|Cover by Nick Hayes|
Piatkus, 7 October 2021
Available as: PB, 352pp, e, audio
Source: Advance copy
I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of The Rose Daughter to consider for review.
It's good to be back in Maria Lewis's shared supernatural universe, which began with werewolves in Who's Afraid? and has progressed through other magical peoples including witches, ghost, banshees and now, sprites.
Or rather, a sprite. As Dreckly Jones makes clear in this narrative, split between the present day when she is lying low in Sydney and an account of her life up to that point, a sprite is a very rare thing indeed. Offspring of a selfie and an earth elemental, her kind are outlawed by the Treize (why?) the self-appointed government of all supernatural creatures. So Dreckly's life began in prison, locked up by the Treize with her father.
Now, a century later, she's off their radar, and determined to stay that way.
I was entranced by the way Lewis uses the story of Dreckly's life to explore the 20th century from below. Stowing away for the New World, she gets involved in the movie business, drifting into espionage as the times darken. Lewis has her witness some significant moments for the history of women: a period of brief and precious freedom and self-expression for women and minorities in the Hollywood of the 20s and 30s which gives way before a growing climate of moral censure and then the chaos of violence and loss that is the Second World War. Lewis has done her research, introducing us to some fascinating characters who provide the perfect milieu for a misfit like Dreckly. Throughout, though, Dreckly remembers her father's advice that she shouldn't try to be a hero. Though she sometimes disregards it.
The Rose Daughter seemed slightly different to some of the other episodes in this extended story of supernatural creatures, as a large part of the narrative is distanced from the immediate conflict with the Treize which has been developing throughout the series. That reality - of their desperation and willingness to commit atrocities growing - has to break in eventually, though, with Dreckly's hard won safety (hard won both in terms of what she's given up, and the guilt she feels for keeping her head down) inevitably threatened. First, though, Lewis explores what makes Dreckly, Dreckly - who she has loved, what and who she has lost in her long life, and what regrets she has. All of that lies behind her desire to stay out of sight, stay safe, not play the hero. It also illustrates what a competent and ruthless soldier she's capable of being when she has to be - one who will I'm sure reappear in future instalments of this fascinating saga.
A gloriously page-turnery novel that sheds new light on the revolution boiling up against the Treize, meshes nicely with the earlier books (even including some earlier scenes them a different perspective) and introduces a bold and distinctive new character. What else? Well, of course we have handsome, smouldering werewolves, some energetic sex, and plenty of peril. And signs of a team-up that should make the Treize very, very scared indeed.
I'd strongly recommend for fans of paranormal fiction, lovers of a good, exciting story and anyone interested in some of the less well known corners of 20th century history.
For more information about The Rose Daughter, see the publisher's website here.