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.
The first and best thing about this book is that the worldbuilding is wonderful; All along the book I found the setting to be fascinating. I’ve never read anything set in a circus or festival or something of the like, so I was delighted to see how Gomorrah functioned as a city and a huge moving festival, and as more than both. The author did not leave me wondering about anything, and I found the worldbuilding to be solid. The magic-system was presented neatly and without info-dumps, and it was original, which isn’t easy.
My favorite thing about the book is the eerie, dark feel to it; the drawings in-between chapters kept me guessing, wondering and shuddering. The way that Gomorrah is always veiled in smoke as if it was burning, and the myth behind it.
“The smoke is part of Gomorrah’s legend: once upon a time, we were burned to the ground. But we did not die. Instead we kept burning, kept moving, kept growing. The smoke surrounds us, even if we no longer burn.”
The setting is almost like a live character in and of itself.
In addition, I found it sweet how the romance turned out; It’s true that I really wished not every book would turn into romance, but the suspense kept me going through it right into the best parts. I saw the plot twist coming, as in; I thought of it as a theory and filed it away as a possibility ( I’ve read so many books with betrayals that now I would suspect that puppy the MC saw in the street the other day and forgot about. There is no puppy here, btw #THERESHOULDBE but you get the idea)
Something that made this book succeed as a fantasy-murder-mystery mix was how everything was planned and laid out from the beginning. Things that happen and that you don’t understand become clear and fall flawlessly together like a puzzle at the end, like a thriller. It makes SO much sense later, plus the fact that some facets of the plot twist I did NOT see coming, and I loved every part of that mystery element.
There were more positive sides to this book than negative. But if I had to list what bit that one star off, it’d be a combination of these:
- I wish there was a map. Even though it’s a standalone, this book desperately needs a map, if anything but to boost the world and make it a little bit more concrete.
- I found it hard to get attached to the characters. This IS a standalone, and not a tome either. So there was little space to get me to really care about them. What can I say, I love me some heartbreaking books XD Luca though, I LOVED LUCA SO MUCH *arms flailing* *dies*
- The finale did keep me reading until I finished the book, although I have one complaint about how the MC somehow magically fixed a huge problem too easily. It felt rushed and I did not think it was a solution at all. I would have loved it more if the book was longer, so that there would be an actual solution; it doesn’t have to solve everything ever, but I believe it should take more than a few minutes to solve things, even if only just for the main characters.
All in all, despite a few flaws, I really enjoyed this book, and it managed to become a crunchy, original and suspenseful fantasy while being a short-and-sweet standalone. I would definitely recommend it. Kudos to the author !