Lily Yu is having a pre-wedding dinner with her family when the next strike in the ongoing battle against the Lupis’ ancient enemy strikes
And the victim is her mother – her memory is wiped out, she thinks she is still a child again. And she is not the only victim.
And while the loss eats at Lily’s heart, reality itself is under threat and she tries to find the truth behind this bizarre and incomprehensible attack
I mentioned in the last book how much I absolutely loved Lily because of her professionalism, her logic, her intelligence; her careful way of addressing the problems. I mention her actual investigative skills and how absolutely awesome she is. Well I want to add another layer to that – I touched on her ethics last book but I really need to praise her integrity. There’s an awesome element of her not wanting to lead this investigation because it touches so close to her family – but she’s actually trusted to lead it, especially the shadow unit which has absolutely no accountability – because she is so concerned about the lack of oversight and bias that she can be trusted to be fair. Her personally acknowledged bias keeps her honest because her ethics, her integrity is so reliable that she is the one who can be most relied upon to second guess herself; that’s her integrity.
This is so special because of the genre; after all we have no shortage of protagonists who simply have to shoot people in the head or have to torture people. Usually with lots of angst about how terrible it is they have to murder people but they totally have to do it. This is not Lily – and not because she isn’t capable of murder. She knows she is – but that’s why she has such an iron hard moral integrity
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Lily is an awesome protagonist with some awesome conflicts (including her difficulties with faith and her history as to why).
And this book lets us look more at her family, especially her mother. Like so many protagonists in this genre (I say this a lot about this series because they’re really good at subverting a surprising amount), Lily doesn’t have a great relationship with her mother. Even her larger family is something of a wider burden for Lily (except for Madame Yu who is, of course, absolutely awesome in every word). So to see more of her family, to see her have a full family, no-one tragically dead, no-one terrible or abusive. Just a genuine family who aren’t perfect, but do care for each other. Characters who can get really angry with each other but continue to move on and love
Through that we continue to see Lily’s relationship with Rule – again with difficulties, not always understanding each other, often being angry with each other but always loving each other, being patient and trying to understand each other. No random misunderstanding causing a book long loathing of each other – no, any difficulties are followed with understanding always with underlying love. They work so excellently together – and it’s just part of her ongoing complex and powerful relationships whether with Rule or Cynna or Sam.
I’ve mentioned repeatedly how I like the world building of this story now it has focused down more – and I really like that this book is more willing to countenance that there are other forces out there: there isn’t just the Lupis’ own war no matter how epic and all encompassing that is. There are other forces, the influx of magic into the world has woke other powers – while still keeping the focus overall still on that great battle and how it is continuing to play out
This battle continues to be both intensely personal (especially with Lily this book with it hitting so close to her family) and widely epic which is such a wonderful balance to strike – and so hard to do well. The plot is well paced, fascinating and shows off all this world and characters to an excellent degree.
Lily is a WoC and with her family is all Asian. This is never hidden or minor, never downplayed and definitely informs Lily’s and her mother’s past in ways that are seen in their characterisation without overwhelming stereotypes. We have a number of other POC through the book – police and Lupi both include Black and Latino characters albeit not in any major presence. We do have Hardy, a Black character. On the one hand he is honoured because he is ultimately put on an incredibly high pedestal. But, at the same time, he is sacrificed, he is there for his random woo-woo and there’s no real characterisation or even meaningful development of him. We also have Benedict and Nettie Two-Horses both of which are extremely meaningful characters in the greater series
And I would definitely like to see more of Rule’s interaction with Nettie which, in turn, excellently helps put a new lens on the way women are treated in this society which started out so poorly. That ability, determination to challenge the male characters makes them an integral authority. The way she even resists the subtle claiming of Rule and the Lupi.
This book hasn’t put its LGBT characters back into the plot box – but has kept them marginal. Li Qin and Madame Yu are there but not a huge part of the book (and it seems any book where it is referenced is one where they won’t play more than a supporting role). Lily and Rule’s minor gay relatives continued to be minor characters. They’re there and not invisible which is an improvement on every book but the last one – but nor is it something I would say is particularly notable either.
I have to return again to the world, development and the sheer creativity of this book. From the call back to Nathan and Kai and the Sidhe Queens that have been nicely, subtly built up over the series – we have this excellent growing world with more and more of the magic, the different realms, the philosophy and rules along with the characters and history all excellently moving all mixed with enough character development and awesome action to keep it exciting. I love this series.