I haven’t read a book in weeks, partly because I’m pretty wrecked from work most of the time and partly because of Subnautica and Fortnite. Anyway, I finally finished this.
The novel has a pretty fun concept, basically the French Revolution but with magic. And that rights include the rights of commoners to wield their magic (parallel with voting rights see?) And we see the action from three points: Robespierre in France, Pitt and Wilberforce in London, and Toussaint (again through the eyes of Fina, who is a slave who escapes Jamaica).
On top of this, each different character has their own magic (except Wilberforce) and it has repercussions for them all. I’m assuming that’s going to continue in a sequel, as this one ends with foreshadowing the rise of Napoleon (except this time with an army of the undead, good times).
I liked the novel, which makes me wonder why it took me so long to get through it, I had to force myself to pick it up and read a few chapters, so maybe it wasn’t pace-y enough. Sometimes it felt like there was a conversation dump and then an exposition dump, so it was like flitting between an alternative history lesson and some deep conversation. Or maybe I’m just tired and want to play Subnautica. Who knows.
I think my favourite characters are Wilberforce and Pitt (though I was already a William Pitt the Younger fan, anyway), who are genuinely lovely and have some great conversations. Also, they seem to have some action points as well, not just exposition dumps. I do like all the interplay of history – the Terror, Wilberforce trying to abolish the slave trade, uprisings in the Caribbean. It’s following the broad beats of history, but infused with this magical element to it all.
The only thing I wish there was more of were women. Apart from Fina, there are no real women main characters There are few supporting ones, but they aren’t integral to the plot and more or less just provide some of the world building for the story. So yeah, it’s a bit of a shame on that account. Even Fina (who I assume is made up) is there as a filter on what Touissant is doing, so it’s mostly his actions that are being relayed and she’s the filter that we see them through.
And just because I’m a Paine fan-girl, I wish there was some Thomas Paine! I guess he’s more known for the American Revolution. Anyway, aside from that, it’s pretty good, if you’re into the alternatives retelling of history anyway. I think I’d pick up the second, as I’d love to see what goes on with Napoleon and if what happens with Pitt’s strain of magic!