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
City of a Thousand Dolls was an engaging read, though the ending felt rushed. Whereas at first Forester hoarded clues and secrets like a squirrel with acorns, the last quarter was revelation after revelation, giving me very little time to adjust. Some of the secrets were subtly woven in, often buried beneath each new murder so that in the end I was able to look back and recognized the signs. And some became painfully obvious far too quickly.
At first I didn't understand the big deal about Nisha. She alternated between being unbelievably naive and independent. I blame Devan for this mainly. The entire family of his were a thorny manipulative bunch of of jackals, though to his credit I think Devan did genuinely care for Nisha...he was however a spineless coward as well. Nisha rose above her early unlikeableness though. Her interactions with the cats, her investigation and insistence for the truth drove this story.
In some ways I think this reminded me of Avatar: the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. At least what I enjoy most about those shows. This story was about balance in the end. The Empire finding a balance between what was working and what wasn't, the girls of the Houses finding a balance between their wants/expectations and reality, the balance of past mistakes and potential failures in the future and lastly Nisha finding a way to come to terms about where she belongs.
I can't help but think that there will be more books about Nisha and this world, and for that I'm hopeful. While Forester does a good job wrapping up Nisha's story in this novel, there are by far more mysteries and secrets to uncover before I think her story is fully told.