Ten years ago, Amie Wentworth’s parents died. In the time since, she has managed to put aside her grief and establish herself as a fantasy novelist. So, when a letter arrives from her uncle—an uncle her parent’s never mentioned and who hasn’t tried to contact her since her parents’ funeral—she resolves to ignore it. But when a shadowy figure attacks her and her life is saved by a stranger who refuses to stick around to answer questions, she realises accepting her uncle’s invitation to visit England might be the only way to get answers. However, as her journey becomes ever more filled with both danger and magic, she must face the possibility the vivid thoughts and dreams upon which she based her books are more than imagination. But, as fragmentary images of another life cast only more doubt on the truth, she struggles to choose who to trust.
The key obstacle Amie faces for much of this book is lack of solid answers: other characters will hint at truths, provide advice she must heed, and warn her against trusting certain people; but, even those who claim to be helping her refuse to tell her exactly what is going on or why she should act in certain ways. As such, while reasons for such concealment are provided later in the story, the plot is likely to intensely irritate those readers who dislike the trope of a wise mentor who withholds answers until the pupil is ready.
For readers who find the trope unobjectionable enough to forgive it or who enjoy riddling out possibilities from the narrowest glimpses of evidence, this near ubiquitous concealment builds a powerful feeling of paranoia entirely suitable for living among the whimsical fae.
While it is hard to comment on specifics without risking spoiling the core of the plot arc, the metaphysics develop as a pleasing mix of classical fairy tale and fresh variation with each fresh instance of the supernatural never being inconsistent with those that have been shown before.
Silverwood also uses the magic, uncertainty, and missing memories to provide a variation on the classic romance trope of two suitors: instead of the usual doubts, Amie must face the possibility that either, or both, of the men who seem drawn to her are actually an enemy seducing her mystically as part of some political scheme.
Amie is a sympathetic protagonist; while she is sometimes a little demanding or foolish, it is an entirely plausible reaction to her new, ill-understood world. Therefore, readers are likely to find her an engaging viewpoint on the world, and to share her desire to unravel the mysteries.
The main supporting cast are, for the most part, a finely balanced mix of human and ancient myth. This ensemble of subtly inhuman beings adds to the air of uncertainty without tipping over into inaccessibility.
However, this portrayal of the plausible impossible is less fluid in one instance, creating a situation that might strike some readers as a gotcha rather than an amplification of the paranoia.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I recommend it to readers seeking fantasy tales about fairy bargains or with unreliable narrators.
I received a free copy from a Goodreads review group with a request for a fair review.