Melanie is back in her childhood home, grappling with grief at the death of her last parent, sorting out the remains into the memories, the useless, and the rest. But it isn’t just relicts of her parents that she fines, but of generations that have gone before, including one very particular memento of her grandmother’s, whose discovery changes the way she looks at her grief.
Content warning: Casual ableism.
As the story opens, we are given an imprisoned queen, betrayed in marriage and now helpless in the face of the destruction of her kingdom, and a ghostly rescuer who comes, formless, to set her free. This isn’t a ghost story, but the “ghost” rescuer, Mollo, strangely has more agency than Queen Aclara ever does. While she does release her kingdom in the end, she first acts under Mollo’s guide and impetus, and then at the behest of Gerard, the Sorcerer King’s valet. Never, it seems to me, does she act on her own behalf as a fully fledged agent. In the end, I’m not sure that she was any more free than when she was married to the traitor Sorcerer King.
In the background behind this, and introduced to us only much later into the story, are the witch sisters Myth and Janin. The role they play in the Sorcerer King’s take-over of the kingdom, and in the freeing of Aclara, turned out to be a much more interesting and absorbing story; I wish that more of their side of things had been told. It’s clear that as readers we’re supposed to favor Myth over Janin, but I found Janin fascinating — she was rich and complex and intriguing.