Daughter of Mystery
June 30, 2019 10:35 PM - by Heather Rose Jones - Subscribe

Margerit Sovitre did not expect to inherit the Baron Saveze’s fortunes—and even less his bodyguard. The formidable Barbara, of unknown parentage and tied to the barony for secretive reasons, is a feared duelist, capable of defending her charges with efficient, deadly force. Equally perplexing is that while she is now a highly eligible heiress, Margerit did not also inherit the Saveze title, and the new baron eyes the fortunes he lost with open envy. Barbara, bitter that her servitude is to...

...continue, may be the only force that stands between Margerit and the new Baron’s greed—and the ever deeper layers of intrigue that surround the ill-health of Alpennia’s prince and the divine power from rituals known only as The Mysteries of the Saints.

At first Margerit protests the need for Barbara’s services, but soon she cannot imagine sending Barbara away—for reasons of state and reasons of the heart.
Heather Rose Jone debuts with a sweeping story rich in intrigue and the clash of loyalties and love.

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posted by happyroach (9 comments total)
So I dearly loved this book, but I do have some advice in reading it; don't treat it as a fantasy.

Though I thought it would be right up her alley, my wife confessed she had a hard time starting it. After some thought told her: "Don't read it as a fantasy; read it like its a Regency romance. Think Jane Austin or Alexandre Dumas." She tried again and after a while said "OH". And then finished the book in one night.

So, my advice is read this as a Regency romance novel, one set in a Ruritanian country. Different types of books need different reading styles, after all.
posted by happyroach at 11:19 PM on June 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Happyroach, I don't know why you have started this policy of putting Every Book Kyrademon Likes up on Fanfare, but I'm not going to object to it.
posted by kyrademon at 12:37 AM on July 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

Honestly, I'm trying to remember if it was from a list of yours I first heard of this book.
posted by happyroach at 7:52 PM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've read this book! Didn't know anyone else had.

It's pretty good if you like the genre, but it's a niche genre: nineteenth-century Ruritanian romance with court intrigue and a little swashbuckling. It's not my thing but this book is well-done and held my attention all the way through. (I never felt like reading the sequels, though.)

My impression was that the author has always liked that stuff, with its unapologetically Victorian detailed descriptions and very un-explicit romantic elements ... but she just wanted the romance to be lesbian. And that's exactly what she wrote. I'm sure that lesbian romance fans, who had been plowing through all the geography and medieval scholasticism and extended family relations in order to get to the good parts, must have hit the roof when the two main characters finally expressed their affections for each other and then the narrative drew a discreet curtain on what followed until the story resumed the next morning. Fantasy or historical novel fans would do better with it.

The constructed language in this book is interesting. Alpennia is a country somewhere around the borders of modern France, Italy, and Switzerland; I thought of it as the old kingdom of Burgundy. Its Romance language with heavy Germanic influence is a fun puzzle to figure out if you have studied historical linguistics.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:04 PM on July 2, 2019

Harvey Kilobit: as Abraham Lincoln said, "Those who like this sort of thing will find this is the sort of thing they like".

This is in the same genre as Brust's "The Phoenix Guards"; a loving homage to a bygone style. But where the Phoenix Guards was set in a nonsexist secondary world, Daughter of Mystery adds a modern element of Margerite striving toward independence and learning.

And that learning! Margerite learning the intricities of the magic system is wonderful- its a system as rigidly designed as anything Sanderson came up with, while not losing the feel of magic and mystety. That is very deft writing.
posted by happyroach at 8:40 PM on July 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Alpennia! I love this series. If I had my way the Alpennia series would be recommended to anyone who likes Seraphina or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It's only been slept on because it was published as a lesbian romance instead of a Ruritanian fantasy when the focus is really not on the romance. The id factor of the whole bodyguard/servitude thing takes a backseat to the political shenanigans and we get to see Margerit and Barbara's relationship develop on a basis of trust instead of lust, which is like, fine, but also... Barbara's hot and I would like some lust here, please.

I really loved the magic system here. Other people have noted the medieval influences, but what I liked best was how much the construction of prayers reminded me of coding: using very structured language to achieve very specific effects, and the idea that you have to be precise for things to really work.

I've read all the books in the series and honestly they just get better and better, especially because you get to see this community of sapphic magic users grow and support each other and enact political change together. It's very satisfying.

Also, Shira Glassman commissioned fanart of the couples from the first two books here. It's great.
posted by storytam at 10:57 PM on July 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I also love this series! (In fact, I'm one of the beta-readers.)

I do think the Alpennia series should be read as fantasy. Its closest relatives are Sorcery and Cecilia, maybe the Astreiant/Point of _____ books, and of course Ellen Kushner's Privilege of the Sword, but a comparison to Raven Tower or Goblin Emperor would be rewarding, too. A lot of the fun is in figuring out how the world works, both the constraints of society and the demands of magic, and seeing the way different characters navigate or adapt the system.
posted by yarntheory at 6:18 AM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've read the first two books in a swoop, but haven't gotten any further -- the enthusiasm waned over time, in part because I found the dilution of the POV lowered the energy of the story (we keep Margerite and Barbara and add two more). I still really like the series, and book three is in my queue, behind, um, a bunch of other things.

Alpennia seems to sometimes be (in) Burgandy and sometimes (in) Tyrol -- it's as if it hops over Switzerland between two Schoedenger states, possibly depending on whether it's being observed from eastern or western Europe.
posted by Quasirandom at 9:43 AM on July 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yarntheory, I hadn't heard of half those books and now I'm off to go read them in hope that they'll be anything like Alpennia. So cool that you're a beta reader!
posted by storytam at 9:05 PM on July 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

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