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Any Other Name (The Split Worlds) by Emma Newman
Review by Drew Bittner
Angry Robot Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780857663238
Date: 28 May 2013 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver's three year escape from her family has failed. Found in Mundanus (that is, our world) by her family's Patron, Lord Poppy, she is taken back to Aquae Sulis, the mirror city of England's Bath, and forced to obey her family's cruel dictates. But Cathy has a knack for finding ways out of gilded cages....

In Any Other Name, the second part of The Split Worlds novels by Emma Newman, the fae courts remain in some turbulence with the abrupt crushing of one noble family's treacherous grab for power. Cathy's husband-to-be, William Iris, shelters two friends--Cornelius and Amelia--but his motives are not entirely clear even to himself. However, he knows he needs someone with knowledge of London's inner dealings (such as Cornelius) if he is to rise in London's hierarchy, as his Patron Lord Iris commands.

Meanwhile, Cathy contends with new and heavier burdens, such as an overbearing socialite and a clever spell that drastically limits her freedom. She must enlist the help of Sam, whose dealings with the fae brought him little but misery, and Max, the Arbiter whose gentler self rests inside a gargoyle. If she can leverage their help to win the support of the Sorcerer of Wessex, perhaps she can find a way to solve all of her problems in one blow.

Sam has problems of his own, as his ambitious wife is drawn into the snares of a corporation with a dark secret that could prove devastating. He must ask for help and trade dearly for it, if he wants to have any chance of saving the woman who by the day is more of a stranger (and a hostile one at that).

As these disparate strands draw closer together, a plot is hatched, treachery is unleashed, and even the smallest victories carry the most appalling costs.

In two novels, Newman has shown herself a force with which to be reckoned. Catherine is a magnificent heroine in the Austen mold, struggling to win her freedom in a world where everything is stacked against her. William is a solid and even respectable youth, doing everything to please Catherine and giving her everything she might want except the one thing she wants most; even then, he has his own flaws and burdens with which to contend. He is also faced with choices that must end in regret, however they turn out, as his duty may require that he do unethical things and perhaps betray a close confidence.

She has also created delightful and horrible villains in the persons of Dame Iris and Lord Iris, as well as the Loki-like Lord Poppy (whose playful guile masks a truly twisted mind). But the larger villain, it should be noted, is the society of the Split Worlds' other side, with its archaic conventions and 19th century customs that keep women circumscribed, held back from achieving their potential. These customs also work against the Sorcerer Ekstrand, who needs to solve a problem concerning the Arbiters--to wit, the fae are committing huge breaches of the Accords that govern contact between the worlds and yet the Arbiters of London are allowing it to happen. Why? Yet Ekstrand cannot force the issue, but must work within the complex web of tradition and ego that governs his kind.

Max and his gargoyle better half investigate The Agency--an organization that handles disgraced fae nobility after their fall--with the Arbiter learning a few new things about himself and the world he supposedly polices. (And his gargoyle partner continues to be delightful.)

Finally, Sam proves himself more heroic than his initial hapless appearance might have suggested, going to great lengths to rescue a damsel in distress. He might be an ordinary bloke with little ambition, but hes got plenty of heart when it counts.

This installment furthers the narrative both pleasingly and effectively, deepening the pit in which the various characters find themselves. Readers of high quality fantasy will be spellbound, as this story hurtles toward resolution.


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