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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Longshadow by Olivia Atwater - Review

OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE
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OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Olivia Atwater writes whimsical historical fantasy with a hint of satire. She lives in Montreal, Quebec with her fantastic, prose-inspiring husband and her two cats. When she told her second-grade history teacher that she wanted to work with history someday, she is fairly certain this isn't what either party had in mind. She has been, at various times, a historical re-enactor, a professional witch at a metaphysical supply store, a web developer, and a vending machine repairperson.

FORMAT/INFO: Longshadow was published by Orbit Books on August 16th, 2022. It is 254 pages long, split over 22 chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue. It is told in third person from Abigail's point of view. It is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: A proper lady wouldn’t get herself involved in a murder investigation, but then again, Abigail Wilder is hardly a proper lady. It seems that ladies of a marriage age have been dying under mysterious circumstances, leading her adoptive father, the Lord Sorcier of England, to investigate. Abigail, who has magics of her own, begins pursuing her own leads, when she runs into Mercy, a street rat whose magical affinity for ghosts makes her a valuable ally. And Abigail will need all the help she can get, because all signs point to dangerous faeries being involved in the recent deaths. 

Longshadow is an enchanting murder mystery that, while more somber than its predecessor, nevertheless fills with delight. The somber aspects of this story come from its premise: not only are young women being murdered, but the plot is tied up in the dealings of the slaugh, faerie creatures responsible for escorting souls to the Other Side. This is a story about grief and acceptance of death, applying not just to the victims, but to Abigail herself, who lost so many people before she was rescued from terrible circumstances and adopted.

I should take this moment to point out that, once again, Longshadow is a standalone novel in the Regency Faerie Tale series. While you do not strictly need to read the other books, however, this is much more directly tied to its predecessors, as all the characters from previous books come together in various ways to aid Abigail (and indeed, Abigail’s origins are told in Half a Soul).

Despite the darker aspects of the story, Longshadow still manages to have a warm glow about it. This has always been a series about the importance of the family you choose, and that theme especially resonates here with Abigail, a young woman who has been claimed as family by multiple people in recent years, all of whom help her without hesitation.

And then of course, there’s the romance itself. Abigail is a woman who has been confused why her heart never flutters over the male suitors like its supposed to, and part of her journey is about learning that there are other romantic options available to her. While Regency Faerie Tales exists in the social morays of heteronormativity, it never once says a discouraging word about LGBTQ relationships. Instead, the story is about helping its protagonist see how alternative relationships hide in plain sight, even if they’re not openly discussed. It’s a beautiful queer awakening story as a lightbulb clicks on and Abigail realizes that she’s been looking for romance in all the wrong places.

CONCLUSION: Longshadow is a satisfying endcap to the Regency Faerie Tales series. It’s fitting that the final book is about learning to say goodbye, and it goes about that lesson with aplomb. While it doesn’t reach the whimsical heights of Ten Thousand Stitches, Longshadow succeeds in its own way (and indeed, a sequence at Kensington Gardens might be the most enchanting of the whole series). Regency Faerie Tales is a wonderful addition to the regency fantasy genre, and we could use more books in this space of manners and magic.

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