Richly-imagined and fully-realised urban fantasy adventure
Firstly, the settings. The Split Worlds has three distinct worlds: the fae realm, which is bright and harsh and dangerous; Mundanus (contemporary UK reality) and the Nether - a glorious vaguely Victorian/Regency world focused on class, etiquette and social status. The clash between this oddly fossilised world and our contemporary reality is fabulous and offers plenty to confuse or delight the characters, depending on their worldview.
The characters are also brilliant - quirky and inventive. I loved Cathy, the main character and also really enjoyed the scenes with Max and the Gargoyle. Cathy's predicament highlights the clash between Mundanus and the Nether, as a girl who has assimilated perfectly to our modern London but is then expected to follow her family's traditions, including a marriage arranged for the social benefit of the family.
The world building is the real strength of this book. Before the novels, Emma Newman had written many short stories set in this world and her grasp on it is clear. You can tell that world building's great when you aren't able to explain the world effectively yourself without confusing people, and yet reading the book wasn't a confusing experience for one moment! The complexity of the world is expertly revealed without overloading the reader.
Overall, this is strongly recommended for contemporary fantasy lovers. Its UK setting and well-thought-out systems of magic lend it originality and charm, while its use of a contemporary setting and matching attitudes results in a quirky and sometimes funny tale that doesn't take itself too seriously.
The blurb says...Something is wrong in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s secret mirror city.
The new season is starting and the Master of Ceremonies is missing. Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is assigned with the task of finding him with no one to help but a dislocated soul and a mad sorcerer.
There is a witness but his memories have been bound by magical chains only the enemy can break. A rebellious woman trying to escape her family may prove to be the ally Max needs.
But can she be trusted? And why does she want to give up eternal youth and the life of privilege she’s been born into?