The book that made it to two of my Top 10 Lists in the past year – both 2014 Releases I Didn’t Get To and Books I Want to Read But Don’t Own Yet. It’s the sequel to When the Sea Is Rising Red, which I very much enjoyed. Thank you to my brother-in-law for getting it for me for Christmas! Warning: spoilers for the first book are inevitable.
House of Sand and Secrets by Cat Hellisen. Folded Wherry Press, 2014.
Hellisen must not believe in straight-up happy endings… because what looked like hard-won peace and tentative love at the end of When the Sea Is Rising Red has turned to mistrust and small acts of cruelty by the beginning of this book. Felicita married Jannik, a young vampire who wooed her with poetry, and they ran away from the chaos of Pelimburg. Felicita has claimed her rank in the city of MallenIve – but gaining a toehold in high society is both difficult and necessary. Vampire-human relationships weren’t socially acceptable in their home city of Pelimburg, but vampires were at least regarded as full members of society. In MallenIve, they are regarded as suitable only for slavery. Besides the strain created by their difference in rank, they are haunted in the not-literal sense by the ghost of the lover they shared. Did they really ever love each other? Magic for the high-class humans is literally a drug, addicting even as it activates their latent powers, and Felicita has gone cold turkey. The withdrawal symptoms put her on edge and are especially difficult when she’s around the other high-class ladies all using publicly.
On top of these nebulous relationship issues is a pressing outside concern: increasing numbers of vampires found murdered. The numbers of those who care about this are few indeed, and Felicita and Jannik will have to find some way to convince someone – anyone – to work with them before they get completely out of hand. The book is filled with mystery, politics, magic, art, and people repressed by society. Though there’s a lot going on, it’s an introspective story, and we spend a lot of time in Felicita’s head as she tries to figure out who she is and her relationship with Jannik, enough that those who prefer plot-focused books might feel bogged down. The focus on the post-marriage relationship makes it feel a little more adult, though the content isn’t really more than other teen books and the characters are still in their teens. It is dark and gorgeous and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
I’d read When the Sea Is Rising Red first if you haven’t. This might also pair well with Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver and Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, though neither of these have the Victorian historical feel of this one. The Golden City by J. Kathleen Cheney also has some of the same dark paranormal mystery/romance in a historical setting. And of course, I still need to read Hellisen’s latest book, Beastkeeper, a middle grade Beauty and the Beast retelling