This was recommended to me by a friend almost a year ago–we met up after years (like, 5+? 10+?) and realized we both shared a fondness for fantasy novels, which are apparently thin on the ground in Paris–and I ended up hemming and hawing due to some vaguely unsavory tumblr posts from an author I follow. This was around when Shadow and Bone premiered on Netflix, and the gist of it was that Bardugo had some problematic rep in her books, e.g. the tired use of “almond” to describe East Asian eyes.
The thing is, now I can’t find that post and for what it’s worth I can’t really find examples of other people saying the same thing??? Did I imagine all of it?? Who knows, I’m glad that I picked up this book because it turned out to hit my specific sweet points which includes: old school liberal arts colleges with historical flourishes and Ritual and faff and magic.
In other news, like The Secret History but with magic? Directly up my alley, no need for dilution whatsoever.
The plot is rather straightforward–all those secret societies at Yale that us rank and file are vaguely aware of? They’re actually magic, of the sort that ends up drawing the dead/ghosts into the real world. They’re drawn to nexuses of magic and symbols of life aka giant raucous parties or blood-heavy group spells. Our protagonist Alex is a newly enlisted “Dante,” due to her ability to naturally see Greys (ghosts) (it is a truth universally acknowledged that any book with Fancy People Doing Magic must have new words for everything that us plebes also use). Alongside the old Dante, now known as “Virgil,” she’ll go from house to house overseeing their rituals and parties to make sure nothing untoward happens.
Spoiler alert: something untoward happens.
I think you’ll enjoy this book if you’re that genre of books that involves someone on the outside getting a peek into the world of the rare and powerful–Alex is the definition of “outsider,” and while she genuinely doesn’t want to (and cannot) become one of Them she (and we) are endlessly curious about their lives.
Lastly, it’s really amusing to have read this book and be writing the review so soon after The Golden Enclaves came out for reasons that really need spoilers for BOTH books: [it didn’t occur to me until just now that the Big Reveal in both books is that people are murdered to create magic homes for priviledged people! I suppose it’s not super unique–it’s basically the story of colonialism, isn’t it–but amusing nonetheless.]