Tuesday, 4 June 2019
Note added June 25, 2020: since this review was posted some allegations have been raised against this author.
Pros: feisty protagonist, interesting world-building
Sixteen year old Heloise Factor’s world is upended when she and her father encounter members of the Order on the road. The Sojourner and his Pilgrims dragged the bodies of two female magicians behind their horses. Thus the Order keeps the people safe from the legions of Hell, which magicians unwittingly loose in their pride. But the Order has little consideration for the peasantry that feed them, and Heloise discovers that her fear must contend with anger at the mistreatment she and her father receive.
This character driven story is told from Heloise’s point of view as she learns that the world can be a terrifying place and that those who profess to do good are sometimes the most horrible. She’s a headstrong girl who can’t watch injustice without acting. This gets her - and others - into a lot of trouble. She’s also slowly discovering that she’s into girls, in a world where that’s not an acceptable option. There were a few moments where I wanted to yell at her for making poor decisions, but I can’t deny that Cole accurately tapped into a teen girl’s psyche, showing her fear, rage, and passion in equal measure.
The setting is medieval inspired with some minor steampunk style engines thrown in. I loved that there were quotations from various books of holy writ as well as her father’s journal from when he was in the war to give the narrative some historical grounding.
It’s very much a novel about family and what people will do for those they love. It’s also about communities that stick together, even when things get tough.
There’s a scene reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and it’s just as uncomfortable to read. It also contains the sole scene of graphic, somewhat gory, violence in the book. There’s a brilliant fight scene at the end that’s brutal, but not gory.
This is a quick read that really grips you (I missed a subway stop reading it).
Note: If you liked this but want a fantasy novel with an older heroine, pick up Armed In Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield.