Book Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Genre: Gothic Fantasy Romance Young Adult
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Pages: Hardcover, 400 pages
Source: NetGalley

He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness.

Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.

The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.

With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.

Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.

Love makes monsters of us all.

There are slight spoilers for the novel in this review.

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft is an interesting mix of two genres, Gothic and fantasy romance, that Saft doesn’t quite manage to blend well.

Saft has all the pieces of a good story here, but the way they’re brought together doesn’t make sense after a while. I don’t often say this but Down Comes the Night has too much going on to just be a stand-alone novel, and that’s thanks to the fantasy elements. There are things that happen that are easily solved in order to keep the plot going in the direction Saft needs it to go. The biggest offender is near the end, when Hal has been imprisoned and Wren and her commanding officer/first love go to save him. There are only three guards in front of his cell, and they’re all “inexperienced” according to Saft. Why would you put inexperienced guards on a notorious war criminal’s cell? You put your best on that post. Predictably, Wren and her commanding officer are able to intimidate the officers away, and they literally walk out of the prison with Hal.  Everything worked too conveniently according to what Saft needed to happen, even when logic dictates that it shouldn’t have. I spent too much of this novel going, “This shouldn’t have worked, and I can literally think of several reasons why.”

The timeline of the novel is literally two weeks, maybe three, and in that time I’m meant to believe that Wren and Hal are able to not only put aside their differences to be civil with each other, but fall in love? I couldn’t buy it, unfortunately. I can see what Saft was trying to do with Wren’s character, making her a compassionate, emotional girl who can connect with people, and I do appreciate that. There just wasn’t enough time for me to believe that her relationship with Hal progressed the way that it did.

Added to that, the villain’s plot doesn’t stand up under scrutiny. The villain is an interesting character on their own, but ultimately their storyline had too many holes in it I couldn’t ignore, and too many instances of characters acting a certain way so that Saft could get the villain to do what she needed him to do. The worldbuilding, which influences the villain’s plot, also doesn’t hold up once you think about it for too long.

Maybe if Saft hadn’t tried to do so much in one novel, it would be better. But the constant convenience of everything going whatever way Saft needs it to in that moment in order to get to the next checkpoint on the plot became too much to ignore, and ultimately, does the story a severe disservice.

Book Review: Larry at Number 10 by E.C. Radcliffe

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Children’s picture book
Publisher: Matador
Publication Date: February 28th, 2021
Pages: Paperback, 20 pages
Source: NetGalley

Awesome (some might say paw-some) Larry is Top Cat at Number 10 – that is until his boss, the Prime Minister, gets a dog called Dilyn. If you can even call this ridiculous puppy a dog. For one thing, he chases his own tail, guzzles sausage-strings and chews things to pieces. How paw-thetic!

For another, Larry is chief mouser at Number 10, head of paw-trolling and champion window-ledge sitting (note: this is for lookout purposes, NOT catnapping). Larry is important and the hero of the mouse catching scoreboard. So what possible job can dopey Dilyn do?

His whiskers out of joint, Larry tries (and fails) to put Dilyn in the doghouse – but then catastrophe strikes as a cat-burglar breaks in and cat-napps Larry! Can Dilyn rise to the occasion and save the day? And if he does, will Larry give his a-paw-logies?

Based on the real cat and dog team living at Number 10, this charming picture book is a treat to read for any child aged 0 – 5 – and their parents, too!

Larry at Number 10 by E. C. Radcliffe, is the story of Larry, cat-in-charge at Number 10 Downing Street. We follow Larry’s exploits as chief mouser among his rivals/contemporaries, such as Gladstone and Palmerstone. Larry is definitely at the top of his game, and rules the Prime Minister’s roost. One day, though, there’s a new face. Will Larry remain the terror of the mice, or will he be voted out of office?

The story is fun and funny, and the illustrations are very good. Larry’s mischievous nature shines through on every page. There is one image of Boris, but that’s the only detraction from an otherwise very enjoyable book.

Book Review: The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Gallery / Saga Press
Publication Date: October 6th, 2020
Pages: 352, trade paperback
Source: NetGalley

A young woman discovers a strange portal in her uncle’s house, leading to madness and terror in this gripping new novel. 

Pray they are hungry.

Kara finds these words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring the peculiar bunker—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more you fear them, the stronger they become. 

