In the world of Sepia City, there are a few regular occurrences like cab companies and temples and a few irregular ones like witches. And witches are not only forbidden, but publicly drowned in an event called The Cleansing. How witches work is they draw incantations, sometimes with chalk on the ground other times with pen on their arms. And the authorities put a flame to your arm if they suspect anything fantastical about you. If you burn, you’re normal. If you don’t, it’s off to the lake. Still, having abilities is good for thieves. Julia is a thief who works with a boarding house of them, now posing as a maid in a type of bed and breakfast under the house of Mrs. Och. Julia’s ability is yes, to vanish, not being entirely invisible but the senses of others, from smell and touch and hear, are cancelled. Sometimes it’s a bit unclear how invisible she is but it’s still fun watching her spying. Her assignment was to find some sort of shadow, and she’d know the exact object of it when she sees it, she’s told. But there’s a serial killer on the loose in the streets, and when a girl named Bianka and her son Theo show up at the house, which Julia suspects has some witch blood in her, she’ll have to figure things out fast.
You know, lately there are a lot of book series featuring superpowers and politics. In Red Queen and Steelheart, it was the ones with powers with the higher authority. In Ruined and this book, it’s the polar opposite. But this sort of storytelling is generally appealing to me. Having discrimination and certain policies due to abnormal people is realistic. And when the first Cleansing takes place, I felt a chill.
Catherine Egan’s writing is also nicely done. There’s the occasional slipup, such as when Julia meets a girl named Shay, and the first paragraph says, “there is Shay.” Then a few paragraph says “The girl named Shay.” But most of the time if you pay attention to her descriptions of the house, the city at night, some of the fight scenes and the final showdown place, it’s enjoyable. But it’s the surprising story turnouts that bring things up to a solid fantastical book.
Now, at first, it wasn’t as good as I was hoping. The book basically starts with Julia already on her mission, so we’re introduced to a ton of characters at once, something I don’t often take a taste to. And a big chunk of the book is spent inside Mrs. Och’s house and for the first half a big chunk of that is reading about the folklore and history of this universe, which isn’t quite as interesting as the story taking place of vanishing and public drowning. As a result, the book sometimes felt stuffy like being trapped in a room. But for the other times, I was able to indulge myself in the book easy peasy. An attacker is burned at the stake by some of the people on the good side of the story and the thought Julia has made me feel worried along with her.
Some of the characters feel like they have minimal traits but there have been dozens of books with far more forgettable characters, and they all band together nicely when the climax happens, utilizing a combination of the crime and fantasy genre that teaches Julia a lesson I didn’t see coming and had me caring about how the end result would turn out.
The next book is called Julia Defiant. I don’t have a hunger to pick it up right now but it hasn’t turned invisible on my TBR, and both of those feelings stem from how things turned out satisfactorily.