An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (The Risen Kingdoms #1)

analchemyI’m pleased to say that I loved An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors.  It was a great read, the storyline is rich with drama and intrigue, the world building is eloquent and the characters, well, I simply fell in love with them.  I picked this up hesitantly, I didn’t really know what to expect but here is a story of love, a story that will undoubtedly spring to mind old time classics but which brings a modern feel and includes elements of steampunk and blood magic.  An ageing Musketeer, a courageous princess, a dark and twisting plot and court intrigue aplenty.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot really.  We begin with a birth and almost a death.  Isabelle is born with a deformed hand which nearly seals her fate until Jean-Claude steps in.  Jeane-Claude is the King’s own Musketeer.  He travels the world on missions and relaying messages and on the day in question, in intervening and saving Isabelle’s life (by default in the King’s name) seals his own fate to become Isabelle’s protector and confidante.  He remains on the Isle des Zephyrs until Isabelle’s hand is sought in marriage and the two of them travel to the Kingdom of Aragoth to meet Prince Julio.  This is the start of their adventure, and when I say adventure I really mean their fight to stay alive and prevent a war.

The world here is rich and imaginative.  Huge floating islands make up the kingdom.  People travel via airship.  Conflicts and intrigue are the flavour of the day and people switch sides with supreme indifference.  The nobles can be cruel and ambitious, their own magic used ruthlessly to kill and sometimes to steal the will of the victims they choose.

I really loved the main characters. Isabelle is an intelligent woman.  She adores maths and can hold her own but given the world in which she’s born into she must mask her ability and play down her smarts.  She gives her father a wide birth, he’s a cruel man who has no time for a daughter born with a deformity and even more so one with no magical ability.  Jeane-Claude is an ageing Musketeer who is more than aware that he’s not quite as agile as he once was.  He’s tenacious and clever finding relevance and clues where others failed to look.  The two of them together are a great combination to read.  They care so much for each other, in a none romantic way, but they have the sort of partnership that means they both go off and do their own thing.  Isabelle isn’t sat around waiting to be rescued, she’s pursuing her own objectives whilst Jean Claude is himself risking life and limb in pursuit of would-be assassins.

So, great characters and an amazing world.  What more could you possibly want.  Oh, maybe a beautifully written story that puts you in mind of the likes of Dumas, easy to digest prose, vivid descriptions and a slippery eel of a plot that is huge in scope but that comes together in a very satisfying way?  Well, if that’s what you’re looking for then prepare to be happy because it’s all here in abundance.

In terms of criticisms.  Not really a criticism but an observation.  This is not a story that you can rush through, you have to savour the politics and come to terms with the different families and their own hierarchies.  If you’re looking for a speedy read then you might want to bear that in mind before picking this one up.

A mash up of European alternate history and steampunk told with flair and absolutely wonderful to read.

I loved this.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.