I say “soap opera like” in the best possible way. A disinherited heir trying to regain power, siblings facing the potential of having to duel one another to the death, a surprise twin, a scheming patriarch manipulating others to further his agenda, and everyone is trying to gain power and raise themselves in the hierarchy. All this is set amidst a magical tournament to determine which House will lead the Unseen World, the world of magicians kept secret from the mundane. Every twenty years or so Fortune’s Wheel begins Turning, ‘When it ceases rotation, all will be made new”.
The Turning is a series of challenges between Houses in the form of magical duels to determine superiority, with the winner getting to set the direction of the Unseen World. Each House chooses a champion to represent them in the Turning. Champions do not need to be House members, but if they are, the chosen tend to not be heirs. And for good reason, at the start of the Turning duels are non-lethal but become mortal as it progresses. Entering as champion means being willing to die for your sponsor. A Turning is also when a new House can be created. An aspirant can enter a champion and depending on standings at the end, can establish their own House.
Sydney is a powerful magician that arrives on the scene at the start of the Turning. She is looking to make her mark and accepts the offer to be champion from Laurent Beauchamps, a magician hoping to start his own House. Both outsiders to the established system, the pair recognize in each other the opportunity to achieve their goals.
Less powerful, or even mundane, family members of Houses often work in industries to enable magicians to move through non-magical society in secrecy. After all, how can you disinherit an heir if you don’t have lawyers versed in magical law?
Harper is a mundane with a tiny bit of magical ability taught to her by her best friend Rose, a magician. Several years ago Rose was murdered by a magician and Harper has been seeking a way to enter the Unseen World to find Rose’s killer.
Kat Howard almost immediately sucked me into her alternate New York where powerful families are heads of magical Houses. But she also left me with several unanswered questions about her world which has me hoping there will be future books in which she delves more into the mythos she made.