When we were coming to the end of the editorial process on A Curse Dark as Gold, I asked Elizabeth C. Bunce what she was working on next. She said hesitantly, "It's a novel about a girl cat burglar in the middle of a religious civil war," and I said, "Oh, I LOVE religious civil war!" At which point she made fun of me for being a dork, but it was true; and what I love about (fictional) religious civil war is that it offers the possibility of so much rich and deeply felt conflict -- between two religions or two citizens on different sides, who may have other bonds that they then have to choose between. . . . So much delicious drama!
And the book definitely pays that off. But to dwell on it too much here is to obscure the other bit of awesomeness in her description, which is "girl cat burglar"; and this is indeed primarily the story of a girl cat burglar -- one who can see forbidden magic -- caught in a snowbound castle, with several factions of that brewing magical-religious civil war circling around her. And just as that plot implies, there is lots of sneaking and spying and magic and deeply hidden secrets and grand confrontations -- reminiscent of Sherwood Smith or Tamora Pierce or George R. R. Martin, perfect for curling up with and getting lost in on a cool autumn day. As the Horn Book review said: ". . . satisfyingly stuffed with plots and subplots, towers and hidden chambers, genteel pastimes and death-defying feats. Celyn is a strong, imaginative heroine-more than the generic 'feisty girl,' and the rest of the female cast also show noteworthy fortitude and inventiveness." Hurrah!
Check out Elizabeth's marvelous book trailer for the book:
Some things I love in the book, for readers to watch for:
- “Well, then, Celyn Contrare, it looks like you’re ours for keeps. . . . Give some accounting for yourself, and pray Tiboran made you a more entertaining storyteller than my son. And perhaps we won’t make you sleep in the scullery with the rats.” / “I’ve slept with rats before, milord.” Which didn’t sound at all like I’d intended
- The unique chess game that Elizabeth has invented, and the clever way it's used in the scene in which it appears
- How well and deeply she's worked out the seven gods and their associated powers and followers
- All the excellent backstories for the human characters as well
- How much this is a book-lover's book -- it involves reading and forging and secret codes and all sorts of delicious booky things like that
- The descriptions -- of the castle, the clothes, the meals; and the heroine's description of her home city of Gerse in one critical scene
- I paused in the threshold. “Why don’t you do it?” / He smiled. “Because I have you.”
- "What do we always do with them?" -- a line spoken by the villain, and hence one to put ice in the heart.
- The final climax, which made me behave rather more as if I were watching the climax of an action movie than reading a fantasy novel (e.g. some fist-pumping and woo-hoos)