Ahoy there me mateys! It be no secret that I adore Garth Nix. He was the first author featured in me Broadside No. 1 and I have re-read the Old Kingdom series many times over the years. So I was super happy to finally read his newest standalone book.
As always, the world-building here be fantastic. This tale takes inspiration from the Three Musketeers and the book is dedicated in part to Alexandre Dumas and to the cast and crews of the 1973 and 1974 Musketeer films (Arrrr!).
On top of the awesomeness of the swashbuckling aspects, there is an engaging magic system wherein practitioners can call on different members of a hierarchy of angelic beings via icons to perform all kinds of tasks. However the cost of the summoning is to shorten the lifespans of the user. The higher the angel in the scale, the higher the price paid by the summoner.
Another highlight of the book for me is that women play major roles in all levels of society and in the plot. One of the main characters, Liliath, is an “angel mage” who is determined to get what she wants no matter the cost. Her backstory rocked, her talents went against the grain, and she is great to root against (and begrudgingly, sometimes for). The other four main characters were fun too and showcased different aspects of life in the world-building. As the blurb says:
It is four young Sarancians who hold her [Liliath’s] interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.
Dorotea was me favourite because of her outlook on life and how she interacted with everyone. And even though I loved the five main perspectives, I absolutely adored the female Rochefort as a side character. I wouldn’t mind a spin-off of her earlier story and rise to power. The female d’Artagnan was also great even though she didn’t get a lot of page time.
I also appreciated how men and women were able to have non-normative relationships and casual sex. The juxtaposition of the more modern feeling sexual relationships with the 1600s religious and political environments was kinda fascinating. Even though sex is discussed a bit in the book it isn’t really explicit.
Even though the quest plot was great and the writing was as lovely as ever, it was the small details that made love this one. I absolutely loved everything about the religious icons – how they were made, how they were used, their limitations, etc. I loved the magic, particularly the horrible consequences on the lowest caste called Refusers who are unable to use angel magic.
This book completely worked as a standalone but I have to admit that I want more. More about the four Sarancians and what happens next or even just another tale just set in this world. The world building be too exquisite to only have this one little foray. If ye have never read any Garth Nix, I would still suggest starting with the Sabriel books. But if ye already be a Garth Nix fan then pick this one up soon! Arrrrr!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel (edited by me for spoilers):
More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep . . . and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with . . . Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.
A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance . . . But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her.
It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.
The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .
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Previous Log Entries for this Author
Nix, Garth (Broadside No. 1)
lirael – book 2 (Second Reflections – YA Fantasy)
goldenhand – book 5 (Captain’s Log – YA Fantasy)
frogkisser! (Captain’s Log – YA Fantasy)