This will be a hard one to review, because I think some of my dislike of The Hollow Places will come down to personal preference. I’ve not read the original story The Hollow Places builds on, but much like The Willows, I think The Hollow Places would have worked better as a short story. Simply put, there’s not a whole lot here. It feels a little too flimsy to keep the story going for 300+ pages. There’s a lot of repetition in the set up of scenes and how they progress, and for a few chapters in the middle it feels like Kingfisher is trying to find a way to pad the story. 

The characters also conveniently don’t put together things they’ve seen or heard to figure out what’s going on, when it’s incredibly obvious. I can understand that maybe Kingfisher was going for a “they were so scared they couldn’t think straight” type of deal. But after a while, it became more like, “I’m making them not put these pieces together because it serves the story better.” Also, how did the bunkers get built? And why did the people not build, like, underground tunnels to connect the bunkers? If the creatures can’t get into the bunkers or underground, why not just build underground tunnels? I feel like I may have missed something on that front, because it’s such an obvious solution that I can’t believe it isn’t brought up in the novel.

Also, why did no one think “If we can get through this hole to this other world, then something from that other world could also pass into ours?” at any point? There’s only a fear of the human protagonists going back through the hole and not that anything could come through from the other side.

As for what comes down to personal preference, well, I’ve found that I just don’t find cosmic horror that scary. To me, it’s only logical and rational that there are beings out in the universe that are beyond human comprehension, and that some of them are actively hostile to humans or don’t care about us at all. This doesn’t bother me in the least. 

I also apparently don’t find trees that scary, even if they somehow move around by themselves. The atmosphere didn’t really get to me. It even has a scene of one of my personal nightmares–being in water and not being able to see what’s around you, underneath said water, and when it could be coming for your ankles–and I could only shrug. 

And then there’s Simon. He’s Kara’s friend in her new home, and very, very gay. Kingfisher reminds us of his gayness every chance she gets. Not only that, Kara brings up his gayness every chance she gets, and how he’s “totally not her type” and how “nothing will ever happen between them because, again, GAY.” 

[Simon:] “First we’re going to fix the drywall patch. Then we’re going to tie you to the bed.”
“… Kinky.”
“Yes, but you’re not my type, hon.”

The overly sexualized, sassy, well dressed gay friend is a stereotype for a reason. Kingfisher says she based Simon off real gay people she’s known, so I’m trying not to be too harsh about it because there are gay people who act like this, but in nearly every single scene Simon is in, he makes some kind of gay sex joke or reference. This may come down to me being asexual and not really liking those types of jokes, though. There’s also the argument to be made that it’s one thing for a real person to be comfortable acting like this, but it’s another for a writer to make their character act like a stereotype. There’s just not much depth to Simon, and he doesn’t really seem to add much of anything to the story except to patch up the hole in Kara’s wall.

Kara also makes sarcastic jokes whenever something scary happens, and after a while, it kills the horror of the situation. I understand that Kingfisher was going for “using humor to defuse the terror of the situation” but it was overused to the point that I was like, “Well, if the characters aren’t taking it that seriously, why should I?” This is also where the repetition of scenes comes in: Something scary happens, Kara or Simon would make a joke about it to defuse the situation, and go about their business. 

The reason I rated this two stars is for the ending. I won’t spoil it, but I really, really liked what Kingfisher did with the museum and its inhabitants in the end. Outside of the unseen creatures, there were a few truly horrifying moments. But otherwise, The Hollow Places was a miss for me.

Book Review: The Story of Climate Change by Catherine Barr, Steve Williams, & Amy Husband

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Children’s non-fiction
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Pages: 40, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

The Story of Climate Change is a wonderful way to introduce young readers to one of the most important issues facing our world today.
Combining history with science, this book charts the changes in our Earth’s climate, from the beginnings of the planet and its atmosphere, to the Industrial revolution and the dawn of machinery. Kids will learn all about the causes of climate change, such as factory farming and pollution, and the effects that climate change has on humans and animals across the world.
As well as discovering the causes and effects of global warming, readers will discover practical ways we can work together to solve it, from using renewable energy to swapping meat for vegetables in our diet.
With fact-packed text by Catherine Barr and vibrant illustrations by Amy Husband and Mike Love, The Story of Climate Change will give kids the information they need to make a change and do their part to fight the climate emergency!

The Story of Climate Change, by Catherine Barr and Steve Williams, is a grade-school picture book about man-made effects on the climate and environment. It’s geared toward helping younger children understand the issue and gives positive steps children and their parents can take toward helping reduce their impact on the environment.

