Source: NetGalley! Many thanks to the publisher!
TL;DR: A fun historical mystery with a fantastic magic system
Plot: Simple and straightforward but fun
Characters: Interesting and varied
Setting: Well realized, I loved the setting
Magic: Simple but fantastic with visible prices/outcomes
CW: Police Brutality’s, Racism, Parental Abandonment, Abuse, Classism
Clara is a young black woman living in 1920’s Washington. In a moment of desperation when she was younger she asked a boon from a powerful spirit to save herself from prison. Now she has to help those who come to her asking for help. However she stumbles upon a conspiracy, people are loosing their will to do seemingly anything. They become almost walking zombies. The spirit Clara works for/with, the Empress, asks her to retrieve a ring stating that it’s causing this disease in people. From there she begins to gather up a group of people, some with their own gifts/prices to clear and others just wanting to help.
This book is just fun, Clara and all her compatriots were interesting and varied. I loved Israel, our romantic interest and foil to Clara. Aristotle as well stole my heart. These are characters that feel real and tangible, with sad stories that also hit deeply. The gimmick of the magic in this world is the idea of give and take. People can ask boons, called Charms, from the spirits of the world. In return there is always a Trick placed on the person. For example, the ability to erase memories for a short time is given but the person who loves you most will forget you. Naturally that means that most of the characters that we meet have a sad and deeply moving story, and I think our author did a fantastic job of balancing those heavy backgrounds with fun and optimistic characters. They were people doing the best with what they had.
The mystery itself isn’t the most mind blowing, you’re not going to get a twisty and over the top story here but there are moments of greatness and really you’re reading for the characters and their interactions. The setting is beautifully done, I felt the city around Clara and I loved getting the historical details of the era. I think the only thing that really pulled this down was just the very standard shape of the story, which isn’t bad, but for me in the moment just didn’t hit.
Go into this expecting a good time, something light and fun and you’ll have a blast. I’ll definitely try to pick up more from this author as this sets up well for a sequel.
3 creepy rings out of 5