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, and 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 of her loved ones disappear.
I have to say with all of the other raving reviews, I was expecting to really love this one. I mean it SOUNDS like a book I would walk away from with a 4 or 5 star rating but it just fell short for me. It was an enjoyable read but didn’t blow me away. This is kind of a “meh” book for me, I just don’t have a lot to say about it.
(I’m going to do this review a bit differently, I recently ran a poll on my Twitter asking if you guys prefer my normal method of reviewing or if you’d like a list. It was close but the list style ended up winning so I want to give it a try! Please, please let me know what you think and if you’d like more reviews in this style!)
What I Loved:
- This is a standalone and not part of a trilogy or series, which is a nice change since this is YA Fantasy.
- The premise is very unique and creative, I can honestly say I’ve never read anything else like it!
- No tropes! There aren’t any of your typical YA tropes present throughout this book which was very refreshing. No insta-love, no love triangles, and no special snowflake main characters!
- The romance never overtook the plot and it was slow burn, I really loved the two characters together as well.
- Diverse characters! There are POC, characters with disabilities including the main character, and LGTB characters. I also THINK that Luca, the love interest, might be aromantic or asexual. It’s never fully addressed but he doesn’t like showing physical affection throughout the story. (If you’ve read anything about this, let me know if I need to be corrected!)
- Foody’s writing was excellent and one of the big reasons I kept on reading, I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of her work!
- I liked the magic bits, Sorina’s powers were really neat as were the powers of the other jynx-workers. (would have loved more development though)
- Circus/Carnival setting, because who doesn’t love that?
- Sorina was a good main character, I like that she had her faults but overall would do whatever it takes to protect her family. Foody also avoided tropes with Sorina’s character and that was fantastic.
What I Didn’t Love:
- Definitely not enough world building, I felt very lost especially when all of the politics were brought in. It’s hard to care about politics when I have no clue about the countries/kingdoms/people involved. I know it’s a standalone but if you’re going to make politics a big part of your plot you need to build up your world more.
- The pacing was pretty slow and the plot overall was a slow burn, and I honestly almost DNF’d this so many times because of how slow it was.
- I felt the plot itself was really lacking as well, I just didn’t care about it. I mean you have an entire city that’s one giant carnival and all we explore or some murders and that’s it? Really? We couldn’t have expanded the plot into any other aspect of the giant carnival full of secrets and magic?
- Speaking of the “murder mystery plot”: it was predictable. There were a few aspects that I didn’t see coming right away but overall I wasn’t shocked or surprised very much.
- The characters were all sort of “meh”, they were all pretty one dimensional and once again I didn’t care much about any of them. They were unique though, I will give them that!
- One of my BIGGEST issues with this book was that Sorina, the main character, has NO EYES but yet she’s still described throughout the book as “narrowing her eyes”, or “eyeing” someone, or even crying! How?! How the heck can she narrow her eyes and cry if she has no eyes?! I wish there would have been more thought put into this aspect of the story, if the character has no eyes then please spend some more time explaining why and how and be mindful of the expressions you’re using to describe the character.
- Overall I felt everything from the plot, to the plot twists, characters, and world building could have used WAAAY more development.
I can definitely see how others enjoyed this book a lot more than I did, but ultimately I’m left feeling slightly disappointed. Everything needed a lot more development for me and the pacing to be faster. It was an interesting concept with interesting characters though, credit for creativity.