Ren is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadežra with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house, securing her fortune and her sister’s future.
But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as nightmare magic begins to weave its way through the City of Dreams, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled…with Ren at their heart.
First off, let’s look at this lovely cover. Just stare, admire, wonder why that mask looks so intimidating.
Let me say a belated happy publishing day to this book!!
Alright, now I can get started on my review.
My initial reaction? HOLY CRAP I LOVE IT.
The almost Venetian inspired city, but with the inclusion of so many other cultures and histories blended in was definitely a chef’s kiss for me as far as the world-building and setting went.
The magic and fantasy aspect of it all is quite subtle and slowly creeps in. It makes it seem so normal that you almost forget that it is magical with the imbuing and cards and even their religious aspects and rituals. I LOVED that there was not just one religion/aspect of magic in the city and it varied in the cultures that made up the place.
Loved the ‘rats’ and fingers as well, they were so great to learn about and the dichotomy between the rich and the poor was so stark and, well, real, we have so many issues with this in our world and always have that it made sense that it was in this one as well.
I’m telling you this was absolutely seamless as well, you would never know that this pen name represented two authors. This was cohesive from start to finish and the characters so well defined that there was no hint as to when the writers were switching or anything of the sort.
Ren is a terrific protagonist, morally gray as I tend to enjoy, but with great loyalties and love for those she considers family.
This was a long con, and it was great to see how Ren and Tess were doing this ‘job’ just to be able to survive, I also loved that this was Ren’s idea, that Tess would have been happier with a simpler and more honest way. The two were so great in their dynamics together and on their own. I really hope we get more of Tess in book two if possible.
The back stories and histories are so strongly rooted and I can’t emphasize this enough as it’s another plus on their world-building for me..
There is a huge cast but unlike a lot of other -high- fantasy books I did not struggle in keeping up with the cast list which is impressive on my part..but also theirs. It means that I was able to clearly keep everyone in my mind and not have to be reminded who someone was by flipping back through the pages.
We also have a vigilante masked hero, the Rook, and that was hard not to love, or to try and guess who was under the mask.
The plot takes its time to build, and it’s not until about halfway through that the pacing really picks up. After that it’s pretty much one thing after another on events and mishaps, but I really loved that build up and considering who my favorite character was, first half was better in that regard, though I won’t say anymore, no spoilers of course.
The magic begins to have a larger part, as does Ren’s past and her own abilities and sense of justice, which is there, it’s just not a clear black and white sense.
It didn’t end on a wild cliff hanger which I was grateful for but I’m no less eager for book two and I’m not sure how my heart is going to take it. We have some dangerous players from this city trying to control things and I can only hope Ren and the Rook are there to save the city and its people.
5/5 cups of hot chocolate from me. Thank you so much to Netgalley and Orbit Books UK an eARC and also thank you to Orbit for my physical copy <333 in exchange for my honest opinion, definitely one of my fave high fantasy books ever so far!