The second book in Cato’s (Breath of Earth, 2016, etc.) historical fantasy series takes its tenacious heroine and her strange powers from San Francisco to the Pacific Northwest.
In the days after the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake—caused in this world by magic and political conflict—Ingrid Carmichael flees to Oregon on an airship. Cy, her gallant love interest, and a few friends accompany her as she tries to escape the overwhelming power and machinations of Ambassador Blum, a shape-shifting official with ruthless aspirations for the supremacy of the Unified Pacific, the Japanese-American alliance that dominates the world. Ingrid’s own mysterious powers make her both a principal player and a desirable chess piece in a complex web of plots and conspiracies. She finds herself relying on the aid of Theodore Roosevelt—another ambassador and someone she has known since childhood—and gets caught up in the plight of the Chinese, who face brutal racism and segregation from both Americans and the Japanese. As Ingrid learns more about her magic and where it comes from, it becomes clear that an exploration of her personal history might be the key to averting a catastrophic war. Cato’s novel ends with the promise of more exploration in a future book, but this volume offers plenty of straightforward action. The plot moves briskly through a series of chases and fights, and while the book builds on the complicated world of this alternate history, it remains simple, entertaining, and difficult to put down. Cato’s skill at creating engaging characters shines throughout, and she seems to relish the banter and gentle scenes that showcase Ingrid’s growing experience of romance. While the experiences of many of the characters as people of color still sometimes feel like surface-level gestures at diversity, the use of aspects of Japanese and Chinese cultures feels more considered than in the first book.
An entertaining installment in a series that tackles an ambitious reimagining of history.