Mercy Wong of Chinatown in San Francisco has what her fortune-telling mother calls “bossy cheeks”: she is someone who gets things done. And what she wants to do is gain entrance to the prestigious St. Clare’s School for Girls. Once she elevates her own circumstances and becomes a successful businesswoman, she plans to lift the rest of her family out of poverty, so that her father doesn’t have to work as a laundryman eighteen hours a day and Jack, her weak-lunged younger brother, won’t be condemned to follow in the family business.
St. Clare’s accepts white, wealthy students only, but this doesn’t deter her. With The Book for Business-Minded Women as her guide, Mercy wangles admission into St. Clare’s through a mixture of deal-brokering and bribery. In return for arranging for a wealthy chocolatier to expand his business into Chinatown, Mercy will be allowed to attend, posing as a Chinese heiress to deflect suspicion.
Once she’s in, Mercy faces a host of new challenges, from hostile classmates to suspicious teachers. Refusing to back down, Mercy makes friends among her fellow students (as well as enemies) and doubles down on her mission. All that ends on April 18, 1906, the day a catastrophic earthquake hits San Francisco, destroying both the school and Mercy’s home in Chinatown. Now with the girls of St. Clare’s taking refuge in a public park and dependent on the army for help, what can Mercy do, with her plan and entire life entirely upended? It’s up to her find out just how far her strength, determination, and “bossy” cheeks can take her as the city burns in the earthquake’s aftermath.
Go Jung-hwa is a rare bird in the oil-rig city of New Arcadia—she’s an “organic,” the only person with no genetic modification, digital implants, or bionic enhancements. An unplanned, unwanted, and scorned daughter, marked with a scarlet stain on half her body due to the congenital disorder Sturge-Weber, Hwa’s unedited appearance doubly marks her as an outsider on the rig, where everyone modifies their bodies, whether for beauty or health, and utilizes implanted tech to communicate, access information, interact with the city at large … or to murder
Hwa has made a name for herself as a top-notch fighter, and she has a solid job with the city’s union for sex workers as a bodyguard. Her name becomes even more valuable after the astronomically powerful Lynch family buys New Arcadia, whose oil rig determines that of the city’s. The head of the Lynch family hires Hwa to bodyguard his youngest son, who is also his heir. Because Hwa is an organic, she can’t be tracked or controlled through implants, and the stain on her face distorts facial recognition software. Hwa is charged with protecting Lynch’s heir from assassination by a killer who Lynch believes is threatening his son from the far future.
No sooner does she accept when a serial killer begins targeting residents of New Arcadia—former charges from Hwa’s old job. Hwa is now on a mission to track down those responsible for threatening the safety and future of New Arcadia and for daring to mess with the people Hwa swore to protect at all cost.
The Suffering is the second book in a loosely connected duology of YA horror novels that I would honestly never have picked up— not normally being interested in horror—if Thea from The Book Smugglers had not written such a fantastic review of the first book, The Girl from the Well. While The Suffering is the logical continuation of the The Girl from the Well, the two books read more or less like standalone novels—you get a bit of benefit from having read the first one, but it’s not entirely necessary to understand or enjoy the second. (Nevertheless I will technically be alluding to characters and situations from the first book that will count as spoilers.)
Remember two months ago how I wrote in my review of Swordspoint that I hoped to read The Fall of the Kings very soon? Yeah, that took a while.
Reading these books for the first time has led me to familiarize myself with their unusual history. Swordspoint, the first book set in the world containing the city of Riverside, was published in 1987. The Fall of the Kings is the second book in chronological publishing order (2002) but not in linear narrative order, taking place eighty or so years after Swordspoint, whereas the third book in this loosely connected series, The Privilege of the Sword, takes place only a couple decades after Swordspoint. As all three books were written to be read as standalones, it doesn’t matter in which order one reads them. I decided to go with chronological publishing order, in part because I was curious how the gaps in time between the writing and publishing the three books might affect each respective novel.
The Fall of the Kings differs from Swordspoint in three ways:
- The vast majority of the story takes place among the middle class residents of the city and in particular the city’s University, briefly identified in Swordspoint as Alec’s prior place of residence before taking up with St. Vier.
- The book is a collaboration between Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. Kushner is the originator of this universe and first set of characters, and Sherman is the one who first came up with the idea of writing an in-universe story set amidst the middle class and University.
- There is magic. Old, wild, powerful, and wondrous magic.
Do you like historical fiction novels?
Do you like horror novels?
Do you like novels with a light touch of the fantastic?
Do you like novels written for teenagers that are far superior to many novels written for adults?
Do you like novels about the roles of women and men but especially women set in Victorian England?
Do you like novels about the history of science and scientific exploration?
Do you like murder mysteries?
Do you like prose that is as perfect as prose can be?
Do you like novels about girls who lie, who sneak around and keep secrets, who want revenge, who can be cruel, who constantly defy expectations and face danger and punishment for either being themselves or for being female to begin with?
If you said yes to these questions, then you have no excuse not to read The Lie Tree.