Angry Robot Books (24 Sept 2013), Ebook: 416 pages, Urban Fantasy
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Carrying on after the multitude of secrets exposed at the end of book two is All is Fair, book three in The Split Worlds series by Emma Newman.
With Cathy now married to Will and having discovered the truth about their household staff, she sets off on a crusade to bring down the mysterious Agency. They supply the staff for everyone in the Nether but are also responsible for the disappearance of Cathy’s old governess, Miss Rainer, whom Cathy is determined to free from their clutches. She knows that Miss Rainer was sympathetic to the feminist cause and is hoping that she can help her make a vital change to the old-fashioned ways of Nether society, as well as finding other women who share their opinions.
Her search for truth is made harder by her new society status as duchess of Londinium, a title earned by Will in the last book. He won the title by duelling the old duke, Bartholomew, although has since discovered that the duke didn’t slight him after all. Feeling guilty about his wrongful claiming of the crown, Will tries to justify his new title to the rest of society by sorting out their problem with highwaymen, gaining their respect in the process. He is still wary of the fact that Lord Iris demands a son from him and Cathy within the first year of their marriage, but both start to wonder why he is so desperate for this child, and what he expects of them.
Whilst Will is trying to gain the trust of Londinium, Bartholomew’s grieving widow strikes up a friendship with Oxenford’s (Oxford in the Nether) sorcerer, Rupert. She attempts to persuade the fellow noble families to leave Will’s domain for Oxenford society, but finds herself caught in the middle of a sorcerer’s dispute. Rupert finds himself under attack from Ekstrand, who is being closely monitored by Max the arbiter. Max feels that Ekstrand’s methods have become more unorthodox and unstable, but is unsure of why, or what the end goal is.
Finally, we have Sam, who sadly lost his wife, Leanne, at the end of the last book. He thought she was wrapped up in some kind of company secret that got her killed, blaming her boss, but finds himself taken under Lord Iron’s wing. As the head of a multimillion pound company, Lord Iron seems to be taking an unnecessary interest in Sam, but soon trains him how to be a blacksmith and produce the purest iron. When Sam then finds a mysterious trail from his wife that reveals all the company’s worst secrets, he confronts Lord Iron, with some surprising results.
As always with this series, I loved the plot surrounding Cathy and her search for Nether equality, especially as she tries to find likeminded individuals who might help her to make the changes needed. I thought the ways she went about her investigative work were innovative and clever, especially towards the end of the book, as she grows even more in strength and determination. She is a really admirable character, although at times I thought she was a bit single-minded as she rarely considers how Will would respond to what she does or if it would be worth confiding in him and gaining his aid.
Although I didn’t think that Will was featured as much in this book, it was still clear to see the pressures affecting him on all sides. He claimed the title of governor and now has to prove he can uphold it and gain Londinium’s respect, whilst also maintaining the respect of his patron. Then there is the pressure placed on him to have a son with Cathy, as he does not want to force her into anything when he knows he might lose her. There is also an interesting subplot with his mistress, Amelia, which I think will cause him more grief in future and can’t wait to see how this will pan out.
Like with the previous book, I found myself unsure of Max’s perspective and what role he really plays in the book. I do like his character, especially in his shared scenes with Cathy, but when he is investigating on his own into the different sorcerers, I was a little confused. There were times when I wasn’t sure how it all tied together, and get the feeling more will be revealed in future, but I would still like a little more focus on what is going on with the arbiters and sorcerers and how this all ties in with the Nether.
This book had me liking Sam a lot more, as he delves further into the corporate world his wife was a part of, putting him in position of risk to gain answers. His grief for his wife was realistic and harrowing, especially when he finds the letters she left for him and recovers his memories of their good days together. I thought that what happened to him was a real plot twist, and can’t wait to see how the figure of Lord Iron plays a part in the Nether, or how the rest of the council will fit in to the story.
I love the plot of this series, as there are so many interlacing stories going on that you feel like a part of something much bigger. The only worry I have about this series is that with the introduction of Lord Iron, there might be too many competing fantasy elements which could clash with each other and make the story more confusing. I would like the arbiter story to be made a bit clearer, especially as I didn’t really understand the turn in personality taken by Ekstrand. However, the end of this book opens Nether society right up to change, with Cathy and Will at the helm, forming a united front. Their relationship keeps going from strength to strength, and I can’t wait to see what Newman throws at them in the next book.
For me, this book wasn’t as good as book two but was still a great read. I enjoyed the development of both Sam and Cathy as they both gain power in their own way, with the sense that a great shakeup to the system is approaching. I thought that we didn’t get to see enough of Will’s character in the book, as this story is primarily Cathy’s, but I liked that he’s starting to understand his wife more and embrace all her quirks. Again, I thought more explanation of Max’s role was needed, particularly with why Ekstrand seems to have completely changed attitude. Nevertheless, this series is still one of my favourite reads of the year.