After Daisy’s mother died after her father disappeared, Daisy became the responsibility of her aunt and uncle. And they would very much like to marry her off and get her out of their hair
Daisy is not thrilled with the chinless future planned for… and instead is more determined to find her missing father; in the Texican Territories, a continent away
Her sister joins her on the voyage - but when there’s a murder on her journey and an innocent man seems likely to hang for it, she cannot justy move on; not until she tries for justice, especially since no-one else seems willing
This is a continuation of Shelley Adina’s Magnificent Devices series - being set in the same world and with many excellent call outs and connections to the characters within that series. But those connections are small, none of the main characters are particularly intimate or involved with those characters, those characters have not adventured with these characters and have no real draw upon them. And I think this is important. Claire and all her friends and family and flock are awesome characters but their stories have all progressed to a whole new level. Between them they have vast resources, extremely powerful, loyal friends and connections at the highest possible level of society. They are not the plucky underdogs standing firm against the vast world. They are integral to that vast world. That doesn’t mean Claire & co can’t have plenty of stories yet - but the scale and scope of them, by necessity, need to be much grander. We already saw this in the last few books - defeating invasions of England, stopping a war between the Californios and the Texican territory. The Story of Claire, Gloria, Alice, the Mopsies et al has, by necessity, become far grander and far more epic than how it started
So when returning somewhat to the root of the story, while keeping the connection and call outs to the old books for excellent recognition and confirmation that this is the same world, we also have a protagonist who will not be able to send up the batsignal and expect all the arsenal of Claire’s flock to rain down. Similarly, while you can pick up any of the books in the Magnificent Devices series and not need to have read the previous books: but this
Also there’s Mr. Featherstonehaugh who is sadly lacking in the chin department and so very suitable. Alas this poor man, may he one day actually find a bride.
So we have Daisy - and she’s a wonderful character - different again from all the previous protagonists we’ve seen before: yet still strong, capable, determined, brave and intelligent. It’s one of the gems of this greater world and series that we all of these women who are so very very different from each other yet still have their own strengths
In Daisy’s case, she’s probably much more conservative than most of her fellow protagonists. She doesn’t exactly rail against the mores of society exactly, and even her sister finds her unnecessarily proper. I actually like this, especially next to the other series, because it shows competent and capable women not just those exceptions who move against society as competent: a common theme in the series. But she does object to her uncle and aunt trying to pawn her off on any suitable, albeit dull and chinless, men they can find, at least in part to remove their duty to support her.
Despite Daisy obviously having issues with this, I like how they aren’t demonised per se so much as it is seen as frustrating that her uncle and aunt’s finances drive them to such a level. And so Daisy decides the best way out of this is to run away with her sister to find their missing father
I do rather like how while looking for a different male relative, while along the way she proves to everyone just how very capable she is, especially when read in the context of the 13 other books and several examples within this book of women who are quite capable of looking after themselves.
The plot brings us a murder mystery, though I think that implies the story is a whodunnit, when it really isn’t. The villain is pretty clearly identified as the villain as soon as he appears, there’s no real effort to identify him and the methods for entrapping him do not require their intelligence and capability so much as their courage
What this book does do is introduce the characters, their motivations, their conflicts and the situation they find themselves in. This series has always been a character driven story and this is no exception. Seeing Daisy manage in a strange land, her moral compass that refuses to allow an injustice to happen even when everyone else seems willing to sleepwalk into it, navigating through the difficult social mores and risking her reputation even when it becomes necessary all gives us an excellent picture of Daisy and her sister. As well as introduce Barney - who is an interesting male character with something of a more involved past with several twists and complications: this is something of a new direction in the books where the focus has been very much on the awesome women leading the series. There are men who are important part of the series but they don’t have as complicated lives as the female characters. Barney was also taught by Alaia, a first nations character we saw in previous books
We also have an Asian girl, Lin who has come through very hard experiences and has to challenge a lot of class and race prejudice - including Daisy’s own reputation consciousness at times: there’s also a street urchin - all of which are definitely going to be recurring characters
Another element I’m interested in his Daisy’s sister - who apparently has supernatural abilities which is going to bring a whole new angle to this series.
We continue to have the excellent setting created by the Magnificent Devices with our protagonists in a part of the world they don’t really understand but I think this a masterful addition to Daisy’s own character development - after all, she is somewhat more conservative and conventional than previous characters and already we see her moved out of her comfort zone and assumptions by the new, less rigid, culture she finds herself in.
This book continues much of what I always loved about the Magnificent Devices series - an involved world, some excellent, intelligent, capable, flawed but growing female characters with excellent relationships between them. Being in a deeply seixst era and world, but not being anachronistic in their reaction to it. They aren’t acting as other than Victorian ladies, but that doesn’t mean they’re behaving like doormats either - they are objecting within that societal constraints. It promises for an excellent swashbuckling campaign with some very fun characters and a whole lot of exploration to come using this excellent world with interesting cameos to continue this metastory