This was a book that came onto my radar through word of mouth from some friends of mine, and the premise sounded amazing. I feel bad that I was approved for a NetGalley when they weren’t though. Sorry guys!
Thanks to the author as well as Tor via NetGalley for the review copy.
In Cantagna, being a sorcerer is a death sentence.
Romy escapes her hardscrabble upbringing when she becomes courtesan to the Shadow Lord, a revolutionary noble who brings laws and comforts once reserved for the wealthy to all. When her brother, Neri, is caught thieving with the aid of magic, Romy’s aristocratic influence is the only thing that can spare his life—and the price is her banishment.
Now back in Beggar’s Ring, she has just her wits and her own long-hidden sorcery to help her and Neri survive. But when a plot to overthrow the Shadow Lord and incite civil war is uncovered, only Romy knows how to stop it. To do so, she’ll have to rely on newfound allies—a swordmaster, a silversmith, and her own thieving brother. And they’ll need the very thing that could condemn them all: magic.
“Good thing you bought me fighting lessons before you decided to send me into a well defended palazzo to work magic.”
This story follows the exploits of Romy, who is the eldest daughter of a law scribe in the poorest part of the city of Cantagna. Magic is anathema in this world. It is evil, and forbidden, and so Romy has to hide her magical abilities for fear of her life. She was sold by her mother to a brothel when she was ten, and since then has risen in the ranks of the courtesans of the city to the point where she has become the mistress of the Shadow Lord, the feared leader of the city.
When her also-magical brother Neri is caught stealing, she intervenes by asking the Shadow Lord to help, and he banishes her from his sight when he learns the details of the theft. And so Romy and Neri have to go back to the gutter and try and survive by themselves. Romy uses her skill at writing to become a scribe like her father. They hire a drunken swordmaster named Placidio to teach Neri how to defend himself, and he soon turns out to be more than meets the eye. Then they run into a metalsmith named Dumond who is running from sorcerer hunters.
When Romy uncovers a devious plot to incite civil war, it’s up to her, Neri, Placidio, and Dumond to come up with and execute a plan just as devious in order to stop it. Maaaagical shananigans abound!
Romy is an easy protagonist for me to cheer for. Her life has been tough, for the most part. She was enjoying an easy life being the mistress of the most powerful man in the city, but has to give it all up very suddenly, and despite that, she never really complains, she just soldiers on. Despite the fact that Sandro, is a powerful man who doesn’t take a lot of crap, I nonetheless kind of wanted Romy to end up going back to him, because the stories she told of her time with him were often sweet, and you could tell that they legitimately cared for each other.
I also really liked the secondary characters as well. Placidio was a complex character whose story evolved really well as the story progressed. Dumond the metalsmith and his wife Vashti were also fantastic characters. Neri really grew over the course of the story, and I enjoyed it. I think though, that my favorite character is one that we don’t see as often in person, Alessandro di Gallanos, Il Padroné, the Shadow Lord. He’s mysterious, and a bit scary, as we have seen him in his element, so to speak, when he more-or-less throws his lover of nine years into the street. But he isn’t exactly the monster many people see him as, when you see him through the caring memories of Romy. There are reasons for the things that he does, and while they seem harsh, he tries to make them… less so. In his own way, anyway.
The plot itself moved at a good pace, and the twists and turns that the plot snaked through kept everything interesting, right up until the end. The heist that Romy, Neri and their companions set up in order to avoid a civil war was well thought out, intricate, and wonderfully entertaining to watch unfold. The uncertainty of what would happen, or if they’d be caught left me on the edge of my seat.
Romy especially has a bit of a… perhaps a magical quirk that allows her to slip into a role so completely that she seemingly becomes that person. There are a couple parts of this book in particular that use the narrative to full advantage to describe this act of ‘losing herself’ in her playacting. It was great.
So, all told, this was a well written and engaging romp through a wild and often magical heist. With great characters and a solid plot line with plenty of clever twists, it’s a hard book to put down! The ending wrapped up everything tidily, while leaving a nice open space for many more escapades in the world of the Chimera. I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment. I can’t wait to see where this goes! 4.5/5 stars!~
Thanks again to the author as well as Tor via NetGalley for the review copy.