Each new book I read in this series continues to ‘wow’ me. I love that while the tone and worldbuilding remain consistently the same wonderful world of the Blud series, the new lead characters in each one lend their story individuality and unique plotting. Some series have a formulaic plot particularly when it comes to the romance- not this one. And thus, it’s a toss up which story couple I like the most. That being said, I was more than eager to see Casper get his story because the poor guy has been the rejected suitor twice over now. It’s a good thing he comes across as the confident, charismatic fellow that he does because the author set him up with one humdinger of a heroine to woo- none other than this alternate world’s version of the last Romanov princess and heir to the throne of the Bludmen.
The story opens with Ahnastasia, the Blud Princess, waking up nearly drained and trapped in a suitcase that is being stored in a lowly Bludmen pub in the worst part of London. She is woken to the melancholy sounds of a pinkie’s voice and playing of a harpsichord. First Ahna tries to treat the pinkie like food and then realizes that she is so weak that she must bide her time using the pinkie to help her- then she can drain him.
But Casper Sterling is no ordinary pinkie. He takes Ahna’s measure and knows she has plans for him, but he feels he has hit bottom with little to lose. The blud princess amuses him with her autocratic ways more than anything. Her plight seems as good as any adventure to pull him out of his drunken depression so he agrees to help her win back her kingdom. With the help of a young pinkie who Casper takes care of, they set out as an unlikely group to cross Sangland by bus and take to the skies to get to the blud kingdom of Freesia.
Along the way, they meet up with assassins, prostitutes, pirates, a usurper to the throne and other forms of adventure. The most dangerous adventure of all is that of the attraction between the blud princess and the maestro who is more than he seems.
The plot on this one reminded me of one of the old-fashioned high fantasy adventure journeys where a small band of unlikely heroes sets off to achieve the impossible. It was great getting to venture out into the world beyond Sangland and learn more about the other races inhabiting the world particularly the bludmen. The blend of action and character development was a nice switching of pace in the plot. There were slower moments when the characters are growing individually or in a relationship, but it isn’t boring.
The characters are both people who have a lot of growing to do. Casper has had a hard row to hoe up until now and he has his moments of trying to dull the pain in drink. He knows what he is becoming through his own early mistake and he knows he is responsible for his career tanking, but he’s not a whiner. In fact, Casper is a true hero because he does heroic acts for someone who until late in the story cannot even appreciate his actions or character. Ahna is a well-written character too and she’s the narrator of the story. At first, I really hated her. She was the total ice princess who saw Casper and other pinkies as mere cattle- food. She planned to use him up and toss him aside to get what she wanted. While rescuing her people from a usurper who has let the kingdom go to pot is a valid quest, it was the way she went about it and assumed that getting her throne back was the best thing for her people. I loved watching her grow as she journeyed through the world and adventured with Casper and Keen, the orphan who travels with him. Her thoughts and reactions to things are telling. At first, I couldn’t imagine what Casper saw in her, but then their relationship grew on me as she matured into someone who deserved to rule a kingdom.
I found this quote from Casper to Ahna hilarious and very telling about their relationship: “It’s endearing how often you threaten to kill me. That’s practically flirting to you, isn’t it darling?”
All in all, it was a thrilling story full of adventure and romance that kept me captivated from cover to cover. I suggest that this be read in series order and I recommend it to those who enjoy steampunk and paranormal romance.
Thanks to Net Galley for providing a copy of the book for review purposes.
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