The illustrations and colorful and engaging, and the narrative moves along at a good clip. We dispense of the 65-million-year period between the Chicxulub impactor and Victorian times in one page, with the authors letting us know that humans didn’t really affect the environment on a large scale until the Industrial Revolution.

While the book is geared toward young children and the message is to provide information and steps they can take, a small mention of the impact of larger industry on the environment might have been useful, as well. 


Meet the Mascot: Gus the Cat

When we began talking seriously about starting a book review blog together, the one place we stalled was the name. I’m not good at coming up with names for anything. We went through a few before Gina thought of of a picture we have of one of our cats, Gus: “What about The Red Hat Cat blog?”

Gus was born on June 26th, 2015, in a litter of six. He was the last to be born and the runt of the litter. He grew up to be the biggest of the pack! (And the fluffiest.) I named him and most of his siblings after Disney characters; Gus was named after the mouse in Cinderella.

Of all the cats I’ve known in my life so far, Gus is definitely the one whose personality comes close to the idea of a typical cat: He’s arrogant, self-absorbed, and selfish. There’s no malice in anything he does — he just assumes that if he wants something a certain way, then everyone must want it that way, too, because his way is perfect. Gina often says that Gus doesn’t consider himself a cat; he thinks of himself as Gus, and all other cats and humans as lesser Gusses.

His favorite toy is a straw. Any kind of straw, but he likes bright, colorful plastic ones best. He even knows how to play fetch with them! He doesn’t share well, though, and if you play with a straw in a way he considers “wrong”, you’ll get a look of distinct displeasure from him.

We’re not in the habit of dressing up our cats mainly because we like having all our fingers. But sometimes the urge strikes us, mainly when we find a cute outfit at Ross. When we saw the red hat in a store, we knew we had to get it and try it on our cats. As you can see in the picture, Gus was not amused. We don’t make him wear it… often.

As mascots go, we probably could have chosen a friendlier one. But Gus would probably think that of course he’s the natural choice for a mascot, because he’s Gus, and thus he is perfect. We won’t do anything to convince him otherwise, even if we could!

Book Review: When a Rogue Meets His Match (Greycourt #2) by Elizabeth Hoyt

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: December 1st, 2020
Pages: 511, mass market paperback
Source: Library

The second novel in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt’s Greycourt Series features an enemies-to-lovers romance with her signature blend of captivating characters and sensual romance.

Ambitious, sly, and lethally intelligent, Gideon Hawthorne has spent his life clawing his way up from the gutter. For the last ten years, he’s acted as the Duke of Windemere’s fixer, performing the most dangerous tasks without question. Now Gideon’s ready to quit the duke’s service and work solely for himself. But Windermere wants Gideon to complete one last task, and his reward is impossible to resist: Messalina Greycourt’s hand in marriage.

Witty, vivacious Messalina Greycourt has her pick of suitors. When Windermere summons Messalina to inform his niece that she must marry Mr. Hawthorne, she is appalled. But she’s surprised when Gideon offers her a compromise: as long as she plays the complacent wife, he promises to leave her alone until she asks for his touch. Since Messalina is confident that she’ll never ask Gideon for anything, she readily agrees. However, the more time she spends with Gideon, the harder it is to stay away.

I think I may need to give up on this series. I’m not sure what changed between Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series and this one, but the quality went downhill hard. 

I wasn’t able to put into words exactly what left me underwhelmed about When a Rogue Meets His Match until I read Kelly Bowen’s novella that’s included in the paperback. That novella is easily a five star read, and it’s made me interested in checking out Bowen’s other works. 

What Bowen’s 100ish page novella had that Hoyt’s entire 300+ page novel lacked was a strong sense of character. Gideon is the only character who felt fully fleshed out. He had a full history that informed his character and choices and behavior in the present. In comparison, Messalina’s lack of on-page history was stark. We get mentions of the family members that have passed, and how Messalina and her siblings came to live with their uncle, but none of it informs Messalina’s character past her desire to keep her younger sister Lucretia from their uncle. At least, her past doesn’t inform her character to the extent Gideon’s past does.

Added to that, there was no chemistry between Messalina and Gideon whatsoever. I noticed that my interest in the novel shot up when Messalina shared a scene with her sister, because in comparison to her interactions with Gideon, Messalina and Lucretia’s scenes felt more organic and natural. 

Also, the primary conflict that causes our couple to momentarily split wasn’t resolved well enough for my liking. Gideon lied to Messalina, and they never actually talk about that aspect of the problem. 

