I have two confessions to make.
1. J.K. Cheney is a friend of mine. I’ll try not to let this bias my review of this book, which I really did enjoy.
2. When I got the ARC, it was a lovely pristine thing with pure white pages. Now it has spots of tomato sauce and cheese on it. That’s because my lunch break at work is only ½ hour, and I’ve been spending said breaks with food in one hand and the ARC in the other, because I couldn’t put the darn book down.
I’m not big on mysteries, romances, politics, or books with dead bodies in them. All of which this book has, but that’s fine, because they’re all part of a lavish, intricate story set in a marvelously detailed world. It continues the story of Oriana Paredes and Duilio Ferriera, trying to have a life together despite interspecies political intrigue, plots involving body parts, magic, murder, and a ladies’ maid determined to make Duilio behave himself whether Oriana wants him to or not.
The book is set in 1902, in an alternate Portugal where selkies, sirens, and otter-folk are all part of the culture (albeit illegally.) It’s so realistic I found myself thinking “Gee, in 5 more years my grandpa will be born over in America.”
J.K. Cheney’s non-human characters are wonderfully believable. (I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that I loved seeing Lady Ferriera come into her own this time around. And I think I’ve fallen in love with Joaquim.) She handles what could be overly gruesome scenes with tact, making us feel the emotional horror of the crimes without going for “gross out.” The plot held my interest right along, and the romance between Oriana and Duilio continues to be compelling, exciting yet discreet.
I only have two regrets:
1. The ARC doesn’t have the stunning cover art of the actual book.
2. I don’t have Book 3 yet.