RogerBW's Blog

All is Fair, Emma Newman 02 March 2024

2013 fantasy, third volume of its series. Cathy tries to kick off her project to reform society in the Nether; Max still works for the increasingly erratic sorcerer Ekstrand; Sam is dragged into the Elemental Court.

Newman always surprises. Mostly in a good way. One might expect that these three stories would come together and all of our viewpoint characters would end up in a big confrontation… but, while they meet occasionally, they don't even particularly trust each other. Cathy's husband Will is added as another viewpoint, and while he's still trying to be good, he isn't very good at it; even as he makes massive steps, by the standards of his frozen society, towards being a feminist ally, he adds significantly more bad things to the tally of bad things he did last time. While these first three volumes were packaged as an omnibus during the three-year gap before the next one came out, this definitely isn't the end of the story.

We also meet a second sorcerer, and I started to get a feeling of the Arcane Manifestation Disorder from T. Kingfisher's Nine Goblins: being a magician takes over your brain and doesn't leave very much room for being a person. (And it appears to enhance any existing tendency towards paranoia, too.) These people are as easily manipulated as everyone else. (And Will comes to realise how he was manipulated in the last book, but said manipulation has put him into a place of power, so.)

What does fall down slightly for me is that both Cathy and Sam seem suddenly to have solutions to their problems handed to them; in each case they've carried on doing the things that they've been doing, with little success, then suddenly sometning external shifts and it works after all (even though we know that this isn't an overall resolution). Meanwhile Max and the gargoyle uncover a big villain who hasn't been at all foreshadowed, and assume that they must be responsible for everything…

I liked the second book more in later contemplation than while reading it; this one's gone the other way around, in that I enjoyed it while reading it but on reflectiion I'm picking holes in it. Still recommended, though, and I'll carry on with the series.

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See also:
Nine Goblins, T Kingfisher

Previous in series: Any Other Name | Series: The Split Worlds | Next in series: A Little Knowledge

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