Lorel Clayton will be on tour April 6-13 with the novel Tangle of Thornes
When Eva’s brother is murdered in a city of rude elves and matriarchal dwarves where humans have no rights, she is forced to investigate the crime herself. What she discovers brings her up against a powerful slave-trading cartel, dark gods, and—worst of all—her twin sister. Both her family and the elven authorities want her hushed. She has no money and no magic of her own with which to combat them, but she does have an illegally-freed slave, a senile nanny, and an ex-almost-boyfriend on her side. Even when she nearly loses her job and almost loses her head in a sword fight on the same night, she isn’t deterred. It’s when the nanny goes missing that she really starts to worry.
Femme fatale turns hard-boiled investigator in this first Eva Thorne novel. Set in a fantasy world where magic and machines can’t stand against the God of Death, humans are on the run from the god’s invasion. Highcrowne is the only refuge, but that means living in the Outskirts of an ancient city ruled by Avian mages, indifferent dwarves, and elves who’d prefer to see humans as their slaves. It’s worst for Eva’s people, Solhans, because they were the ones who summoned the Dead God into the world. No one wants her kind in Highcrowne and there are plenty who would be happy to see her brother dead. There are too many motives and not enough time to unravel them, because other people are dying … and Eva is fast running out of vacation time.
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Her brother Viktor is the only one of her family Eva wishes to claim, so when he’s murdered and mutilated, she doggedly pursues every clue available, even when they take her to places she’d really rather not visit. She first hires a dwarf detective, but when he shows up dead, Eva decides to do the investigating herself, reluctantly accepting the help of her brother’s best friend Duane (aka “The Boss” aka “Adder”), whom she detests.
As a human and hated Solhan, she’s at the bottom of a food chain that includes Elves and Dwarves, to name a few of the races in her world. And since she refuses to learn how to use – let alone utilize – her natural magic because she believes it to be evil, Eva must rely on humans like Duane, and her few Dwarfish allies to assist with her investigation. When the answers to her questions about her brother’s murder are revealed, both Eva and the reader are stunned.
The world building is quite intricate and fascinating. Lorel Clayton draw on various fantasy tropes (Elves and Dwarves) and create a few of their own (i.e., the Dead God). A few things, such as dirigibles, which seem to have little value except to give the world a steam-punkish feel, were a bit distracting from the story as a whole. At first I had a difficult time getting into the story, but as I continued reading, I became drawn into the tale of a woman seeking vengeance for her murdered brother, while at the same time fighting her personal demons, which include her own Solhan nature.
As a reader, I think she fights too hard against the darker side of her nature, that she should come to some sort of accord with who she is, but perhaps that will happen as the series continues. Eva’s a bit of a damsel in distress who fights against being such, and for that I can admire her. Eva wasn’t a very sympathetic character for me, especially since she makes such a point of despising her roots but doesn’t hesitate to use them for her own ends when such use becomes expedient; I did, however, enjoy the book as a whole. There’s something here for almost everyone – fantasy, adventure, action, and a bit of romance. I’m interested to see where Eva’s further adventures take her.
I give this book 4 stars out of 5.