Sunday, June 5, 2022

Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald


I bought BEYOND THE RUBY VEIL on impulse a couple months ago when it went on sale, not realizing it was dystopian or sapphic. I'm a simple woman-- show me a fantasy novel with a gorgeous cover, and I willingly part with my cash like a sucker. I decided to make this one of my Pride Month picks and color me shocked when, despite rather mixed and unenthusiastic feedback from some of my friends, this ended up rocketing up my favorites list when I finished it in a day.

The plot of it sounds super cheesy. It's one of those water wars-type books, where the premise revolves around scarcity of resources. The heroine, Emanuela, lives in a pseudo-Renaissance Italy setting called Occhia, where water is obtained by a blood sorceress called the watercrea who takes people away when they get these mysterious lesions called "omens" and then drains them dry of blood.

On the day of Emanuela's wedding to her closeted best friend, she gets a lesion and is taken away by the watercrea. But Emanuela, who is a ruthless sociopath who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, is not about to let some old woman determine when she will die. She kills the watercrea, thus putting an end to her city's dwindling water source. And they aren't happy about it.

I don't want to say too much about this book, but it ended up going in a direction I wasn't expecting, and towards the end it gets very, very dark. Like, why-did-I-read-this-while-eating dark. In some ways, this reminded a bit of Kerri Maniscalco's KINGDOM OF THE WICKED crossed with Claire Eliza Bartlett's THE WINTER DUKE, but it's much darker than either of those two books, and the heroine is way more ruthless. Also, those books were a little more focused on the romance, and while there is gay yearning in BEYOND THE RUBY VEIL, and two potential LGBT+ relationships are kind of set up here, nothing is set in stone by the end of the book. So in that way, it's kind of more like Crystal Smith's BLOODLEAF, a YA book that took some serious risks with world-building and consequences.

I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel. I want to learn more about the cities and the mysterious aerial veil that shrouds the city and I want to see who Emanuela is going to torment next (probably everyone).

4.5 to 5 out of 5 stars

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