Title: An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors
Author: Curtis Craddock
Series: The Risen Kingdoms #1
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
The Overview: [Nik’s Note: I think this book is better if you DON’T read the summary first… it gives a lot of things away that were fun to discover on my own while reading.] A polymath princess and her faithful musketeer must unravel the plot of a thousand-year-old madman in order to save an a foreign kingdom from a disastrous civil war. Caelum is an uninhabitable gas giant like Jupiter. High above it are the Risen Kingdoms, occupying flying continents called cratons. Remnants of a shattered world, these vast disks of soaring stone may be a thousand miles across. Suspended by magic, they float in the upper layers of Caelum’s clouds. Born with a deformed hand and utter lack of the family’s blood magic, Isabelle is despised by her cruel father. She is happy to be neglected so she can secretly pursue her illicit passion for math and science. Then, a surprising offer of an arranged royal marriage blows her life wide open and launches her and Jeane-Claude on an adventure that will take them from the Isle des Zephyrs in l’Empire Céleste to the very different Kingdom of Aragoth, where magic deals not with blood, but with mirrors. -Goodreads
An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors was such a cool book! It had interesting character profiles, totally immersive world-building, and an abundance of drop-in details that I found totally original. When I first received the book for review and saw cover quotes from Brandon Sanderson and Lawrence Watt-Evans (two of my all-time favorites), I knew I was in for a good read, I just didn’t know how good. Curtis Craddock did not disappoint!
Right off the bat I was impressed with the unique setting for this story – a gas-giant planet where the only way to travel between floating rock “islands” is through use of airships. The author describes the science of how things stay aloft within the first few chapters as:
“A vast downward-pointing cone of rock bristling with an upside-down forest of salt-encrusted, aether-emitting cloud-choral stalactites that kept the Skyland aloft.”
A mouthful, for sure but technical jargon aside, his world-building goes well beyond setting. Craddock also infused multiple blood-inherent magics, a few carefully placed steampunk elements, and an elegant culture borrowing from French influences. I was truly dazzled by the combination of all of these components, and the unique atmosphere they created is easily my favorite aspect of the book. If you pick it up, you’re in for a bombardment of cool ideas. Left and right they’ll hit you, and the discovery process of so many minor aspects of this world is a lot of fun.
The book also offers an interesting plotline filled with court intrigue, intelligent characters, and an unravelling mystery. I enjoyed every aspect of the characters and thought their relationships and individual developments throughout the book were highly satisfying. Especially Isabelle. Her academic mindset and struggle to acclimate to situations well beyond what she ever thought she’d have to face were especially compelling. Compounding her already great character profile was a second POV from her faithful Musketeer, Jeane-Claude, who was every bit as interesting and savvy as Isabelle. I did wonder a few times if their insights were a tad unbelievable, but for the sake of plot advancement, it didn’t bother me too much. The constant intrigue in the book kept it a page-turner and even surprised me with a few twists. It astounded me how such a slowly paced book could still be totally immersive and exciting. It did take a bit for the book to find it’s stride, but once it did, I couldn’t put it down!
Overall, and Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is a delightfully original start to a series that has the potential to be among my favorites if it continues on with the same gusto. If it isn’t already on your radar, it should be. Especially if you love fantasy. And great world building. And Musketeers…
I want to thank the publicists at TOR/Forge and Curtis Craddock for a chance to read and review an early copy of An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors – I enjoyed it thoroughly!
An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors Giveaway!
Open to US and Canada Residents!
Click on the link to enter:
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This giveaway will run until midnight [MST] on Friday Sept 8, 2017. Good Luck! :)
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The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan
by Niki Hawkes