I don’t know if Hoyt changed editors between the last Maiden Lane book and the Greycourt series, or if she’s simply attempting to write tropes she doesn’t have the ability to pull off believably. I think I’m done with this series unless I hear the third book improves significantly. I’m honestly sad about this, because Hoyt was one of my favorite romance authors, and one of the few whose sex scenes I read often to learn how to write my own. All good things must come to an end, I suppose.

Book Review: The Project by Courtney Summers

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2021
Pages: 352, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

In The Project, Courtney Summers takes on cults and how people fall into them, to varying degrees of minimal success. 

This will probably be my least favorite Courtney Summers book. While I found her technical writing style to be as good as ever, her character work is surprisingly not her strongest, especially when it comes to the main character, Lo. Bev’s story was far more believable than Lo’s, and we only get bits and pieces of it interspersed throughout the novel. 

Considering how against The Unity Project Lo is, her slide into becoming entangled with the cult is unconvincing. She offers up very little fight even in the beginning. I do understand that Summers wanted to show that Lo is in over her head, which is why she frankly fails at being a journalist on her first outing, but there were several instances where I found her to be almost unbelievably gullible and just not very bright. On her very first meeting with Lev, she accepts and drinks a glass of water made for her by someone else in the cult. Maybe I’m just a suspicious person, but I found it hard to swallow that Lo, who is so suspicious of the Project, would drink something given to her by one of the members without stopping to be like, “Wait, could this be drugged?” 

I also didn’t find Lev to be that compelling a cult leader or character. At least, I didn’t find him compelling enough that both Bev and Lo fall into lust with him and have sex with him. Which is also never brought up as a kind of, “Uh, hey, isn’t it kind of creepy that this dude in his late 30s is sleeping with an eighteen year old girl and then a nineteen year old girl?” thing. It happens and then no one, not even Bev and Lo, bring it up, internally or otherwise. To be fair, though, it’s probably incredibly hard to write those kinds of characters convincingly. 

I think Courtney Summers just bit off more than she could chew in The Project, which is a shame, as she’s a skilled and experienced writer. But sometimes, even if you give it your best shot, the story just gets away from an author, and that’s what happened here. 

Book Review: The Raven’s Hat by Jonas Peters, Nicolai Meinshausen, Malte Meinshausen (Illustrations)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2021
Pages: 192, paperback
Source: NetGalley

Games that show how mathematics can solve the apparently unsolvable.

This book presents a series of engaging games that seem unsolvable–but can be solved when they are translated into mathematical terms. How can players find their ID cards when the cards are distributed randomly among twenty boxes? By applying the theory of permutations. How can a player guess the color of her own hat when she can only see other players’ hats? Hamming codes, which are used in communication technologies. Like magic, mathematics solves the apparently unsolvable. The games allow readers, including university students or anyone with high school-level math, to experience the joy of mathematical discovery.

Don’t be fooled by the beguiling, opera-singing, card-playing, hat-wearing ravens in The Raven’s Hat. Authors Jonas Peters and Nicolai Meinshausen have crafted a serious mathematical puzzle book.

The book posits different game scenarios where the ravens have to figure out something based on incomplete information gleaned by observing their fellow ravens. For example, the ravens have to figure out what color hat each raven is wearing, but they can only see the hats which are in front of them. None of the ravens can see the last raven’s hat. The authors do guide the reader through the process of figuring the various puzzles, but this is not a book for someone casually interested in math or mathematical games. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a higher math class, or the phrase “binomial coefficient” causes you a vague sense of dread, this isn’t the book for you.

It is, however, thorough, and enjoyable in places. The raven illustrations by Malte Meinshausen are engaging, and kept me entertained through the detailed explanations and formulae, some of which I admit, frankly lost me, or maybe were just so detailed that I stopped caring what the solution was.

Recommended for math lovers, but not the layperson.

Book Review: The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: 47North
Publication Date: August 20th, 2019
Pages: 408, trade paperback
Source: Library

Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok.

Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk.

Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos. Charged with battling the enemies of their people, both within and without, Bayr is fueled further by the love of a girl who has defied the scourge of Saylok.

What Bayr and Alba don’t know is that they each threaten the king, a greedy man who built his throne on lies, murder, and betrayal. There is only one way to defend their land from the corruption that has overtaken it. By breaking the curse, they could defeat the king…but they could also destroy themselves.

From ​the New York Times bestselling author comes a breathtaking fantasy of a cursed kingdom, warring clans, and unexpected salvation.

