So in one of my favorite movies, there’s this scene. It involves an older chef stepping in to fix a mess, and as he’s tossing things together, someone runs up and frantically asks “But what do we call it?” and he says, “A Belle Melange, a beautiful mess.”
For some reason as I was reading this book, that came to mind. It’s not that the book is a mess, far from it. It’s tightly plotted, the action is almost continuous, with enough let-down and talk moments to give you a breath, even if the characters never get a break. No, this book is a beautiful mixture. Regency romance, fantasy, modern Earth, dragons, dryads, fairyland, the nature of magic… it’s all in here. Assassination plots, kidnapping, more kidnapping, and in the middle of it, a prosaic Earthwoman. It shouldn’t work… but it does.
I can’t tell you how many times I have picked up a time-travel romance book over the years, to put it back down in disgust as my suspension of disbelief was mauled beyond endurance. I eventually stopped reading them. Sarah Hoyt touches on this in Witchfinder, with accuracy and humor, and her solutions are pragmatic without losing the charming romance. The ending was perfect.
The weaving of the worlds, the explanation of magic, where it came from, and why some worlds lack it, that alone is worth reading this for. You will rarely find such a well-developed system for magic, nor one so believable. Magic has consequences, and a price, and not only to an individual, but to a society.
All in all, I am looking forward to re-reading this one. And I am hoping for a sequel, or at least a related book.