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Book Review: City of A Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

Although I’m dying quietly because City of a Thousand Dolls is seemingly a standalone novel (what?! no!), I’m seriously am happy. Cuz this book was AWESOME! It’s what fantasy is all about.

Book Review: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

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city of a thousand dolls by miriam forster

Title & Author: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

Genre: YA – Fantasy

Release Date: February 5, 2013

Series: Standalone

Publisher: HarperTeen

How I Got the Book: Bought


“An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

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.”

A Winning Setting & History

The City of a Thousand Dolls had one of the most interesting backgrounds I’ve read in awhile: because of the empire’s two-child law (parents can only have two children max), girls were being abandoned and left to die because of the male inheritance rule (typical).

To prevent senseless deaths, the City of a Thousand Dolls was created. Girls given up by their families could go here and learn valuable skills, which they would then use to marry well.

Girls can be placed into different houses like (Music, Beauty, Combat, etc) to train and acquire stills likely to attract a husband.

The author and/or publisher created this handy little diagram too:

city of a thousand dolls miriam forster map

Then there’s Nisha. She doesn’t seem to fit into any house, although she trains at several, and she serves as the eyes and ears of the Matron, who runs the City of a Thousand Dolls.

Even though the book doesn’t explicitly say it, you get the vibe of an Eastern culture from the book. The customs, names of people and names of objects pointed toward that and reminded me a bit of Prophecy.

Good to Great

What I think pushed this book from good to great were all of the moving parts of the story. Some books take such straightforward approach, which can definitely work well, but I enjoyed the multi-layered, everything-coming-at-you-at-once feel of City of a Thousand Dolls.

It reminds me of how my brain works. (You should be scared). 🙂

While Nisha is trying to figure out why several girls have died within the city’s walls, she’s trying to figure out her feelings for a boy who is of higher standing than her, avoid a girl who blames Nisha for her misfortunes AND keep her cat friends who she can speak to with her mind company.

Yeah, not TOO much going on.

Lately, I’ve been drawn to books where the main character feels like an outsider. Nisha has that in spades, and I found her story really interesting and exciting and fresh.

The ending didn’t kill at first (meaning not everything seemed exactly resolved). Then I realized there weren’t any sequels to help fill in the gaps. Please prove me wrong, if you know otherwise! GAH.


I sincerely hope you love debut novel as much as I did. City of a Thousand Dolls took a fresh perspective on YA fantasy and enticed me with it’s compelling setting and multi-layered story.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • I thought City of a Thousand Dolls was stand alone, too, but I saw a review earlier this week that said it was a series. It’s a mystery! Either way, I’m looking forward to reading it. 🙂

  • You know me enough by now to know that I am HUGELY interested in this one! WEE. So curious to know if it will develop into a series or not…

  • Mandy

    The author is a friend of mine and I can confirm that there will for sure be a companion novel!! Have no fear, there shall be more!! 🙂