A perfect court intrigue.
Maia never expected to become much of anyone. Although he’s technically a prince, after his mother died his father the emperor relegated him to exile at a remote manor, under the care of an abusive guardian. He never really expected to escape his position of disfavor, due to his mixed racial heritage. However, when a terrible airship accident not only kills his father, but also wipes out all the other people ahead of him in line for the succession, in one fell blow, Maia is unexpectedly recalled to court to take up the crown.
Although unprepared for this responsibility, he’s determined to make a go of it, and give it his best shot. However, the swirl of sophisticated society is overwhelming to him, let alone the nuances of ruling an empire. And although Maia would like to make friends, enemies are already waiting for him.
I requested this book without reading up on anything about it. At 16% of the way through, I said, ‘no way this is a debut author – the writing is too sharply honed,’ and I looked it up. It’s Sarah Monette! I LOVE Sarah Monette! (And I believe I actually read about this book coming out under a pseudonym on her blog, several years ago, but forgot about it!)
No matter what name she uses, this is a truly excellent work. The characters are finely drawn, and treated with sensitivity. There’s a constant, well-paced tension as Maia navigates this new and alien world, forms alliances, discovers plots, and tries to investigate his father’s death. The concerns of different factions of the aristocracy, the working classes, women, and different cultures are all dealt with for a complex, convincing setting. The positioning of elves and goblins at the brink of an Industrial Revolution(?) is unusual but convincingly done, without any sacrifice of ‘magic’ and the rich panoply of a faerie court. Even the language and the social hierarchy felt fresh and new.
I know it’s only February, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is the best book I’ll read this year.
I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley. Thanks to NetGalley and Tor/Forge.