TOIL AND TROUBLE
Sarah Calhoun paid a hard price for her entry onto the stage of the Empire’s politics, but she survived. Now she rides north into the Ohio and her father’s kingdom, Cahokia. To win the Serpent Throne, she’ll have to defeat seven other candidates, win over the kingdom’s regent, and learn the will of a hidden goddess—while mastering her people’s inscrutable ways and watching her own back.
In New Orleans, a new and unorthodox priest arises to plague the chevalier and embody the curse of the murdered Bishop Ukwu. He battles the chevalier’s ordinary forces as well as a troop of Old World mamelukes for control of the city and the mouth of the great Mississippi River. Dodging between these rival titans, a crew of Catalan pirates—whose captain was once a close associate of Mad Hannah Penn—grapples with the chevalier over the fate of one of their mates.
Meanwhile, a failed ceremony and a sick infant send the Anishinaabe hunter Ma’iingan on a journey across the Empire to Cavalier Johnsland, to a troubled foster child named Nathaniel. Ma’iingan is promised that Nathaniel is a mighty healer and can save his imperiled baby, but first Nathaniel—a pale young man with a twisted ear who hears the voices of unseen beings—must himself be rescued, from oppression, imprisonment, and madness.
This is book #2 of the series by D.J. Butler and the sequel to Witchy Eye. The setting is early 1800’s in the U.S., but it’s an alternate earth, where magic and gods exists alongside political intrigue.
The world is an elaborate tale of an alternate earth that B.J. Butler fully fleshes out with a huge cast of character and locations. Butler has done an excellent job of mixing the mystical, the magical, and the political. You get a broad look at the world she has created and the systems that run the world.
This is definitely not a book you can read on its own. If you pick this up, you will be lost unless you’ve read the previous book. There are also several subplots that don’t work with the story. They may come into play later in the series, but for now they just fall flat and you don’t have a true context for them.
When you pick up the book and first open it, you are assailed by a slew of multi-syllabic native names that are hard to wrap your head around. I found myself mentally nicknaming the characters so I could keep track of them as the story progressed. Once I got my head around the names, the book moved on to a different set of characters and my efforts to keep them all straight were pointless. You only needed a few key characters.
I struggled through the first several chapters; it felt like they were all separate books, and they were told from several different viewpoints. Gradually, the story pulled together and you gained a sense of cohesion as the main character seeks to claim her birthright.
In the end, it was an okay story, but it has a lot of open ends (as can be expected in a series). This is definitely not a casual read, it is for long winter nights by the fireplace. You need peace and quiet to read this and get the full enjoyment of the book.
I’m giving it 3 out of 5 stars. The story at the beginning is fun and fast-paced, but lost me as I struggled with the names. Then the multiple point-of-views in the same chapter, combined with pointless sub plots, does not make this an easy read.
How we rate our Books
1 = We finished the book with effort
2 = Readable, but more fluff than substance
3 = Good
4 = Pretty Good and worth passing on to your friends
5 = We couldn’t put the book down