I love a good historical fantasy, and this was an utter delight. Set in the early 1920s, Clara Johnson is able to see spirits and other entities from Over There, and because of a deal she made with an Enigma whenever someone asks for help, she is compelled to assist in their own deals with Enigmas. Folks think the Charm is worth the Trick, but Clara is all too aware the cost a Trick actually demands. When she is asked for help figuring out why a young man suddenly has lost all personality and stares blankly into space and keeps trying to wander off, no Enigmas come to make a deal and Clara soon finds herself wrapped up in a conspiracy to steal an ancient ring and save her community.
I loved realizing how many historical details were woven into this story, and the appearance of familiar faces like Langston Hughes and W.E.B. DuBois. Even Clara’s backstory was inspired by Clara “Carrie” Johnson who during the 1919 riots shot and killed a white cop, and two years after her arrest was released from jail because her actions were ruled as self defense. But the thing I truly enjoy with a historical fantasy is how the fantastical elements are woven into a story, and in this case it’s based on folk magic and magic brought back from Africa during enslavement and passed through generations.
This isn’t just a historical fantasy though – there’s also a heist, and I loved all the characters involved. Zelda is a fierce friend and joins the scheme to help Clara, even though she’s not bound by a Charm. Israel Lee is a well-known musician whose music can hypnotize, and he was promised by the Enigma he dealt with that if he gives him the ring, he’ll be free of his Trick, but also his Charm. Jesse Lee is Israel’s cousin, and is able to take and change folks memories, and Aristotle is a vaudeville actor who is able to change his appearance, but the Trick is no one sees him when he wears his own face. In an effort to end their deals, these five folks team up to steal the ring from one of the most well-to-do bootleggers in their area.
Overall this was a really great story and I really loved the characters and the magic. If you’re someone who enjoys historical fantasy, heist novels, and a slow romance this book is absolutely one you should check out!