I originally was not going to read this book because the premise made me uneasy. The idea could easily fall into cissexism if not deconstructed properly. However, I decided to put my hesitation aside and check it out from the library. After seeing the high ratings and number of reviews on the book, I figured, it probably would be a solid read at least.

I was mistaken. 

I will readily admit that I’m hard to please when it comes to Norse fiction — even if an author gets the cultural details right, their portrayal of the gods could irritate me. My wariness increased when I came across a Bible verse at the beginning of the book. Once the book gets going, it doesn’t get better. 

I’m going to try to explain this as best I can. Harmon comes at Norse religion in a very Christian manner. Odin is treated as a benevolent, all-powerful father figure that everyone primarily prays to. Thor is mentioned here and there, as is Loki, who also plays a part in the fantasy island’s creation story. Furthermore, only nobles really prayed to Odin, and even then it was with a heavy dose of distrust. Odin is not someone you’re meant to readily believe and trust in. The commoners and farmers would pray to Thor or Frey, as they were the “Big Three” of Norse religion. 

At the beginning of the book, Dagmar rescues his sister’s newborn son. Instead of praying to Frigga or Freya to save the infant, he prays to Odin. Why? Odin has no familial attribute. He would have heard the prayers and gone, “What the Hel are you praying to me for? Leave me the fuck alone.” And that’s if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, Odin’s going to come on by and see what he can do to “bless” the child. Freya finally gets a mention on page 37, but at nearly 100 pages in, the only gods mentioned were Odin, Thor, Loki, and Freya. Odin is the sole god who created the island the characters live on, again a rather Christian idea of a single deity being the one to create a world, whereas the Norse religion believes in multiple beings creating the world. 

Valhalla is treated as the be all, end all for the afterlife, with no mention of Hel or Freya’s afterlife. When a king is killed by an altar falling on him, another character mentions that “he will dine in Valhalla tonight”. Sorry, no. Only warriors who died in battle got into Valhalla or Freya’s realm. Everyone else goes to Hel. 

At another point, a father-to-be is waiting for his wife to give birth. In Viking times, the fathers were always in the room with the laboring mothers. Always. For days on end, even. There were rarely any exceptions to this rule. Yet the book’s character does not spend time in the room, and no one makes mention of this, suggesting to me that Harmon did not do any deep research into this. If it was a choice to move the plot along, even worse, in my opinion.

Oh, the author is also sure to include “not all men”. Because, you know. Gotta make sure the men are pacified, here.

I was already on the fence about it by this point, about 80 pages in, so I decided to skim. On page 225, we’re told that “only women can bear children”. 

Hello, cissexism! I was hoping I wouldn’t see you here. 

At that point, I decided to put the book aside. We are not going to get along. The deconstruction of gender roles is shallow at best. The religion is Christianized window dressing, and the research into the culture of the Vikings just isn’t there. I’m disappointed but not surprised.

Book Review: The Russian Cage (Gunnie Rose #3) by Charlaine Harris

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Historical fantasy
Publisher: Gallery / Saga Press
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2021
Pages: 304, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

Picking up right where A Longer Fall left off, this thrilling third installment follows Lizbeth Rose as she takes on one of her most dangerous missions yet: rescuing her estranged partner, Prince Eli, from the Holy Russian Empire. Once in San Diego, Lizbeth is going to have to rely upon her sister Felicia, and her growing Grigori powers to navigate her way through this strange new world of royalty and deception in order to get Eli freed from jail where he’s being held for murder.

Russian Cage continues to ramp up the momentum with more of everything Harris’ readers adore her for with romance, intrigue, and a deep dive into the mysterious Holy Russian Empire.

The Russian Cage is the third book in Charlaine Harris’ Gunnie Rose series. As with many of Harris’ heroines, Lizbeth is plainspoken and straightforward. This causes her issues when dealing with the Holy Russian Empire and its wizards. 

Lizbeth receives a letter from her half-sister, who is a student at the grigori school in California. Lizbeth’s lover, Eli, has been arrested, and no one knows why. Lizbeth travels to California, determined to free him, and uncovers a plot that could destabilize the region.

Harris has a simple writing style, not sparse exactly, but told with a minimum of frippery, much like Lizbeth herself. Lizbeth has a strong sense of self, and that contrasts to the other characters, who must hide their true thoughts and feelings in order not to be branded traitors. 

The plot is solid and moves swiftly, but logically. This is a quick, but enjoyable read, and a great addition to the series.