me think of an MG type of novel, with limited romance and the telepathic cats (too cute!) and all that. :)

  13. This sounds like an interesting book. There's a lot of assassin books lately. Makes me think of Throne of Glass and Grave Mercy. I like your honesty! Cat people? Hmmm...I'm not much of a cat person. lol I'm interviewing Foster next week.

  14. Even though it's a bit predictable, I really like the sound of this one, Aylee. The worldbuilding seems very detailed and interesting. Lol, the last time I read a book involving telepathic cats was years and years ago when I read The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. Have you read that series?

  15. You make this one sound REALLY good and easy to read. I'm curious about the world building and the story line has me sucked in. I was anxiously awaiting to see what you thought of this book, I'm happy you enjoyed it.

  16. I've been wanting to read this one for the world-building and, after reading your review, for the telepathic cats. Glad you really liked this one, and I have the feeling I'll probably enjoy it, too. Awesome review.

  17. The world building sounds so great! That's too bad that the ending was tied up too neatly (that always bothers me). But, glad that you still found it enjoyable, despite a few issues!

    Fabulous review!

  18. 'sells them off to the highest bidder at sixteen-years-old'
    what sort of parent leaves their kid to face this?
    speaking telepathically to cats is kind of cool though!

  19. I saw the trailer for this today. While I don't normally like trailers, I really like this one. I think I'm going to read this one. I like twists (even predictable ones- I think). Thanks for the review.

  20. This one is on my to read list so I'm really glad you enjoyed it! I need more addicting reads because it helps me get through books faster!

    And I'm really excited that you loved the world-building! It sounds so unique and I'm a sucker for good world building!

    You got me really excited for this debut!

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

  21. All I know about this book is that Amber shipped a person with a cat. But after reading your review, I'm definitely excited! I love books that describe cultural things, and the world building just sounds really good. Even though it doesn't sound like a brilliant read, I'll definitely think of this one when I'm looking for an entertaining book :)

  22. I enjoy this one very much and can't wait for my granddaughter to read it to see what she thinks of it. A great first book by a young author. In my opinion, better than the Hunger Games! I do, however have to admit a little bios, as Miriam is the granddaughter of an old and dear friend.

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