In the second installment of McGarry and Ravipinto’s (Duchess of the Shallows, 2012) fantasy series, a young woman seeks to find balance between her past life as a scholar’s daughter and her new life as a rising star among criminals.
Newly accepted into the Grey, a secret society of thieves, Duchess strikes up a business partnership with Jana, a singularly gifted weaver. Jana has been forced to work on the outskirts of town after being denied entry into the weavers’ guild due to her race, class and outsider status. Duchess is certain that with Jana’s skills and her own connections and unorthodox business savvy, they can build a profitable partnership—but only if Duchess’ calculated scheme to secure Jana’s admittance into the guild is successful. Meanwhile, she also wants to employ the bodyguard services of Pollux, the empress’s former servant and lover, who’s incarcerated for acknowledging his parentage of the empress’ son. As part of an elaborate and hazardous scheme, Duchess plans to break Pollux out of jail by faking his death. As she pursues her plans, Duchess makes a few new enemies along the way. She’s also confronted with the past she left behind as the daughter of the late hero and scholar Marcus Kell, as she forms a reluctant acquaintance with Darley, a long-forgotten childhood rival and the daughter of her father’s best friend. As she uncovers secrets of days gone by, she feels torn between her well-established life as a cunning thief and clever businesswoman and the very different life she might have had. Readers unfamiliar with the series’ first book may find some details of the world’s social structure to be unclear, but the intricately plotted schemes stand alone in most other respects, and newcomers will likely find them easy to follow. The authors, through their powerful portrayals of strong-willed characters, skillfully examine and confront issues of race, class, gender and sexual orientation in a way that’s rarely, if ever, done in medieval fantasy. In a manner that’s both modern and timeless, they examine the ways that strong women forego niceties to fight for the respect so easily granted to men. Overall, the novel is an engaging account of a young woman’s quest to succeed because of her outsider status, rather than in spite of it.
A thrilling story of thievery and self-discovery.