An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors

(The Risen Kingdoms #1)

by Curtis Craddock

4.5 stars, actually

I picked up this book because I’m trying to clear my TBR pile in the coronavirus age. It was put there some years ago and I don’t remember why. At first, it was hard slogging for me. This is not my favorite genre (it’s more adventure/world-building focused at first as an alternate fantasy world: cool, but I’m more emotionally character driven as a reader). But amongst all the details of a world literally floating in the air (giant floating continents only accessible by airships) with royalty possessed of some fairly dark powers of differing flavors, slowly came the shape of a princess with a disability and a sharp, analytical mind, an aging King’s Own Musketeer who will do anything to protect her, and some truly devious machinations at a pseudo-Spanish court that will draw the princess in as a political pawn.

The writing itself is great, flowing, with some kernels of emotional truth I highlighted a couple times. I did skim over some of the more descriptiony bits, but the action is fairly fast paced.

So why didn’t I love it? Hmmm, it might be mostly a personal preference for certain kinds of characters? The princess never really touched my heartstrings, and that happens alot with male-author written female characters. Don’t get me wrong, this princess was very cool, but she spends alot more time considering different strategies and politics than dealing with the emotional work of what the implications for that are. There’s a plot point in the latter part of the novel that revolves around a different princess being tortured…and I felt a lack of empathy or immediate urgency around her plight that didn’t set well with me.

So maybe lack of emotional resonance? I guess I like the really angsty stories more.