Christal’s Review – 4 Skulls – B+
I really enjoyed this original new fantasy world but I am going to say upfront that it has one heck of a cliffhanger. The world Ms. Newman created mirrors our own but it is enhanced by the touch of fae lords and has its own rules that the Great Families live by. Ms. Newman has woven together multiple realities and perspectives that create one really fascinating whole. The storyline unfolds slowly and sometimes in fits and starts, but if you can stick with it, you will find an intricately-crafted and fascinating world filled with magic, politics, and intrigue.
The story is told mainly from the point of views of Cathy and Max. Cathy is a member of one of the fae-touched Great Families. She doesn’t want to live in the old-fashioned, male dominated society of the Nether and she doesn’t want to be under the rule of the fae lords. She wants to live her life in the human world, or Mundanus, where she is able to enjoy modern conveniences and freedoms. Max is an Arbiter, a member of a secret organization that monitors the activities of the fae lords and their families. During a mission gone badly, Max disconnects from his soul and ends up animating a gargoyle with it. Without his soul, Max doesn’t experience feelings or emotions; the gargoyle experiences everything instead. Max is investigating the disappearance of a prominent member of fae society and the murder of his entire Arbiter conclave. His investigation overlaps with Cathy’s return to her family and fae society and they have to decide if they can learn to trust one another and work together for their mutual benefit.
I really loved the chapters written from Cathy’s perspective. She was plucky and straightforward and quite clever. I was sad to see her forced back into her family’s world, but I was glad to see it didn’t completely crush her spirit or defiance. Max was a harder character to connect with, probably because of his lack of emotions, but the society he works for and his relationship with the gargoyle were very interesting. The supporting characters were unique and spanned the gamut of likability. I hated Cathy’s family but I am intrigued by Will Iris and his family and that of the Rosas. Max’s sorcerer boss was funny and ruthless at the same time and I am eager to see how the lone mundane character, Sam, deals with his brush with the Nether.
The world-building in this novel was very strong and was what transformed this novel into something distinctive. I really liked that the author took our world and the fae world and then added another layer between them. It makes sense that the fae wouldn’t have unlimited access to the human world and would have to find some way to work around it. By creating lines of fae-touched humans, the fae are able to manipulate the human world without getting their own hands dirty, while the Great Families get the benefits of immortality and magic for following the whims of their fae Patroons. I liked how Ms. Newman based the Nether on the Victorian and Regency eras, making the society much different from our own. It seems reasonable that families dependent on magic would be less likely to embrace technology, causing their society to develop differently than the modern world. I’m fascinated by the Arbiters and can’t wait to learn more about how they and the sorcerers fit into and police the fae society.
My only (minor) disappointment with this book was the ending. This is the first in a new series and it shows. This volume didn’t feel like a complete entry in itself; instead, it only felt like the first part of the story. It ended right when some big, important events were about to happen and the next books
hasn’t had a release date announced so far don’t come out until June and September, respectively. Personally, I am captivated by the story and am eagerly (okay… impatiently) waiting the next installment, but those who hate cliffhangers might want to wait for all three books to be released before diving into this magical new world.
Thank you to Netgalley and Angry Robot for providing an ARC copy of this book!
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