- Author: Olivia Atwater
- Genre: Historical Fantasy Romance
- Publication Date: August 16, 2022
- Publisher: Orbit
- Series: Regency Faerie Tales #3
Thank you to Orbit Books for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: mention of death, murder
Proper Regency ladies are not supposed to become magicians—but Miss Abigail Wilder is far from proper.
The marriageable young ladies of London are dying mysteriously, and Abigail Wilder intends to discover why. Abigail’s father, the Lord Sorcier of England, believes that a dark lord of faerie is involved. But while Abigail is willing to match her magic against Lord Longshadow, neither her father nor high society believes that she is capable of doing so.
Thankfully, Abigail is not the only one investigating the terrible events. Mercy, a street rat and self-taught magician, insists on joining Abigail in unraveling the mystery. Mercy is unpredictable, and her magic is strange and foreboding—but the greatest danger she poses may well be to Abigail’s heart.
I’m so glad that I got the chance to read this one, and that I had read earlier books, since some of my favorite characters who had starred in earlier books popped up in this one. It’s always great to see them come back, especially since Dora and Elias from Half a Soul are now parents and doing their best to raise a bunch of children, including the strong-willed Abigail, who doesn’t quite fit into high society.
I really liked Abigail’s character. She’s strongly devoted to social justice, like much of the earlier characters in the series, and in her case, it’s largely due to the influence of her early years. Except that now she has the means and magical ability and influence to actually create change, along with a strong moral compass. On top of that, she is aware that no amount of changing her diction is going to help her fit into society, and she honestly doesn’t seem to care very much. Except that when women her age start dying suddenly, she decides to investigate.
In doing so, she manages to join forces with the mysterious Mercy, who has magical abilities of her own. I also liked Mercy’s character, although she’s intentionally ambiguous—we don’t learn as much about her, but more is revealed at the very end of the story. I have to admit that I figured out part of Mercy’s secret before the twist came about, but it wasn’t disappointing at all, since the other part of the twist was fantastically done! And I was more fixated on the romance that was developing between Abigail and Mercy.
“Abigail did not want to like Mercy. It was a terrible idea to like her, in fact. But Abigail was beginning to suspect that she did like Mercy in spite of that.”
Previous books have focused on societal and gender roles, so it should come at no surprise that this book focuses on the lack of discussion of LGBTQ roles in Regency England. Abigail has clearly been struggling with her sexual identity for some time, without having the knowledge that attraction can exist between two women. So when she learns about this as a possibility, it creates a whole new struggle within her, and I thought it was intriguing how it was discussed. And while the wording didn’t necessarily sound right when I copied the quote down (“something was not quite right”), this didn’t necessarily refer to the fact that something wasn’t right with her due to her sexual preference, it was more with how she felt comfortable expressing it, according to the customs of the times. Abigail wasn’t an overly expressive person, and through the course of the book, it was clear that she wasn’t the type of woman who would write love poems and sigh with heavy longing for anyone, regardless of their gender. In addition, she was raised in a non-conforming household, with a mother who had half a soul that caused her to behave in an unusually dispassionate way, and a father who was initially raised in faerie and regularly eschewed social customs.
“On the one hand, Abigail was terribly peeved that no one had told her that she might find another woman to be interesting and lovely and deserving of sideways glances from beneath her eyelashes. But on the other hand, the understanding that she was attracted to Mercy freed Abigail from a nameless, confused anxiety which had plagued her for so many years — a feeling that something was not quite right, that she would never be able to relate to the way that other women sometimes wrote soppy love poems and sighed with heavy longing.”
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, although the pacing of the story was significantly slower in the middle of the story. The beginning and the end were faster paced, although the reading was relatively quick. One thing that I especially liked about the story was how it wove together a murder mystery with romance, ghost, and fantasy, holding my attention on a variety of levels. I also loved the characters, especially that of Hugh, the lovable and sweet boy ghost who completely stole the story in every scene he appeared in. This is a delightful story and I was so glad to see that this subversive Regency faerie tale incorporated an LGBTQ love story. I’m so sad to know that this series is over, but I’ll definitely be looking for more books from Olivia Atwater.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 6
Categories: Book Review