Edition 12: Book Review: All is Fair by Emma Newman
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
If you find it hard to believe nothing touches our universe at the dark and murky edges, or that the old world allure of England is not solely maintained by the diligent people of our historical societies, the third instalment of the Split Worlds will appeal to those always questioning what more is out there.
The latest offering of Emma Newman, All is Fair, follows the outspoken spirit of Duchess Cathy Iris, trapped in the middle of the worlds, the Nether, home to the Fae-favoured class of human, stifled with Victorian era conventions.
At the end of the last book, Cathy was injured in a sinister assassination attempt, which led to her husband challenging a friend for the throne of Londinium, the Nether version of London. She is married to William Iris, a man whose Fae patron is driving at power and Cathy is spell-bound, compelling her to fit into the society wife mould. Having enjoyed the freedom of the Mundane world, Cathy refuses to be a meek wife and if she can’t return to the life she preferred, as Duchess of Londinium she decides to strive for equality for women and the servant class of the Nether. She needs an ally in her husband, but he may be too set in the old ways or trapped by promises of his own.
But more is afoot than mere social change. The centuries-old guardians of Mundanus, the Sorcerers and Arbiters, have been decimated by an unknown source. Max and the stone gargoyle the repository of all his feelings and soul, are on the trail of the murderers. The Fae, confined to Exilium, have left traces of their involvement, but much more evidence is needed to prove that the Fae are breaking the binds that prevent them from wreaking havoc on the other worlds.
Having previously colluded with each other, Max, the gargoyle and Cathy find their plans dovetailing and agree to help each other. Presented with resistance from all sides, the unlikely trio must also work in secret, as exposure may cost them their lives and meagre freedoms.
The third novel in the Split Worlds series is a great narrative about working for change from inside corrupt systems. Ms Newman has woven a tale to be proud of, full of suffragist and social conscience messages, interweaved with charming characters with flawed but earnest hearts. It demonstrated the reward of staying to change your society from within, instead of running away, and that a changing of the old guard happens, one way or another. And showed that sometimes love, acceptance and support can come from those who you believe most incapable of it.
You’ll find All is Fair an easy-to-read fantasy that preteens and older can enjoy; the maturation of the characters contains no explicit material unsuitable for younger ages, but a few themes might be less easily empathised with. Action-driven but built with true to life characters, All is Fair is a beautifully successful ending for the trilogy.
I devoured All is Fair within 24 hours, it was so engaging. Emma Newman writes with a fluent and easy style that envelops you into the story. The characters had a chance to grow, even with the events mounting all around them. All is Fair’s narrative was helped that much of the growth was emotional, and often came at the sacrifice of a little pride.
One of my main gripes is that the ending led up to a great speech by Cathy that we didn’t get; and when it is her triumph culminating in this event, it is just a disappointment not to hear what she has to say. Also, All is Fair will not work as a standalone: reading the first two novels, Between Two Thorns and Any Other Name is really essential for full enjoyment of this book.
That the culprit behind the deaths of the Arbiters and Sorcerers remained unpunished and the Fae were likely able to leave Exilium leaves me to hope there may be another book up Emma Newman’s sleeve, even if several of the larger plotlines were wrapped up tidily or in some manner in this novel. A girl can dream, right?
I can highly recommend All is Fair and any of Emma Newman’s books for their succinct expression and ability to draw you in. Emma is from Somerset, England, and you can find out more about her at http://www.enewman.co.uk/ or one of her stories for our Women in Writing Edition (8) in 2013, right here at SQ Mag.
All is Fair by Emma Newman
Publisher: Angry Robots, 2013
Sophie is a scientist, aspiring writer, sci-fi and fantasy nerd. She is an editor with IFWG Publishing and has been Editor In Chief of SQ Mag and SQ Magazine, the previous incarnation. She also contributes book and film reviews. She is currently living in Vancouver, Canada.
You can find her in a few different places: @Smoph on Twitter, Sophie Yorkston – writer on Facebook, and at her blogs: Smoph’s Musings and Smoph Writes.