(2021) Melissa Caruso, Orbit, £9.99, pbk, 473pp, ISBN 978-0-356-51320-1
The Quicksilver Court is the second epic fantasy in Melissa Caruso’s 'Rooks and Ruin' series. The plot is to some extent standalone. However reading the first book, The Obsidian Tower, is highly recommended, as without it you would miss much of the world-building. For the optimal experience of this book you could read the previous Sword and Fire trilogy as well. The protagonists of the previous series are different to this, but they give a deeper understanding of the political background which enhances the readers understanding of the setting.
Ryxander is heir to a realm in Vaskandar, but with a demon currently in residence at her home she is unlikely to inherit any time soon and perhaps, more to the point, she has no way to protect those who remain there. This is even more upsetting for her as the demon is only there because she failed to prevent its escape from the gate of the Nine Hells.
It is worth noting that this is a second world fantasy, so the demons and hell referred to are not that of a real world religion, but entirely of the world this is set in. Nine demons, or Hells, trapped behind a gate by long ago heroes, called Graces, to protect all of humanity. The stakes are high and many lives could be lost.
So, Rix and her team have a lot to deal with, the plot primarily focuses on the action of this and moves at a fast place, but leaves time for friendships, attractions and softer emotions to be expressed between character as well as dark secrets that cause divisions. The characters are believable and easy to care about.
Most of the characters have no magic or a constrained in using any magical abilities they have. Mistrust for mages has meant that the practice of wearing devices to prevent them using magic is commonplace in some lands. This means the character have to rely on skills and intelligence rather than magic most of the time, which perhaps allows the reader to better identify with them.
Carouso weaves an intriguing tale. Writing in the first person allow the reader to relate to the protagonist, Ryxander, and see the world from her viewpoint. This means we are invested in that character when new information is revealed which might make is question their motives. The reader is torn as to whether to continue to support them, making the twists in the tale more visceral.
I won’t give too much information about the plot twists and dark secrets as the reveal of these is very much part of the fun.
The question of whether we can atone for our past is asked by the characters when they learn the truth about their companions, one which is equally applicable to our real lives. Should we try to make amends or is it enough to simply move past them and be a better person? I am not sure there is a conclusive answer for this either in the novel or in our lives. Perhaps only that we need to be at peace with ourselves and our decisions and hope that those who love us can accept us as who we are. This is a quarry that Ryx faces and it could make the reader reflect on their own lives.
It you like epic fantasy, relatable characters and fast moving action filled plot, then I very much recommend this book and Melissa Caruso as an author.
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