Curtis Craddock’s 2017 fantasy An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, the opening novel in the Risen Kingdoms series, received starred reviews from both Booklist and Kirkus Reviews, no mean feat. Here’s a snippet from Kirkus:
This debut fantasy is set in the Risen Kingdoms, where countries float in the air and people take airships from place to place, princes battle for a throne, and dashing musketeers defend feisty princesses.
In other hands, this would be a swashbuckling gaslamp romp, but author Craddock chooses to go darker. His princess, Isabelle des Zephyrs, cousin of His Imperial Majesty Leon XIV of L’Empire Céleste, is feared for her deformed hand and abused by her father and brother for failing to possess their family’s saint-given magic, the ability to drain the life from others with the bloodshadow. Her only refuges are her trusty protector, the musketeer Jean-Claude, and her secret work as a scientist and mathematician, pursuits forbidden to women on pain of death. Saintly lines are supposed to remain pure, so Princess Isabelle can’t understand why the younger prince of Aragoth, who bears his own royal family’s gift of traveling through mirrors, would wish to marry her; nevertheless, she welcomes the opportunity for a new life… The skulduggery is pleasurably complex, the emotional stakes feel convincing, and the reasonably happy ending feels earned. And while Jean-Claude’s doggedness in protecting Isabelle is admirable, Isabelle is decidedly and enjoyably not a damsel in need of rescue.
Charles Stross calls it a “gaslight fantasy in the tradition of Alexander Dumas,” and admittedly that’s the quote that got my attention. The second book in the series, A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery, arrived last week, offering more tales of “adventure full of palace intrigue, mysterious ancient mechanisms, and aerial sailing ships!” (David D. Levine). Here’s the description.
[Click the images for airship-sized versions.]
Isabelle des Zephyrs has always been underestimated throughout her life, but after discovering the well of hidden magic within her, unveiling a centuries-long conspiracy, and stopping a war between rival nations, she has gained a newfound respect amongst the cutthroat court.
All that is quickly taken away when Isabelle is unfairly convicted of breaking the treaty she helped write and has her political rank and status taken away. Now bereft, she nevertheless finds herself drawn into mystery when her faithful musketeer Jean-Claude uncovers a series of gruesome murders by someone calling themselves the Harvest King.
As panic swells, the capital descends into chaos, when the emperor is usurped from the throne by a rival noble. Betrayed by their allies and hunted by assassins, Isabelle and Jean-Claude alone must thwart the coup, but not before it changes l’Empire forever.
We previously covered An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors back in 2017. Here’s the publishing details for both volumes.
An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (416 pages, $26.99 hardcover, $15.99 trade paperback, $9.99 digital, August 29, 2017)
A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery (416 pages, $27.99 in hardcover, $14.99 digital, January 22, 2019)
Both volumes were published by Tor. The covers are by Thom Tenery.