This debut novel collaboration started life as a letter-writing exercise between two friends who assumed the characters that we find in the novel and what grew out of this pastime.
Roger is a struggling student of surgery being somewhat disgraced and most certainly impoverished he has turned to graverobbing to fund his surgical studies. His childhood sweetheart is Sybilla princess of the Royal family and well out of his league.
The world that the authors have created feels like a romanticised Dickensian London with added magic and intrigue and as it so happens right up my alley as a reader. The kingdom has fairy magic which makes for some inventive powers, I would love to be able to do a whistle click likewise to be able to generate my own ink and create shapes in the air with it. The balance between magic and science is an important theme of the novel, this causes a lot of tension and drives a lot of the action.
The novel is structured as chapters alternating between Roger and Sybilla with the two halves of the narratives twisting around each other. Both characters are realised beautifully and have their own struggles. The stakes are particularly high for Roger and logically I should find him the more sympathetic character but there are times where his poor decisions had me rolling my eyes and wishing dearly to slap him. His inability to listen to what people were saying the most. Sybilla, on the other hand, has an easier time with less threat to her personal safety but navigating a court full of relatives who wish to see you ill is my jam.
The supporting characters are engaging, I loved Harrod for just being an actual good guy. I also loved Sybilla’s grandmother the queen whom I pictured as Dame Maggie Smith in imperious form and terrifying with it. The cousins were a horrid sketch of male entitlement and I really disliked the characters. The fact that Sybilla spent much of the novel trying to engage her father in conversation only for him to be unavailable or dismissive felt a bit repetitive but I understand why.
All in all a very enjoyable debut from two fine writers, I can hope for a sequel and I think I would pick up further work by these authors as a collaboration or else as individuals.