Series: Muse #1
Author: Brittany Cavallaro
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Alternate History
Published: February 2nd, 2021 (Katherine Tegen Books)
Synopsis: The year is 1893, and war is brewing in the First American Kingdom. But Claire Emerson has a bigger problem. While her father prepares to reveal the mighty weapon he’s created to showcase the might of their province, St. Cloud, in the World’s Fair, Claire is crafting a plan to escape.
Claire’s father is a sought-after inventor, but he believes his genius is a gift, granted to him by his daughter’s touch. He’s kept Claire under his control for years. As St. Cloud prepares for war, Claire plans to claim her life for herself, even as her best friend, Beatrix, tries to convince her to stay and help with the growing resistance movement that wants to see a woman on the throne. At any cost.
When her father’s weapon fails to fire on the fair’s opening day, Claire is taken captive by Governor Remy Duchamp, St. Cloud’s young, untried ruler. Remy believes that Claire’s touch bestows graces he’s never had, and with his governing power weakening and many political rivals planning his demise, Claire might be his only and best ally. But the last thing that Claire has ever wanted is to be someone else’s muse. Still, affections can change as quickly as the winds of war. And Claire has a choice to make: Will she quietly remake her world from the shadows—or bring it down in flames?
Thank you to the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, and Edelweiss for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
In an alternate version of history where George Washington became King and formed the First American Kingdom, the province of St Cloud is preparing to host the World’s Fair. Claire Emerson’s father, an inventor, is working on a mighty weapon that is to be unveiled at the fair and display St Cloud’s strength in a kingdom where the provinces are poised for war. Claire has bigger problems: her father believes that she possesses a magic that allows her to bless him with good fortune, and as a result, she has spent most of her life under his suffocating restrictions – but she’s finally hatched a plan to make her escape. Her plans go awry however, as the weapon fails to fire on opening day and she is taken captive by the province’s young Governor, Remy Duchamp, all at once finding herself in the middle of a deadly game of politics.
I’ll start with the things I liked about this book. The writing style was wonderful and made for an extremely easy and smooth read, in fact, I finished this book in under 2 hours. The setting was another aspect I loved. I’ve read about the World’s Fairs in other books, so it was fascinating to see how one might have been in this fictionalized alternative version of America. As happens with a lot of historical reimaginings however, the story and the background of St Cloud, atleast up to this point, could have taken place anywhere. I feel like we’re just presented a brief introduction to how this alternate America came to be and need to either imagine or ignore the rest. Also, this is kind of random, but I don’t really understand what the cover is supposed to signify as it doesn’t look anything like what the 1890s might have been.
The pacing is my main issue with this book. The story takes its time getting started, and even after Claire is brought to the Governor’s mansion, things move almost painfully slowly. I half thought I was missing a couple of chapters at the end. For such an interesting sounding blurb, this was surprisingly underwhelming, and a large part of that was how passive a character Claire was. While this makes sense for the time period given how women were viewed, it doesn’t make for a very stimulating read. To be fair however, the plot does eventually work its way to Claire learning to stand up for herself and take decisions, so the next book is probably much better from this point of view. Many things that I expected would be a focus in this book were largely background threads, like the various inventions at the Fair and Claire’s supposed gift (I did like how vague the author is being about said gift to the point that it keeps the reader wondering if it’s real or not).
The ending was quite abrupt and moved extremely fast compared to the rest of the book and was overall a little unsatisfying. I’m honestly still trying to piece together everything that happened, so I’m hoping to reread this at some point for more clarity. I found myself largely indifferent in what was happening with and around the main characters and instead focused on the far more interesting political power plays going on around the young Governor and the various factions involved. With the way this book ended, it still has the potential to get very interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing where Claire goes next and what becomes of the First American Kingdom.
Muse releases on February 2nd, 2021.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: