Publisher: DAW Fantasy
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: November 1st, 2016
Challenges: Finishing the Series Reading Challenge
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Blurb from goodreads:
Mixing high fantasy and mystery, this is Marshall Ryan Maresca’s second novel in the Maradaine Constabulary series, companion to DAW’s Maradaine Novels.
The neighborhood of the Little East is a collision of cultures, languages, and traditions, hidden away in the city of Maradaine. A set of streets to be avoided or ignored. When a foreign dignitary is murdered, solving the crime falls to the most unpopular inspectors in the Maradaine Constabulary: exposed fraud Satrine Rainey, and uncircled mage Minox Welling.
With a murder scene deliberately constructed to point blame toward the Little East, Rainey is forced to confront her former life, while Welling’s ignorance of his own power threatens to consume him. And these few city blocks threaten to erupt into citywide war unless the constabulary solves the case.
Mysteries are my favorite genre and I enjoy when they are blended with other genres such as romance or fantasy. I'm not generally a big fan of historical stories but I enjoy them more when they're in a fantasy setting. And I do love magic so this series works pretty well for me since it blends police procedural mystery, a hint of romance, and magic in a world based on England in the 1700 or 1800s. In keeping with that setting, we have class and gender differences and biases, which are important aspects of the series and the characters. Maresca does a good job of exposing and exploring them without being heavy-handed, but integrating them into the story.
In this book, Maresca tackles racism and he does not do it well. The mystery is set in a part of town called Little East. It's a bit like an American Chinatown but instead of being home to immigrants from one country it houses immigrants from many different countries and cultures. The main culture we see in the Constabulary series, the Druth, is based on British people, and Maresca continues that imitation by basing the cultures in Little East on real world people - the ancient Romans, Chinese/Asians, Muslims, etc. But whereas he fleshes out the Druth/British folk, he chooses to rely on stereotypes and cliches for the "Eastern" cultures. He doesn't explore any of these cultures or go into depth, maybe because he chose to use so many. Perhaps if he'd narrowed the field, he could have developed one or two and gone beyond the cliches and stereotypes. The one good thing he did do was to have Minox's biases and assumptions, and to a lesser degree, Satrine's, called out. We see them bumping up against their prejudices and having to adjust their thinking, or try to. I assume that Maresca was trying to discuss prejudice and racism in his fantasy setting and since the main culture in the book was inspired by a real world culture, it makes sense that he'd base other cultures on real world ones. But, I wish he'd narrowed his cultural focus and I wish he'd done a better job of developing those cultures, of fleshing them out and of differentiating them from the real world cultures he based them on.
The mystery itself was weak and poorly done and was ignored for stretches of time to focus instead on Minox and Satrine's personal lives. While those were more interesting to me than the mystery, since this is a mystery series, the poor focus and pacing hurt the overall story. I'm invested enough to keep reading the series but this book is not the one to start with if you're new to the series. Also, I haven't read the series this is spun off of, but that hasn't been a problem. This series works well on its own.
For a more detailed examination of the problems with this story and a much better explanation than I could do, check out this review (not mine, obviously) on goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1544231425?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1
Bea's Review of Book 1, A Murder of Mages