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by C.S. Malerich

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-250-75656-5
Publisher: Tor

Sisterhood, love, and magic blossom in this timely tale of protest based on a historical incident.

In mid-19th-century Lowell, Massachusetts, the “mill girls” spin the thread and weave the cloth in the textile factories, all to the profit of the “Boston gentlemen” who own the mills where they work and the boardinghouses where they live. But when those very same gentlemen decide to raise the young women’s rent by a quarter a week, the women decide it’s time they had a say in their living and working conditions. Fierce Judith Whittier organizes the workers into a union and ensures their loyalty to the cause—and specifically, to their planned strike at the mills—with the help of her friend Hannah Pickering, a gentle and sickly Seer who bends her untrained magic into a spell that uses a lock of every woman’s hair to literally weave all of them into solidarity. Now the union members are magically compelled to maintain the strike, but what will they do when the mill owners’ agent, the hardhearted Mr. Boott, brings in new and more desperate workers to take the strikers’ places at the factories? As Judith and Hannah seek a magical solution to their cause, they both gradually realize that what they feel for one another is more than mere friendship. A feel-good message of a marginalized community battling amoral, exploitative capitalists might seem a bit obvious, but it also feels empowering during these uncertain times, when so many are still effectively disenfranchised. If the story has a flaw, it’s that it might’ve been richer with a higher page count and more development. The battle between the union and the establishment could have spawned additional twists and turns, more magic spells. Some more character development would also have been welcome; we learn a certain amount of Hannah’s history, but we learn very little about Judith’s backstory and even less about the other mill girls’.

Slender but still well-crafted and satisfying.