Daughter of the Burning City – Review!

Hey all! 

I feel like I always start these posts with “It’s been a while. That’s a theme I’m working on changing.” so I’m not doing that this time. I will tell you that I have some (super secret) plans, but for now you’ll have to accept this review as a start.

I have a few life things first I’d like to share with everyone. So I started my senior year of college(!) about a month ago. I’m doing some stuff to prepare for the final things I have to get done this semester and next. Working on some grad school applications. Prepping a paper to present at a conference in November. All the fun stuff, you know?

I haven’t been able to write much because of all this. Or read much, sadly. BUT two nights ago I FINALLY finished DOTBC and I’m so ready to tell you guys all about it!

Let’s do this.

From Amazon:

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 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.”

Back in July I made a post with Amanda Foody about why you should read this book. Now that I HAVE read this book, I’m going to tell you guys again: you need to read this book.

Okay, obviously you don’t need to do anything. But I highly recommend you read this book. Here’s some reasons why:

1. The plot will keep you guessing.
If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you know my absolute adoration for a good plot twist. Don’t give me obvious ones. Don’t do it. I will hate it. I did not hate these.
Sorina’s investigations into the murders of her family is one that has a lot of potential suspects. The way she goes about identifying people, and the lengths she’s willing to go to to protect them are unsurprising. She has a lot of love for her illusions, her family, and there’s not much she isn’t willing to give up to keep them safe. 

2. The characters are my loves. Again, if you’ve read my previous reviews, you know I want my characters layered. I love a good, complex character who doesn’t always fit with what we would consider the norm.
Sorina is The Girl Who Can See Without Eyes. She can be selfish and stubborn, indecisive and frustrating, and will do anything to protect her family, even when “anything” isn’t always the best course of action. So, naturally, I think she’s amazing. She’s also bisexual. But that’s a later point.
Her illusions are all complicated individuals as well. Despite being created by Sorina for her company, they all have distinct personalities and don’t necessarily mesh well with her. They’re vividly described and each have their own lives. When it comes to characters that aren’t exactly “real” this can be difficult to convey, because you’re trying to balance the idea of a “real” person with that of an “imaginary” one. Lines can become blurry and authors might slip into language that clearly shows “these are not real people don’t forget that” (not that all authors do this. Most don’t. But it’s very easy to slip into that language unconsciously). We never really forget that Sorina’s family were created, not born, but we don’t care about that. They appeal to us as people because they are just as lively as the “real” humans are. Sometimes even more so.

I will not say anything about Luca other than he is very special to me, as he reminds me a bit of a close friend of mine. Luca must be protected at all times. Unless you want to slap him for being an ass, which he can be. Then by all means please slap him.

3. It’s set in a traveling circus. The coolest one too. It’s a pretty badass place to grow up and, honestly, I would’ve loved to see more of it. We’re given pretty good descriptions of a few different places in the Gomorrah Festival, but one thing I wish we could’ve gotten some more of was the darker part of the city. I want to be transported there when I read–and for the most part I was–but I would’ve liked just a little more. Still, it’s a setting I loved and I think most readers will adore as well. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it in the future . . .

4. The diversity is EVERYTHING. We get characters of different racial backgrounds, diversity in appearance and ability, and so much LGBTQIA+ rep my heart was full.

Take Sorina, for example. She’s a Down-Mountainer by birth and was a slave as a child. She’s described as having distinguishing features (no not just her lack of eyes) and isn’t looked down upon by her fellow performers because of it. The festival is full of people from all backgrounds. It’s the Up-Mountainers you’ve got to look out for.

You’ve also got your lovely, lovely LGBTQIA+ rep. Sorina is bisexual. Nicoleta is a lesbian. Luca is, from my reading, demi-sexual and demi-romantic, putting him in the Ace spectrum. Villiam, again from my reading, is aromantic and asexual. Let’s just take a second to appreciate this, okay? Let’s just take one moment to take a deep breath and enjoy this rep.

Did you do it? I did.

5. The overall role of religion. This. Was. Fantastic. I don’t want to get into too much detail here because this is something I think you guys should read for yourselves. But it’s worth mentioning because it plays a HUGE role in the background of the world. Religion and religious fanatics are painted in a way that a lot of us can recognize. It’ll be familiar territory for some, and eye-opening for others. But I think the choice to have it be so prominent in this world Foody has created is ultimately a well-done and slightly twisted (in the best way) one.

So basically what I’m trying to say here is that I really loved this book. I think it was well-written, full of diverse characters, and a fantastic debut. I gave it a 5/5 on Goodreads and I’m fully recommending you guys get this book. From your library, from a bookstore, from a friend, whatever you want! But I really think this is worth the read.

I have free time for the next few days, so I’m off to do a little more reading. Hope this was helpful!

Kailey

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Mental Illness Visibility in the Creative Arts

Hello. It’s been a while. I hope everyone has been fighting the horrors the world has been throwing at us and reading a good book or two. I know I have.

Update on my life (I’m going to pretend you all care for a few minutes). I am neck deep (fun expression, good band as well) in Windwitch and I am so upset I haven’t had the time to devour it yet like I wanted to. Rest assured it will get done. As soon as it does I’ll have a review up for you all.

