City of a Thousand Dolls

Author: Miriam Forester

Call Number: Y FOR

Mention young adult (YA) fiction and books like Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, Suzanne Colin’s Hunger Games and perhaps even Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones (which will be released in movie theatres this coming August), come to mind. Many critics have highlighted that YA literature is going through its golden years and has gained a following with young and old alike. As an adult, I am drawn to the fast-paced plot and engaging storylines that are often present in these YA novels. In many ways, they combine the idealism and hope of youth in an increasingly broken world and the end result is often a refreshing piece of writing. Let’s just say that a serious piece of adult literature can occasionally be more interested in the writing form than the story—intelligent, yes but sometimes all you need is a rollicking good story that you can finish in one seating and that’s where YA novels really shine.

City of a Thousand Dolls is a murder mystery set in a fantastical self-contained world. In the book, the City of a Thousand Dolls is more a town (and I would even say boarding school) than a city. It is a place where abandoned girls are equipped with skills that will turn them into musicians, healers, courtesans (i.e. taught in the ways of the bedroom) and wives and then sold back to society for a fee. It is a supposedly benevolent solution to infanticide in a society where everyone is only allowed two children… and they prefer males. Sounds familiar?

Nisha was abandoned at the city gates when she was six. Taken into the city, Nisha was given the job of messenger, which entitles her certain privileges, such as the license to roam wherever she wishes. For most part, Nisha is content, until she falls in love with a handsome courier and starts to dream of a different life. Her plans go awry when she discovers that she may be sold as a bond slave before the redeeming ceremony, a ceremony where girls from the city get “claimed” for a fee, either by future skill masters or husbands. As luck would have it, she gets an opportunity to delay her impending sale when girls in the city start getting murdered one by one. The city council agrees to delay her sale as a bond slave as she looks into the murders and in that extra time, Nisha has to convince someone to claim her for a substantial enough fee or she will be sold for good—all in the interest of profit.

For animal lovers, there are talking cats in this book too.

This is Mirian Forester’s debut novel and it is engaging with an interesting premise. The well-loved elements of the boarding school story and murder mystery are creatively interpreted, which makes for a light and enjoyable read. There are some inconsistencies where the point of view is concerned and a few loose ends that were not tied up by the end of the book but of course the latter means that there might be a sequel. If you like YA novels with a little bit of magical fantasy and intrigue, you might just enjoy this book.


Contributed by Felicia Chan, Librarian, Library Service Development