REVIEW #86: City of a Thousand Dolls (Bhinian Empire #1) by Miriam Forster

Title: City of a Thousand Dolls
Series: Bhinian Empire #1
Author: Miriam Forster
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Pages: 361, Hardcover

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.


"This is what the Lotus Throne decrees:

First: No girl in the City of a Thousand Dolls shall be judged by her birth. Upon entering the City, each girl will be considered casteless until she is spoken for, at which time she will receive the appropriate caste mark and be given a place in the Bhinian Empire. 

Second: Let all who would claim a girl pay an agreed on price to compensate the City for her training. No girl shall be spoken for without the formal exchange of coin. 

Third: If a man pays in advance, the girl shall be trained as he specifies. If he comes to claim her and finds her unsatisfactory, he may demand the return of his money or ask to be given another girl instead. 

Fourth: Once a year, the City shall host a great Redeeming Ceremony. The girls shall display their training and beauty so that all who come may honor the wisdom of the Lotus Throne in creating and maintaining such a city. At that time, any who seek a wife or apprentice may choose from the available girls.

Fifth: If a man wishes to claim a girl before she reaches her sixteenth year, he must appear before the City Council and petition for her early release. The Council may refuse or grant such a request as it wishes. 

Sixth: No girl shall be from the City before the time of her first blood.

Seventh: Once a girl has been spoken for, she is the responsibility of the one who speaks for her. She may not be returned to the City, nor is the City responsible for her future conduct. 

From a scroll written and sealed by the Second Lotus Emperor, establishing the rules of the Redeeming."

The City of a Thousand Dolls is a sanctuary for unwanted girls and a necessity after a two-child law is passed in the Bhinian Empire. Once in the City, each girl becomes a member of a House - Flowers, Combat, Beauty, Jade, Pleasure, Shadows, or Music - and is trained in the art of that House. When she comes of age she is presented at the Redeeming, at which time suitors bid on that girl for purchase. She then enters society as a proper citizen of the Bhinian Empire. Although exceptions exist, the Redeeming is not a ceremony to be feared, but rather, one of great anticipation.

Nisha was orphaned at a late age and, upon her arrival at the City, was deemed too old to train. As a result, Nisha doesn’t belong to any house, but instead is the assistant to the Matron of the City. In the role she has the freedom of moving among houses but her future is not secure. Caught up in a political battle for power, Nisha finds herself in a position to be sold as a bond slave. To buy her time, she begins to investigate a series of murders that have recently plagued the City. 

I honestly don't have much to say about this book, which probably says everything. I thought the best thing about this book was the world-building. If I could describe the setting in one word, that word would be rich. This asian inspired setting was very unusual and extraordinary and I really had a picture of something beautiful in my head while reading. But the rest of the book was just average. 

The murder mystery was a bit cliche but I still had fun with it. But the romance was weak if not discouraging altogether. The book would have been better without it or needed a different conclusion. He basically just gave up on her and she accepted that life with him wouldn't have been for her. Ehh, alright? I would say the story in general was a bit simplistic and young.

But again, that's not to say that I disliked the book there just isn't much that stands out except the world and that's not enough. And I don't really see where the book will go from here. I can't justify a higher rating. 

"There were so many new pieces to her identity, sometimes she didn't even recognize herself. Half Kildi and half Sune, orphaned and adopted, wounded and free. The only thing she knew for certain was that she was loved. And for now that was enough."



  1. It makes me sad that this book isn't as wonderful as I'd expected it to be. I love a good fantasy, and I was super excited about this! The unemotional reviews I've been seeing have discouraged me from reading it though. Perhaps I'll give it a try one day - but not now when there are other, more exciting books to read! Thanks for the honest review.

    1. you pretty much nailed it with the word "unemotional" . It's not that this book is bad by any means but it just isn't something to rave about. The world is interesting and it did keep my attention but when I reflect back on it, it's without much enthusiasm.

  2. Yeah, I'm kinda sad that you weren't super thrilled by this book either. Honestly, I haven't heard the best things about this book, but it just looks so good to me that I know I need to try reading it anyway. I dunno, I just hope I'm not as disappointed as everyone else.

    1. I'd never discourage someone from reading a book that appeals to them because we all have different likes and dislikes. It was not a bad book it just doesn't compare to some of my other reads that I rated higher. My 2.5 star ratings are somewhere between 'It was ok' and 'I liked it'. It definitely has some appeal but lacked in some ways.

  3. That's disappointing. I keep seeing the cover on blogs and it looks like it would make a great movie poster.

  4. Such a huge disappointment! I haven't read this one yet, but it sits on my shelf with its beautiful cover, and I must admit that I have been getting more and more anxious to read it. Now, I am a bit nervous that, like you, I will be underwhelmed. Which is definitely not what I have been expecting to feel towards this book. Ah well, I guess I will have to read it and find out how I feel about it eventually!


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