Something is wrong in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s secret mirror city.
The new season is starting and the Master of Ceremonies is missing. Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is assigned with the task of finding him with no one to help but a dislocated soul and a mad sorcerer.
There is a witness but his memories have been bound by magical chains only the enemy can break. A rebellious woman trying to escape her family may prove to be the ally Max needs.
But can she be trusted? And why does she want to give up eternal youth and the life of privilege she’s been born into?
Wow. When I first started reading this one, I wasn’t sure I would like it. There are a lot of twisty threads, three alternating points of view, three different settings, Fae, long-lived humans, and mundanes (you and me). You’re kept in the dark for the first quarter, but it’s all so intriguing, and suddenly all the threads start to be woven into an understandable picture. This is some of the smartest urban fantasy I have ever read. We first meet Sam, who has a bit of a disastrous first meeting with “men,” who wipe his memories. Then we meet Cathy, a run-away from one of the Fae-touched Great Families, which are stuck in the Victorian era, complete with sexism. And finally we meet Max (and his gargoyle), who is sort of a detective for magical crimes, and a man who feels no emotion. I loved following Cathy around Manchester, the impending doom of her family finding her dogging her every step. And watching Max’s mystery unfold had me very tense. I couldn’t put this one down.
This is one of those novels that gets better and better as you progress. Threads start connecting, and you start figuring things out without needing the narrative to spell it all out for you. I hated the Victorian society of Aquae Sulis, but I wish Cathy had been a little but of a better actress. Things could have been a lot easier for her if she’d pretended to go along with things. I enjoyed seeing Max from both inside his own head and how Cathy saw him. That’s the benefit of multiple points of view, if done right. And Newman does nearly everything right.
It’s hard to detail the plot because it’s so intricate, and giving small details either won’t make sense or will give too much away. There’s a major cliffhanger at the end, so prepare for that, but otherwise this is honestly one of the best beginnings to an urban fantasy series that I have ever read. Another cool thing about this series is the sequel, Any Other Name, appears to be slated for publishing very soon, and there is a list of short stories set in the Split Worlds universe here. I highly recommend reading them and running out to buy this book, which is on shelves now!