An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors: The Risen Kingdoms, Book 1

Curtis Craddock. Tor, $25.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8959-6
Craddock’s not-quite-steampunk debut features skyships and clockwork cyborgs, but it occupies a fantasy world rather than an alternate timeline, making it all the more baffling that he chooses to reproduce our world’s most disempowering roles for female characters. One dies in childbirth; one is born with physical and magical “deformities,” so church, state, and family cast her out; and one has her soul sucked out to punish someone else. Meanwhile, male characters swashbuckle blithely across the skies and plot political mayhem. Jean-Claude, intrepid musketeer, is embroiled in much of this as sworn protector of sad, disabled Princess Isabelle, whose oppression is elaborated but static for 100 pages. Craddock can write, and his worldbuilding shines; he’s so effective at reconstituting historical misogyny that by the time the narrative tide shifts—slowly, and not far—most female readers will likely have fled. A political betrothal to the Principe Julio frees Isabelle from home and makes her narratively interesting enough for other characters to court, compromise, and threaten. But though she escapes many constraints, she never escapes the story’s male-centeredness. Agent: Caitlin Blasdell, Liza Dawson Associates. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/10/2017
Release date: 08/29/2017
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-7653-8960-2
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