Science fiction and fantasy                                            

All Is Fair

by Emma Newman


The third part of the Split Worlds series sees the struggle against inequality and injustice in Fae-touched society reach new heights. At the start of this novel, nothing is fair for the characters. Max, the arbiter (something like a supernatural policeman) with his soul in a gargoyle, is still searching for answers. The rest of the arbiters are missing or unreliable, so he seems very much alone as he tries to bring people to justice whilst the bodies pile up. Someone is trying to kill sorcerers, who are responsible for imprisoning the Fae, and who should be very hard to destroy.

Meanwhile, Cathy is married and recovering from a serious attack. She wants to speak up for women's rights and to bring Nether society into the modern age. However, her first attempts to run her household meet with stiff resistance from those who benefit from the way things are. She may have risen in society, but Cathy feels like a cog in a machine that she can't steer in the right direction. The harder she pushes, the more she discovers her seeming powerlessness. Lord Iris also wants her to have a child within the year, against her own wishes.

There's no apparent industry in the Nether, and agriculture is impossible given the perpetual mist and half-light that surrounds everything. People don't age or fall sick unless they're cursed or forced to live in the mundane world. This distracted me from the story because I spent time wondering where some of the Nether families' great wealth came from (presumably it's magical, or stolen from the mundane world, but we're never told). But in one way it sets up this society as perfectly rigid. No-one can advance through industry or science, and there's no point waiting for the older generation to die off and make way for new ideas or new ways of doing things, when no-one ages.

In this novel we see more of Margritte, a smart woman who feels she has been treated very shabbily by William Iris. She is out for revenge, but the target of her wrath may not be the person who deserves it the most. We also meet Rupert, a sorcerer and the Chancellor of Oxenford. Rupert dresses and talks like a modern teenager, although he's hundreds of years old. He's as smart as his position implies, but he also seems amoral. He takes an interest in Margritte, but we are led to wonder whether he will protect her, or be a danger to her.

Then there's Sam, who is wracked with guilt about his wife. He's determined to discover the truth about the vast, ruthless corporation she worked for. In the Nether, Max is looking into the Agency that provides all of the serving staff for the wealthy families. The sorcerers seems to be at war with each other. Will is trying to get to grips with his new position in society, whilst Cathy wants to start a revolution. There are quite a lot of threads weaving together this storyline, so the plot is intriguing. I had the sense that most characters were being played by someone. In this series the obvious culprits are rarely the right ones, so I enjoyed that twistiness.

Skirting carefully around how it all finishes, I have mixed feelings about the ending. Although many threads get wrapped up, and it does finish with a big, emotionally satisfying scene that captures the main theme, I would have liked one more chapter for a greater sense of closure. The ending is implied, rather than spelled out. I suppose that means there's scope for a sequel or a spin-off. That's no bad thing, since this is tightly-plotted, captivating writing with engaging and multifaceted characters.

19th May 2014

Book Details

Year: 2013

Categories: Books


If you like this, try:

The Grass King's Concubine cover    

The Grass King's Concubine by Kari Sperring
A privileged young woman goes searching for the reason her life is charmed, but her curiosity takes her to another world, and mortal danger.

Copperhead cover    

Copperhead by Tina Connolly
Helen is beautiful, but what good are perfect looks if people use them to keep her powerless? The sequel to Ironskin.

5 star rating

Review ©

Source: ARC