“Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But the old ways are forbidden ever since the colonial army conquered their country, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.” (via Goodreads)
The teeming undercurrent of all this lush character work is the biting anti-colonialism commentary. Heilig takes no prisoners with her critique. Lines can be drawn between Aquitan and Chakrana and France’s occupation of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and America’s ill-planned war there a century later, but the novel is not a direct comparison. While the Aquitans think of themselves as benevolent overlords, their true status as invaders shines through. By not shying away from calling out those who resist oppression by oppressing others, Heilig vilifies the conquistadors without victimizing the conquered…
To read the rest of my review, head over to Tor.com.
Across the pale swath of silken scrim
Her shadows cast a story like a spell:
Great dragons battle tooth and nail with wolves,
A humble peasant takes a prince’s throne,
The gods themselves, of life, and death, and knowledge
Walk among the morals that they serve.
Beyond the veil of silk there is the crowd
And in her world, they can forget their own:
The way the foreign merchants seem to prosper,
Their fortunes tantalizing, out of reach.
The rebels stalking all sides in the jungle.
The armée men, too quick to draw their guns.
Better to escape inside a story.
For most, it is the only way they can.
Thanks to Greenwillow for sending me a review copy.
Do the world a favor and buy this from an indie bookstore or borrow it from your local public library.