There’s a huge division between the rich and the poor—like pre-Revolutionary France levels of disparity. The king, a despot who has set himself up as the only voice of law in the kingdom, has just married for the tenth time–the first nine wives having been executed for adultery. Adultery is a high level crime in Desertera since people believe that a scorned goddess has caused the drought as a punishment for the sexual misbehavior of former monarchs.
Aya Cogsmith had a happy life with her father, until the day that he disappointed the king and was summarily executed. With no other family, she ended up on the streets, and eventually at The Rudder, a house ill repute doing the kind of work that “illed” the repute. Then, she gets an opportunity. A Lord approaches her with a plan to take down the king, and promises to help get back her father’s old shop if she’ll assist him in trapping the king.
Of course, it’s more complicated than it seems on the surface. Not everyone’s motivations are what they say they are. Some people’s word is worth more than others. And Aya is risking her life, heart, and happiness on a chance for something better.
I really enjoyed this story. Aya was an intriguing and complicated woman, with believable motivations. Watching her navigate the intrigues of court life was fascinating, and allowed the author to show us the world without losing the story to the world-building, always a tricky balance in created-world stories like this one. There was a good balance of romance, mystery, and conspiracy. The bleakness doesn’t overwhelm the hope, nor does it feel like the struggles of the characters are pushed aside too easily. Everyone, even the villains, is complex and nuanced. In this way it’s a book with something for everyone.
If I have one complaint, it’s that a surprise at the end was not a surprise to me. But it was a surprise to Aya–believably so–so it still worked. I recommend this one for readers with an interest in steampunk and court intrigue.
About The Reviewer:
Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her debut novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is now for sale by Curiosity Quills.
Learn more about Samantha and her work at http://samanthadunawaybryant.blogspot.com/