Thank you NetGalley and Redhook for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: It is the Age of Enlightenment -- of new and magical political movements, from the necromancer Robespierre calling for revolution in France, to the weather mage Toussaint L'Ouverture leading the slaves of Haiti in their fight for freedom, to the bold new Prime Minister William Pitt weighing the legalization of magic amongst commoners in Britain and abolition throughout its colonies overseas.
But amidst all of the upheaval of the early modern world, there is an unknown force inciting all of human civilization into violent conflict. And it will require the combined efforts of revolutionaries, magicians, and abolitionists to unmask this hidden enemy before the whole world falls to darkness and chaos. (Amazon)
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
***BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILERS***
I've read my share of Historical Fiction novels and those in the Fantasy genre, but it's not often that I read a story that merges both. There's something hallucinatory about mixing the two, especially when one has grown up hearing and learning so much about a specific group of people—such as the aristocracy of the French Revolution and its monarchs. A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians, however, merges the two seamlessly and gives it such a credence that you can almost believe that the inclusion of this magical battle might have been all true.
One of the things that stood out to me the most, was how authentic in tone this book was written. H. G. Parry has brought about a story that sounds like it has stepped right off the 18th Century, with the tone, manners and ways of life that one expects as such. The verbiage is so perfectly poised that it's even easier to get lost in the story.
While we follow characters from the Caribbean, London and Paris, it's those of Paris that steer the plot. And they are the ones that touched my heart the most. It's impossible not to be moved especially because many were real individuals. To see a version of what they would have experienced—such as Robespierre, Desmoulins, Marat—is fascinating. There is not only certain growth, but intricacy in the path that many of them take that is very original to the novel, an in-depth view of their lives and their struggles. And while I knew how many of them came to an end, it was still impossible not to be touched when they fell. Camille Desmoulins's demise stood out, nearly poetic in sorrow.
The one thing that I would have appreciated and sadly don't feel that was attained, was more attention on Fina's part of this story. Considering not just her background but the torture that she lives through, and the fight that she faces to be a free woman, she deserved to stand out. France aside, there is plenty of the journey of England's Wilberforce, Pitt, and their respective supporters and opponents. But when it came to Fina and Jamaica, then later Saint-Domingue and that group of characters... Yes, we get to know them, but not in the way that we become acquainted with the rest. Not unless it played into the path of our mysterious and cruel vampire antagonist.
The magic system in this book is not something new, but it was still interesting and who doesn't enjoy watching storms occur by one's will or fire dance for its magician. And this reclusive and dark leading character, who stirs up Robespierre's mind into building a fevered cause that ends in thousands of death holds one of the most interesting kinds of magic. Dark magic is in this novel, expectantly, the most fascinating of its type. This is magic that will not just stir fear, but that will bring action to what others attempt to accomplish. Step right up to see those who can mesmerize, resurrect the dead, and even control others by freeing or withholding the other person's magical abilities. The very human term of vampire in A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is different to the “norm” in the best of ways.
There is a lot of political intrigue in this story, more so than I ever care to purposefully seek in fiction, yet it's crucial to the plot and manages to flow without a hitch. And the writing can be dense at times, almost to the point of being slightly dull. But pushing past those moments, which never last long, is well worth it. This novel has a lot of heart, and these characters all fight in their own ways for the ultimate price of allowing people to practice magic without the censure that they have had forced upon them for hundreds of years. It's incredibly hopeful at times, and very dispirited in others when history exemplifies just how terrible human beings themselves can be against a system that seeks to aid, thanks our own avarice, anger and selfishness.
Review Also Available On
Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones