The Sisters Mederos
Card sharps, an alternate-world port city run by shipping Guildmasters, a disgraced family, a gentleman bandit, and a hint of magic.
If you took a fantasy heist novel such as Bardugo’s Six of Crows or Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora and mixed it with Austen or Cheney’s manners-and-spies book of alternate Portugal– Golden City– you’d have The Sisters Mederos.
There’s not a central heist per se, but the book begins with a powerful merchant shipping family disgraced and penniless sending their daughters away. The real action begins when Yvienne and Tesara return to the city, however, and both find decidedly unladylike ways to help their family survive its fall. Yvienne looks into which other powerful Guild members profited from her family’s losses, as well as decides to steal from them. Tesara regains some social footing and enters the balls and salons to seek out backroom card games.
Both of them must enter places they’re unwanted, find a way to play the roles of biddable young society girls, and ward off unwanted advances by powerful men. In some ways their home situation is straight out of an Austen novel as the father is ineffectual and confused and the mother constantly berating and dismissive especially of Tesara. There is some hint that the mother knows of Tesara’s ability to resonate with wind and water, although this doesn’t play a very big role in this first novel as Tesara spends most of the novel trying to recover from a brutal childhood incident.
This is pure escapist fantasy presented in mannered prose. There is a hint of romance, but it doesn’t really push that button for me. It’s more manners and dress up and hiding in dumbwaiters and pretending to be servants, and secret meetings.