Last Updated on December 20, 2022 by ThoughtsStained
Ah, friends, look! A backlist book that has been on so many lists of books I’ve wanted to read for ages, but never actually picked up. Until I did. And it was just as good as I hoped it would be!? I’m simultaneously kicking myself for waiting so long, but also so glad I finally read An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock.
Read on for the review!
Publisher: Tor Books | Release Date: August 2017 | Pages: 416
Age Range: Adult | Genre: Fantasy | Format: Paperback | Source: Bought
In a world of soaring continents and bottomless skies, where a burgeoning new science lifts skyships into the cloud-strewn heights and ancient blood-borne sorceries cling to a fading glory, Princess Isabelle des Zephyrs is about to be married to a man she has barely heard of, the second son of a dying king in an empire collapsing into civil war.
Born without the sorcery that is her birthright but with a perspicacious intellect, Isabelle believes her marriage will stave off disastrous conflict and bring her opportunity and influence. But the last two women betrothed to this prince were murdered, and a sorcerer-assassin is bent on making Isabelle the third. Aided and defended by her loyal musketeer, Jean-Claude, Isabelle plunges into a great maze of prophecy, intrigue, and betrayal, where everyone wears masks of glamour and lies. Step by dangerous step, she unravels the lies of her enemies and discovers a truth more perilous than any deception.
On the Page
- Ableism and ableist language
- Abusive relationships
- Arranged marriage
- Body shaming (disability)
- Captivity and confinement
- Eugenics/medical experimentation
- Indentured servitude
- Infertility themes
- Loss of limb
- Murder and attempted murder
- Alcohol consumption
- Body modifications
- War themes and military violence
Content warnings are written up by me, unless specified. Subject to being an incomplete list, though guided by referencing this list and trying to highlight as many as I can identify.
- Isabelle and Jean Claude: It’s impossible not to love this duo. Jean Claude is as hilarious as he is dangerous. I loved the way his character was written. Isabelle, on the other hand, is a fascinating character, with spirit, fire and a noble, pure heart. I adored her.
- The manipulation of time: I thought it was so well done, with how we start with Isabelle’s birth but then jump in time to her marriage proposal. That kind of jump is hard to pull off, yet it was done flawlessly here.
- Steampunk elements and French influence: You know me, I love me a good steampunk story. It also scratch the historical political intrigue itch I’ve had since reading The Councillor by E.J. Beaton.
- Minor, implied fatphobia a few times: There were a few times when a character who was meant to be “bad” or shady was associated with being unseemly in appearance or labeled as fat. Could have done without the internalized fatphobia, thanks.
Like so many of the reads I randomly discover, I was first drawn into An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors because of its gorgeous cover. I’m very glad the story within was just as good. I appreciated the disability rep, the magic within was fascinating, the politics were exactly what you’d expect from a historically-influenced novel (read: complex and juicy). But, by large and by far, it was our lead duo that stole the stage. I cannot wait to see what Isabelle and Jean Claude are up to next. You better believe it’ll be daunting, dashing and definitely dangerous. 😉