I have not been writing nearly as much as I’d hoped. At least, I haven’t been writing for anything other than school. I wrote a speech the other day that had to be fictionalized. That was an adventure. Let me say, I do not think I have a future in speech writing. I think I’ll stick with fiction.

Also, I saw Twenty One Pilots in Chicago last weekend. (I know what you’re thinking: “What purpose does this have on a book blog Kailey? Why do you always go off on tangents Kailey?” I promise this has to do with my topic today. And I go on tangents because I have a lot to say that isn’t always relevant but I enjoy sharing anyway). On this subject let me just say something about that band: they put on a show. I’ve been telling everyone I know how it’s the best live show I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure everyone is really sick of hearing about it (minus my friend who brought me with her)(she’s a massive fan and this band means so much to her)(I’m trying to get her to meet them but it’s not going too well)(story for another time though). 

One of the reasons I say this was such an amazing show was because of the energy in the room. I have been to a lot of shows. I’ve seen a lot of crowds: good, terrible, and everything in between.

I have never seen anything like this. 

There is a moment when Tyler Joseph is singing “we’re broken people” and the crowd is singing along with him. The ability for thousands and thousands of people to take up this chant, not as an admittance of guilt but as an empowering truth, it blew me away. It really made sense to me then, why everyone loves this band so much. Yes, they make good music. Yes, they are phenomenal performers. But the reason they speak to so many people is because they have paved the way for everyone to admit that it’s okay not to be okay. They have done what people loathe to do and talked about mental illness, brought it into the world in a way that shows the reality, not the romanticization, of it.

This is something that I feel like needs to be done more. Yes, there are people out there who are open about their struggles. More and more people open up every day. In the world of creativity, I would argue doing this is more important than ever.

There is a long history of people in the creative arts struggling with a mental illness of some sort. Addiction, depression, and alcoholism are just three of the most commonly associated diseases that come to mind when people are talking about artists or writers. But the problem is, no one talks about this until after the fact. It’s the same with ordinary people. So many people cannot or will not talk about their struggles because there is still such a stigma surrounding mental illness. No one, save for a brave few, is willing to take on the judgment that comes with opening up about their problems.

I don’t think I need to tell you all how much I hate this. It makes me very, very, very, a thousand times very mad. However, I know you guys don’t read these to hear me rant. (Side note: I’m not sure why you read these posts but thank you if you do.)

Obviously this issue means a lot to me. Like the two men in that band, I want to help people. I want to reach out and show people that not everyone is okay, and that’s alright. Some people’s brains are just different and that isn’t their faults.

My very first manuscript is about a girl struggling with demons. It’s been a project four years in the making and probably another four at least before it’s  going to see the light of day, if it ever does. But I will not stop writing about this issue because it is one that needs to be addressed.

Off the top of my head I can only name a handful of books that have characters or struggles like the ones I’m talking about. This is potentially due to my lack of exposure to such books (as much as I’d like to I cannot read every book out there). I would argue though that it’s also due to the lack of people writing about these problems. I see more and more upcoming books that have characters like mine and who suffer from similar problems as so many in reality do. I cannot wait to read them. But there needs to be more. 

Like the men in Twenty One Pilots we need to talk about this. We need to show the world that this is what we look like, this is who we are, and that this is not our faults. That is why I write what I write. One day I hope to have helped even a fraction of the people that they have. 

I was inspired last weekend. I saw something I could never have even dreamed of. It was a reality that I want to see spreading, through books, music, anything, and everything. It was beautiful to witness, and certainly put a fresh energy into my writing. And this is just the beginning. I’m excited for what is to come.

So, that’s my incoherent, strange rant for the day. I hope this made some sense at least. Organizing this post was a struggle but I hope it came out alright. 

This definitely turned into a more pro-Twenty One Pilots thing than I had planned. They’re a great band and I hope you guys listen to them. If nothing else, do it for their lyrics. It’s some of the best song writing I’ve ever seen. Use it to inspire your own writing.

I am picturing people reading this going “Yes I already know that. I’ve been listening to them for years. What rock did you just crawl out from under that you just found out about them?” Well, to tell you the truth I’ve only been listening to them for a few months, and even then only because my friend invited me to go with her to this concert. BUT I was hooked in right away. So yes I know I’m super late to the party but I’m here now! (If you’re a super fan I’m sorry don’t hate me)(so many fans at the concert gave me looks guys. I was so afraid. They are intense human beings)(but they were all super shocked when I started rapping almost every song alongside them hehe)(okay I’ll get back to the point now).

This was a really long and confusing post but I hope it made some people happy, or thoughtful, or that it made sense to you in some way. If anyone can think of some good books that have characters that are neurodivergent feel free to comment them below (they don’t have to be YA but if they aren’t please specify)! I’ll be making a post soon of recommendations of books that showcase these stories, and would love some input if anyone has it!

And, as always, I must go do work now. I will leave you with this lyric that speaks to me from (naturally) the Twenty One Pilots song “Fake You Out”:

Our brains are sick but that’s okay.

Kailey

P.S. – I know this was really heavy about the band. I blame the concert partly. Almost a week later and I’m still buzzing from that show. But their message really is relevant to what I’m trying to say here. I am sorry if I went a little overboard though. Okay. Bye.