Second installment of an evocative Victorian gothic (“supranatural”) fantasy trilogy, following The Oversight (2014).
In London, the Oversight, a secret society, patrols the borders between the mundane and the magical. To the original membership, now sadly reduced in numbers, Fletcher introduces new allies—and new challenges. At the end of the previous book, Sara Falk, a “Glint” (she can view past events by touching objects associated with them), entered a terrifying mirror-maze in search of missing sentinel Mr. Sharp, and both find themselves battling vampirical Mirror Wights and the treacherous Elizabethan magician Dr. John Dee. Newcomer Caitlin Sean ná Gaolaire, a “venatrix” (a sort of freelance magical hunter), holds a commission to locate and return a stolen child and agrees to work with the Oversight in exchange for help and information—although her relentless stage-Irishness rapidly grows irksome. Meanwhile, the Sluagh, an ancient native race, hemmed in by iron railway lines they cannot cross, seek to nullify their aversion to iron—and sociopathic wizard-scientist Viscount Mountfellon holds the key. The Ghost of the Itch Ward, an insane telepathic woman, intends to kill Mountfellon. But why? Who is, or was, she? And mute telepath and runaway adoptee Amos Templebane, appealingly and genuinely innocent, gets exploited by everybody. This is a thoughtfully dense, fully realized construct where, intriguingly, the characters are defined by their deeds as much as their intrinsic personalities, and where the creepy and sometimes-claustrophobic atmosphere, horrific doings, and unstoppable narrative momentum overwhelm the occasional weaknesses in plot and procedure. Best of all, you never know where it’s going next.
As good as or better than the opener. Grab.