Living on the Edge, Rose lives very much between worlds, desperately trying to scrabble an existence while living between worlds and with scant resources.
Even her magic did little but make life more difficult – drawing her to far too much negative attention. The latest of which is Declan, magical aristocrat who has his own agenda and is definitely going to draft Rose into it.
While Declan is a problem, the beasts also moving into the Edge are a far more lethal threat demanding attention.
Another Ilona Andrews series, so much glee! Given some of the books I’ve been reading lately, I think I deserve this. Of course, I risked disappointment – but I’ve never read a book by Ilona Andrews I didn’t love. And this is no different
I love the world building of this. The whole concept of the three worlds – Earth (Broken), the magical world (the Weird), rich in magic and, clinging between the two, able to travel to each but not part of either, The Edge
The people of the Edge have magic, but rarely anything like enough magic to compare with The Weird. They eke a living on the edge of both realms, trading with both, working in the Broken without the resources that could access as full members of the society. They live on a tiny sliver of land with very little resources, desperately trying to scratch a living. And with magic – which is not always benevolent as curses and odd creatures can abound. For people on the very edge of their resources, the extra randomness that magic can bring just makes life even harder
This is really well shown with Rose’s siblings – George has the awesome power of reincarnation: except the cost of it and his compassion is killing him. It’s a terrible conflict – how do you tell a child not to care? While, a shapeshifter, doesn’t quite think like a human which Rose has to gently work round (which awesomely contrasts with yet more in depth and complicated world building from how The Weird treats their shapeshifters).
As ever with an Iona Andrews novel, we have a lot of detail – into how magic works, into the world building of both The Weird (I love their concept of how aristocracy as an almost meritocracy – it’s such an original little concept), into the politics and into the daily lives of the people of The Edge. There’s so much detail so well conveyed but none of it delivered via clumsy info dumping. We have so much here but none of it is delivered awkwardly or in a way that feels unnatural. It works, like it.
Rose’s story is also an excellent one. Her struggles raising her brothers. Her relationship with her grandmother. Her difficult childhood and parents (yes, she’s a semi-orphan and yes that’s a tired trope. I also don’t like how her mother was portrayed – it was sympathetic and surprisingly non-judgemental given her mother’s mental illness contributed to her sleeping with other women’s husbands, but it also served to really create Rose’s story of burden and sorrow rather than actually flesh her out into a character or person in her own right).
She has great power, but that makes her desirable and useful – it makes her a resource to exploit in a place that has few resources and fewer defences. People tried to kidnap her, force her to become a broodmare: she’s wary but she’s also young and actually wants a life. I like the conflict and complexity of her
The problem is that that complexity comes with a whole lot of her hating a lot of the women of the community which is sad to see – but she does build a rapport to a degree through the book
I was extremely leery of romance in this book. Declan arrived on the scene and there’s a whole lot of coercion there. But the way it’s handled does an excellent job of breaking a lot of the tropes I hate when we see romances that involve “dubious consent.” There was a lot of effort to ensure that Rose’s own wants and desires were depicted and communicated while Rose herself was very careful to leave herself with protections and safeguards. Even when affection developed she never trusted him and I really appreciate that. I appreciate a protagonist who doesn’t throw caution and common sense to the wind because her heart and/or loins have spoken. Especially when they’re a protagonist on whom other people rely. Common sense and romance can exist at the same time! No, really!
The whole concept of The Edge zone is used to excellently depict class differences. People living in straddle worlds but straddling those worlds leaves them with very little opportunity. They have no legal existence in either world and not enough resources or structure in their own world to build more than the basics of their own society. They are incredibly vulnerable. On Broken they have few to no legal rights (something they often pay huge amounts of money for in order to get even the limited protection that legal existence brings them). The people of The Edge in general, and Rose specifically, work minimum wage jobs, often under the table and desperately try to scrape by. Rose’s poverty and the pain is causes her in raising her two younger brothers, the things she can’t provide them, the shortages they have and the constant worry and negotiation she has to live with as she juggles their scant resources and has to make hard choices with what they have