A killer targets high-ranking victims in a society of elves obsessed with genetic purity.
On the world of Ados, in the elven city of Tenyl, Constable Inspector Reva Lunaria tries to enjoy her day off. She’s summoned, however, to the office of First Constable Aescel for assignment to an important case. First Magistrate Lavalé fey Avecath has been murdered, cleaved clean in half one night in his study. With her longtime partner recently transferred, veteran Reva must work with the inexperienced Ansee Carya, who as a Seeker can investigate any magic used at the crime scene. In the First Magistrate’s study, the two encounter Green Cloaks—or the Sucra—who act as King Aeonis’ secret police. Inquisitor Ailan Malvaceä orders that all documents be collected from the study, which infuriates Reva. In turn, she graciously allows the Sucra to witness a Speaking, during which the corpse is magically induced to offer verbal clues about the murder. In this way, the investigators learn that a black blade committed the deed. At the scene of a second killing—this time Lady Tala Ochroma, the king’s treasurer, is the victim—a healer refuses to save the life of a collaterally injured halpbloed (half-blood). Ansee loses his temper and strikes the elf, revealing the extent to which bigotry divides the citizens of Tenyl. In this marriage of fantasy and procedural thriller, the team of Habiger and Kissee (Unremarkable, 2018) gives fans of both genres a master class in worldbuilding. Everything from idioms (“But tread carefully, Inspector. You are on a narrow branch here”) to fascist racial doctrines mesh in a narrative that pulses with innovation on every page. While much of the emotional heft comes in comparing King Aeonis’ purity laws to those wielded by the Nazis, personal demons also haunt the characters in this series opener. Reva finds herself addicted to the stimulant Wake, and the halpbloed Cedres Vanda desperately wants to reunite with his family despite his wife’s disgust for him. A wider conspiracy puts the kingdom at risk, and the charming, flawed protagonists prove themselves a winning combo worth visiting again.
This rich fusion of crime and fantasy should enchant readers.