Marshall Ryan Maresca, Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe (DAW 978-0756412647, $7.99, 368pp, pb) March 2018. Cover by Paul Young.
The Holver Alley crew returns for a new caper in this second book in the Streets of Maradaine series, following the Rynax brothers and their odd assortment of friends as they search for the real culprit behind the burning of their homes and shops in Holver Alley. Ex-spy Asti Rynax is obsessed with the hunt, and even when his brother Verci gets injured, Asti’s passion keeps the group moving forward. Clues lead to a name: Lord Henterman, an earl known for his parties, with one scheduled to take place in just few days, giving the team a new target, if they can turn themselves into upper-class guests and servants in time. As usual, nothing goes as planned, and schemes keep changing – and Lady Henterman herself turns out to be a huge surprise. Add gangs skirmishing for neighborhood control, an unexpectedly dedicated constable looking into the situation, a dangerous mage, political shenanigans, and betrayal, and things get very complicated. And too serious; lighter moments pop up, but nowhere near enough to overcome the sense of grim foreboding, and with this large cast of characters, distinguished largely by their useful skills, it’s hard to get truly engaged. They manage to get out of their latest scrape and even come out ahead, unexpectedly, but it’s not the upbeat conclusion to a caper you’d expect. Maresca spins some fun adventures in his various series set in Maradaine, but there’s a definite dark side to the city that seems to be growing.
Rowenna Miller, Torn (Orbit US 978-0-316-47862-5, $15.99, 436pp, tp) March 2018. Cover by Peter Bollinger.
Fashion and rebellion mix in this charming fantasy, a first novel and the first book in a series based roughly on the French Revolution. Sophie, an ambitious young seamstress, has the unique ability to sew charms into clothing, and uses that talent to build a business catering to the elite. She’s thrilled to get a new commission from one of the most noted ladies of the court. Unfortunately, anti-monarchist unrest is spreading in the city – and Sophie’s brother Kristos, a day laborer, spends most of his free time talking about social injustice in the taverns. Sophie’s frustrated with Kristos; she brings in most of the money, and her hard work is making her a success, but he wants her to help him and his friends spread their revolutionary ideas. Instead, she attends the elite salons of Lady Viola Snowmont and listens to aristocratic young people talking about the arts, politics, and even economic theory, gaining a new understanding of the way the ruling class thinks. As the revolutionary mood spreads, Sophie finds herself torn – and then forced into a deadly plot. Sophie’s an earnest young woman, and it’s not hard to relate to her joy in fabric and design, her wonder at the aristocratic world she’s seeing, and the pain of her predicament, but she’s unfortunately passive, spending a lot of time worrying ineffectually. It’s a bit disappointing in these days of female action heroes, though maybe a bit more realistic.
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