I got pretty burned out on reading epic fantasy once I started paying attention to diversity within the pages, so I’m always thrilled to find an offering in the genre that bucks stereotype. Add a dash of steampunk and I’m hooked.

Its easy to draw “Joan of Arc” comparisons to the character of Heloise on the surface, which is why I appreciate that Cole creates a character with completely age-appropriate actions and reactions. It’s obvious from the beginning of the story that Heloise is a HERO(tm), but watching her grow is a treat. This is character development done right. Every rebellion begins with a spark, and Cole treats the reader to an action-packed inferno that I read in both pleasure and perfectly grim-dark fantasy horror.

Cole does an excellent job with queer representation in this book…until literary stereotype does rear its ugly head. As a writer, I see why events had to play out the way they did. As a reader, I’m disappointed at the same time. If you’re looking for books where queerness is only a single facet of three-dimensional characters, this is an excellent example. But if you’re looking for happily ever afters, this isn’t the book you want.

I look forward to reading the rest of this trilogy and following Heloise on her journey.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.