I read a bit of this one when it was in the beta-reading phase and really enjoyed myself but got very whelmed by life at the same time. So, when I was offered a copy of the finished version for review, I couldn’t stop myself.
So, thanks to the authors for the review copy. Opinions are my own.
An undying king. A relic of rune-carved bronze and ivory flames. A war for powers only a god could fathom.
In the centuries since rising up against a cruel, twisted dynasty, the Seven Cities have done much to move past their horrid histories, the memories of ancient monarchs who once fed on the life and blood of their own people. Those with a talent for magic are no longer hounded and slain. The lands beyond the Cities are safe, spared the atrocities the Alescuans once wrought upon them. For 300 years, there has been peace.
Then Eska de Caraval, head of the prestigious Firenzia Company, finds herself framed for murder.
Soon hunted for the strange bronze disc she most certainly did not steal, Eska is forced to pit both wit and blade against all manner of adversaries who would eagerly see her dead. An assassin in the shadows. A monster in the deep. A rival looking to burn her alive. From sword and fang and flame Eska must defend herself, struggling all the while to prove her innocence and unravel the mysteries of a dangerous artifact.
But unbeknownst to Eska and her enemies, the cruelest of those tyrants of old is stirring in his grave.
“I should fit you with an obnoxious bell, like a goat. Whenever you enter a room, it should warn the occupants that an insufferable know-it-all is in their midst.”
“Good thing this know-it-all also happens to know that you need to be gentler with the toe. You’ll never find the right spot if you bash it around like that.”
Eska laughed. “What woman hasn’t had to tell a man that at least once.”
This is the story of Eska de Caraval, who is the daughter of a noble family, and also the head of the Firenzia Company, a group of archaeologists. After arriving on their latest dig, Eska finds that someone is trying to frame her for murder. It seems to have something to do with the bronze disc that she technically didn’t steal from the terrifying Iron Baron. Shenanigans ensue.
This one had a lot of characters that I liked. I enjoyed Eska, for a start. She’s smart, snarky, and quick-thinking. She’s not afraid to do what needs to be done, or of hard work. Her friend and librarian Albus Courtenay was also a really great character, and the banter between he and Eska brought a smile to my face more than once. Perrin and Eden were even more characters that I liked a lot. And Manon. I started out not really liking her much at all (she is Eska’s rival, after all) but I ended up cheering for her too.
This was a really well written adventure, with plenty of great dialogue. The plot unraveled slowly and left mysterious things mysterious (not that it stopped me from making every possible prediction). The characters were endearing and grew even more so over the course of the story. This is one of those books that has characters that you want to trust, but you don’t quite, because it’s entirely plausible that just about anyone could be behind the shenanigans. I was suspicious of just about everyone. Even the characters that I really, really wanted to believe were as good as they appeared.
About halfway through this book, life caught up with me (again) and left me very little time for reading (but a ton of time for listening!) and so I ended up starting again (from the beginning, because why not have the whole experience) in audio. This audiobook is narrated by Kate Reading (!!!), so one would expect the narration to be great, and one would be correct. I think, in fact, that I enjoyed this story in audio even more than I was enjoying it in print, so there’s that. Kate Reading has not historically been one of my favorite narrators, but I think that this has changed now. This was fantastic narration. Super, super good.
All told, this was a really entertaining archaeological romp with really compelling characters and tons of magical and archaeological shenanigans. I can’t wait to see what comes next. 4.5/5 stars!~