It is the Age of Enlightenment — of new and magical political movements, from the necromancer Robespierre calling for revolution in France to the weather mage Toussaint L’Ouverture leading the slaves of Haiti in their fight for freedom, to the bold new Prime Minister William Pitt weighing the legalization of magic amongst commoners in Britain and abolition throughout its colonies overseas.
But amidst all of the upheaval of the early modern world, there is an unknown force inciting all of human civilization into violent conflict. And it will require the combined efforts of revolutionaries, magicians, and abolitionists to unmask this hidden enemy before the whole world falls to darkness and chaos.
This is my second Buddy Read with Susan from Novel Lives, and if there was ever a book to buddy read, this would be it! This book definitely kept us guessing & I’m glad I had someone to throw my random questions and thoughts at. You can find Susan’s review here.
I had very few expectations going into this book. I hadn’t read any of the authors other works and wasn’t quite sure where the story would lead. What I got was a near, strict retelling of 1700’s History filled with magic. Magic runs rife in the world, in England commoners have to declare their magic and it is illegal for them to use, and in France they are given a bracelet that prevents them to work their magic. Across the sea slavers give their slaves a compound which dims their magic and ensure’s they do their masters bidding. But something or someone is stirring, something that believes magic should be readily available to all who can wield it. He will be the spark that lights the revolution, but he has darker motives than anyone can grasp and it will take everyone working together to ensure his world vision doesn’t come to pass.
I will say this book is very historically and politically heavy, so if that isn’t your jam, it may be worth giving this one a miss. As a history buff, I threw myself into the story with gusto. This is a period of history that I knew little about and found myself overly invested in a story line whose ending should be predictable. I say should be predictable because, and this is according to Susan because she already knew about this period, the author sticks to the historical timeline, even down to the speeches made in parliament. However, we have the addition of magic, which obviously ensured some changes, whether simply of motivation, or of historical events. The magic gave a new edge to the story and gave us some truly heartbreaking and harrowing moments.
I think you can already guess that I loved this book, but the thing that really made it for me is the characters. The story is told from four main points of view; William Pitt, the prime minister of England; William Wilberforce, a member of Pitt’s parliament and long time friend; Robespierre, the French revolutionist; and Fina a slave working in Jamaica. They all want the same goals, freedom and rights for commoners and the abolition of the slave trade. What makes them different is the way in which they go about achieving these goals. The authors use of dialect ensures you are easily aware who’s perspective you are reading the story from. Because of the length of the book you get an in depth insight into the characters backstory’s and beliefs which helps the author breathe life into her characters, bringing them off the page. There are a multitude of other characters we get introduced too, and even the smallest leaves an imprint on you as a reader, something that few authors have the ability to do.
The magic system was in-depth and brilliantly written. We see the differences in how magic is treated across the world, and the author manages to give us a full backstory without any info-dumps. She weaves the history of magic into the story line, feeding you bits of information as you go. No piece of information is pointless, every single line in this book has a purpose, Susan and I were throwing theories at each other all the way through… some slightly crazy and others that made perfect sense. But when it all came together… well lets just say that this was us:
With this book being based on true historical events it was certainly heartbreaking in parts. But this is the reality of a revolution. One of the major themes of the book, and I suppose history in general is how far people will go to achieve their goals. We have characters that start out with the absolute best of intentions, but power and praise made them believe they were invincible. She shows us how beliefs can outlast even the strongest of friendships, and honestly the last part of the book made me an emotional wreck. This is another way that the authors brings the characters to life, there are no truly good people, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, and I certainly find it easier to empathise with ‘morally grey’ characters.
I’m so glad that I read this as a buddy read because I think it would definitely struggle to make my thoughts on this coherent if I didn’t have a sounding board. The book ends with a bang and leaves you with a multitude of unanswered questions, and I am eager to find out where the story will take us in book two.
What other historical period would you like to be written to include magic?
I actually have a book on my TBR called ‘Ring Shout’ by Clark, P Dejali, which is based around the rise of the KKK but puts a magical spin on it, and I am so excited to read it! Also maybe WW2, Hitler as some devil type character maybe?
Do you think the inclusion of magic would fix 2020?
HA! I think it would take more than magic at this point. Maybe healing magic for Covid though??
Did you go into this book knowing about the historical period? And did that affect your reading/enjoyment in any way?
I actually knew very little about this period in history. I knew about it in general terms, but not necessarily the names of those involved. I wouldn’t really say it badly affected my reading in any way because the author gives us all the information we need to keep up with who is who, and what is happening where. I also think that with the inclusion of magic, the author could have re-written history to her liking, but I enjoyed that she kept it as close to true events as possible.
“He was right about one thing: the Revolution had made him, as a person, a husband and a writer. It had given his his language. The trouble was, it was a language far more permanent than Camille’s own convictions.”
“They were each vulnerable to the other. Perhaps there was a power in that.”
“Its the ones we love that know the most dangerous ways to hurt us.”