An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors was a very enjoyable read, backed by an engaging plot, full of twists and turns, and a charming main character.

Isabelle is the daughter of a cruel royal Comte, demeaned by her own family due to what they see as a double disability: a deformed hand and a lack of magical powers. She is championed and protected by Jean-Claude, a king’s Own Musketeer. Eager to flee her abusive relatives, she agrees to a marriage contract with the prince of a rival country, where internal tensions are brewing. Isabelle, and her loyal Jean-Claude, are thrown in a complicated web of court intrigue, and threatened by a plot that could destroy more than one nation.

The worldbuilding is inspired by 17th century’s France and Spain  in a steampunk universe where the continents are floating in the skies. Magic is inherited and strongly linked to the religious system.

One of the biggest strengths of the book is the characters, Isabelle in particular. She’s smart and passionate about mathematics, an unladylike, almost heretical pursuit in this patriarchal society. Her loyalty and wit make her a memorable main character, and her relationship with her de facto father, Jean-Claude, is sweet and heartwarming.

What I also enjoyed a lot was the court intrigue. I always love a good show of power plays and palace plots, and An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors gives a good example of that particular trope.

I would absolutely recommend the book, especially if you liked Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor (for the steampunk court intrigue aspect).

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