The world building is superlative – I never felt that I was being spoon-fed when I read this novel. The author fleshes out sufficient space for the reader to make sense of Alpennia as both a reflection of 19th century Europe and its ‘other’ – a realm of fantasy in which our awareness of religion and history might be turned on its head. The prose style both challenged and entertained, and I found myself unable to stop turning the pages as the narrative reached its climax.
Daughter of Mystery is a book which really, properly examines its magic system, and completely wonderful to read if you’re at all interested in the mechanics of a fantasy world. There are no easy answers here. Yet it does not forget its roots in historical fiction either, with recognisable and well-loved tropes such as chance meetings, issues of inheritance and propriety, and secret identities. There’s a marvellous eye for detail in everything from style of dress to archaic law in a way that even I, as a novice in historical fiction, was able to engage with and enjoy.
This was...one of the sweetest love stories I have read in a long time. Barbara and Margerit are believable in their roles, particularly Margerit who is at first a bit clueless about her feelings that develop for Barbara. When I began reading, I suspected that Jones would take us down the old trite road of an antagonistic relationship between the heiress Margerit and her initially reluctant bodyguard Barbara in order to heighten the sexual tension. But she didn't. She gave us something new - a genuine friendship built upon their shared interest in philosophy and theology. Their discussions about the meaning of texts and translations were some of my favorite dialog. One of my favorite romantic scenes happens as Barbara, more skilled in language, translates the love lament of an opera to Margerit, holding her gaze as she does.
I loved studious, quietly determined Margerit and loyal, troubled Barbara, and the chemistry between them was magical. I loved how much they bonded over their shared intellectual curiosity, and I loved the way their relationship explored trust, obligation and power dynamics from a number of angles.
Antuniet is an incredibly compelling heroine. It’s hard to find a really satisfying “unlikable” protagonist, especially a female one, but Antuniet hits all my major bullet points. Although she’s competent and remarkably self-sufficient, she nonetheless manages to sabotage her own cause repeatedly, mostly by virtue of her own stubbornness. ... Altogether the book is stuffed with mysticism, history, political intrigue, romance and character growth. It’s a rich and dense reading experience, different to any other book I can recall recently reading. I’ve heard it called “Jane Austen with lesbians” but that strikes me as misleading. Jane Austen, after all, wrote lowkey domestic romances contemporary to her time. Alpennia has more the feel of a classic adventure novel, although none of the characters but Barbara are particularly apt to physical confrontation and the main action of the novel is mental. It’s still a romance, and still guarantees a happy end, though the twists and turns on the way to that end changes its shape dramatically from where it began. An unusual but satisfying ending.
The characters are interesting and complex and likable, and the 1820s European politics are well-grounded. I found it a very satisfying book, and a fitting follow-up to the previous two. I hope to see more in this world. Good fantasy doesn't have to be grimdark, really it doesn't! I'll confess to reading this one slowly, to make it last. Highly recommended.
This book managed to consistently confound my expectations. Every time I thought I knew what I was getting, I turned out to be wrong. ... I found this very compelling! I was so invested in the relationship between Barbara and Margerit, and I did manage to hand-sell this book to three people after I read it. If you like fantasy, Regency romances, and/or reading about characters piecing together history, I definitely recommend it.
Jeanne and Antuniet are both very flawed characters...we see inside them both to the raw hearts, the wanting something better of themselves as well as the world, the need for a love neither ever got. It works terrifically. Pretty much the entire romantic conflict is grounded in nothing more than their difficult personalities and lifelong emotional habits that need to be broken, and as a result we get an intensely believable and hopeful romance. This is a long book and full scale fantasy...which includes alchemy, politics, friendship groups and plotting against royalty. ... It's a huge world which makes it a really immersive read, you can just sink in. And the alchemical magic is just fabulous.