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Publisher's Summary

A delightful and engrossing fantasy debut featuring an intelligent heroine and her guardian, a royal musketeer.

Caelum is an uninhabitable gas giant like Jupiter. High above it are the Risen Kingdoms, occupying flying continents called cratons. Remnants of a shattered world, these vast disks of soaring stone may be a thousand miles across. Suspended by magic, they float in the upper layers of Caelum's clouds.

Born with a deformed hand and an utter lack of the family's blood magic, Isabelle is despised by her cruel father. She is happy to be neglected so she can secretly pursue her illicit passion for math and science. Then, a surprising offer of an arranged royal marriage blows her life wide open and launches her and Jeane-Claude on an adventure that will take them from the Isle des Zephyrs in l'Empire Céleste to the very different Kingdom of Aragoth, where magic deals not with blood but with mirrors.

©2017 Curtis Craddock (P)2017 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"Curtis Craddock's debut is a grand tale of intrigue, adventure, and gaslight fantasy in the tradition of Alexander Dumas." (Charles Stross)

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Helluva Debut

I came . I stayed for the characters. This is a world unlike anything I've seen. I love the magic and the steampunk elements, but it's the characters that grab me. I especially love Isabelle, and her intelligence and determination to be true to herself.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Good one. Worth the credit<br />

A very nice and convoluted plot. At times you fear the author will not be able to tie everything up, but he stand and deliver.
It is a jumble of so many genres you get a headache. wholeheartedly enjoyable!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Source of many extended driveway moments.

I spent each day looking forward to listening to this book. Worth it by a lot.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Classic Swashbuckler!

I loved this classic swashbuckler. It was wonderful to have a young woman as the protagonist, and I loved the way that she learned to face down her fears and do what needed to be done. The world building was fabulous, and the characters were delightful as they chased their way through a grand adventure. The narrator did a fabulous job with this, and it was easy to listen to in the car.

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Can't recommend it enough!

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors was a refreshingly unpredictable surprise. I’ve only recently strayed into the genres of steampunk and gaslamp, but have decided I love them and this was no exception. The setting—a fantastical version of colonial-era Europe—was unique, the characters were engaging, and there were several plot twists I never saw coming. While it isn’t a romance, there seems to be the potential for one to develop in book 2…which, sadly, doesn’t come out until 2019.

For me, at least, everything about this book was unique and, honestly, more than a little surprising. As someone with a disability myself, I was able to relate to some of Isabelle’s struggles (though no one has ever called me the Breaker’s get and tried to kill me because of it, thankfully). I loved that, while her deformed hand was what defined her to others, Isabelle didn’t let it hinder her growth. Despite her awful family, lonely upbringing, and the status of women in her society, she was smart, loyal, and honorable, with no qualms about pursuing the intellectual subjects that were supposed to be forbidden to her. (She had to be sneaky and creative about the latter, and it paid off more than once.) The fate of entire kingdom hinged on her decisions and her ability to strategize, solve puzzles, and see around corners, yet she remained vulnerably human to the reader. The best examples presented themselves in her love for Marie and Jean-Claude—two people totally discounted by everyone else—as well as her understanding/compassionate treatment of those like Xaviera. Isabelle was an all-around fascinating character, and it was easy to get sucked into her story. The secondary characters played their roles well, without overshadowing each other or being superfluous distractions.

I have to say, the plot and setting were just as imaginative and vivid as the characters. While anyone even a little familiar with history will recognize the major European players in Mr. Craddock’s kingdoms, he gave them a fresh face with the introduction of skylands, skyships, magic, and alchemy. It was pretty clear the mechanics of travel, the dynamics of inter-realm power struggles, and the workings of each bloodline’s powers were well thought-out. The various players didn’t possess your run-of-the-mill magic, either; things like mirror-walking, blood shadows, and glamour-weaving were prevalent, and I found all of them creepy and sinister to one extent or another. There were also layers upon layers of betrayal, intrigue, and string-pulling going on in the background, but it was all presented in a fast-paced, interesting way. Never once did the story get bogged down or overloaded with technicalities or backstories. And while I’m usually pretty good at predicting where a story is going, who the bad guy is, etc., I was surprised more than once.

I ended up listening to more than half of An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors on audio (I was gifted a .mobi copy, but I haven’t had much time to sit and read lately), and Erin Bennett was a fabulous choice for narrator. She voiced the characters perfectly, without dramatizing them or using hokey tones/accents. Her pace and level of emotion were spot-on, and I would definitely recommend the audio version to anyone, as Ms. Bennett brought the story a level of life and color I would have found lacking in the print alone.

Bottom line: So, so good! If you’re a fan of intrigue and the genre of steampunk and are looking for something unique yet somehow familiar in a dream-sequence kind of way, I can’t recommend this book enough.