This book threw me smack dab into a series that comprises nine books, this particular novel is the second book from a sub-series called The Streets of Maradaine.
This is a tightly-wound tale of a very well-organized group of street toughs, second-story men and women, hustlers, thieves and con-artists who in a previous novel had their whole neighborhood burned down and many loved ones killed. The focus here is on revenge and discovering just who benefited by torching Holver Alley and its residents. Some of the perpetrators were killed in the earlier book, but those behind the event have yet to be uncovered.
The characters are a wonderful eccentric cadre led by the brothers Verci and Asti. Asti is the brains and Verci is the gadgeteer extraordinaire. There’s quite a whiff of steampunk about this universe, though there are no guns or electricity---just a plethora of gadgets and some magic. The well-constructed environment is an amalgam of the Rococo and Victorian, in flavor.
Verci and Asti’s gang are determined to discover the perpetrators of the Holver Alley destruction and their information leads them to believe a Lord Henterman may have papers and ledgers revealing the money trail and illuminate the presence of a mysterious consortium. But why? What did this consortium want with the land of Holver Alley?
Lord Henterman is having a huge ball for the Feast of Saint Jontlen…which involves the guests hiding throughout the house in a symbolic staging of events leading up to the saint’s demise.
The perfect setting to infiltrate the house and find the information.
No surprise, there are layers of scheming here. Who is stirring up the other street gangs in Verci and Ast’s turf? Who is behind Lord Henterman? And just who is Lady Henterman? (She’s an unexpected ghost from Asti’s past as a former intelligence officer for the Crown.) And then there’s the unusual, charming party guest, Lady Melania of Canthen who lends a hand just when needed.
This tale is ratcheted up with constant tension, anxiety, near-misses, fights, chases and getaways. Some very awesome street battles and very clever intrigues. The pacing is full steam ahead, with very little respite. The personalities, of which there are many, are terrific. And how their lives, their needs and their personal agendas are all woven together here is fascinating.
For a random novel plucked out of a well-set up universe, this was a great read and hard to put down. ~~ Sue Martin
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