I defend the weak against the strong, and it is always best that it be the weak who pull the strong down.

Reflections continues to follow the two parallel storylines initiated in Rituals. Somewhere in Greece, Mara the immortal Huntress is still chatting with famous occultist Aleister Crowley and recounting some of her encounters with those who have attempted the Rituals of Blood (the killing of innocents in order to become a God) and been thwarted by her sword (or knives, depending on the circumstance) over the centuries. Most of her narrative this time refers to the period before and after the French Revolution (Robespierre: You have been a naughty, naught boy).         

In the meantime, Emma and her ghost girlfriend Caroline are still being all conversational and lucid in times of trouble, trying to sort out the tribulations of minor powers-that-be by securing parlays between relevant parties. Mara’s narrative seems the more impressive this time around but Emma’s has no shortage of problems either, especially toward the endwhen shit (excuse my French) hits the fan big time.

Mara and Emma’s Fun-times Through History, as I have fondly renamed these books inside my head, is shamelessly a vehicle for its two strong-willed, queer female protagonists to go around being awesome, meeting historical personages—from the most famous (Sir Isaac Newton, I am looking at you) to the most obscure (excuse me, but Georgiana who? )—and saving the world all the time. The stakes are extremely high here and I don’t think I have read anything so joyfully empowering of queer women in a long time. Especially since these books don’t make them Specially Special as there are a bunch of secondary, equally powerful and awesome female characters. I comment on that and express my joy while at the same time remarking that almost all male characters that they encounter along the way seem to be homophobe assholes.

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Beneath the veneer of extravagant escapades, though, there is an undercurrent of some grandiose plot taking place. Reading the first book left me with the impression that the stories were episodic and nearly disconnected. After reading Reflections, I noticed the gears starting to move and I now have a Grand Theory of how exactly Emma and Mara interconnect. More than that, I can see a more thoughtful examination of power and its consequences taking place too. Mara, for how often she adamantly says she is not a goddess, has all the power of one. Is being a God or Goddess all about wanting to be one? Her lack of self-awareness in this regard is perhaps at odds with everything that she has seen and lived through the ages and I suspect a Moment of Truth might be in the works for her.     

Interestingly, it wasn’t until the very ending of the novel that it occurred to me how my involvement with these stories had been more of detachment enjoyment than true emotional connection. It was only when Emma underwent a moment of utter fear and loss, expressed beautifully by the author, that I felt my appreciation for the books reach a full alignment of brain and emotion. I simply can’t wait to see where the third entry will take these heroines. 

In Book Smugglerish, a can’t-wait-for-more 7 out of 10.

Thea James and Ana Grilo are The Book Smugglers, a website for speculative fiction and YA. You can also find them on Twitter.