Fantasy, Historical fiction

A Radical Act of Free Magic (The Shadow Histories #2) by H.G. Parry


I have quite a few pending reviews to round off the year before my end of year lists. But I just put this book down and was shocked at the lack of buzz on Goodreads for it. Especially since the Goodreads Choice awards first round came up, and this was not even on it (Mostly due to the fewer reviews on the book, I guess).
I usually (almost never) jump from the cozy position in which I find myself, towards the end of a great read and sit down to post my review. I make exceptions when I realise that I have not heard as much about this as I should have, given the number of people who read this complex historical fantasy genre and the sort of good books but not really that got praises sung for them throughout this year!
One of the qualifications I should give, which bolsters the book’s objective brilliance, is that I am from the other side of colonialism(being Indian) and have never been swept away by with depiction of ‘nobility’ or gentlemanliness in the characters of the 1700s-ish. Despite that prior bias, I was rooting for England’s victory and that of the core characters. I iterate that I know nothing of the revolutions and the things that happened in the duration that this fictional magic-filled world is based in, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.
This is the second book, and I would not recommend coming anywhere near it without having read the first. I found the first book slow but good. It took me forever to work my way through it, and I know many might find it hard too. But the trouble is worth it because the second literally flew through. It did not feel rushed, but after the solid foundation of all the principal characters and their supportive structures, it did not take much to be completely submerged in the events that unfold here.
Magic had long been allowed only to aristocratic classes, and now with war more of a constant than ever before, the norms of the day are being challenged. The bindings holding the status quo are fraying. The enemy has dug in deeper than we can guess, and it is going to take a lot more than friendship for things to work out. It was the kind of book that I would want a friend to pick up and for me to discuss it elaborately with them. If someone would like to talk about it, I am still hyped up. I am not talking about any person or event in particular because the previous book lays the foundation and I do not want to interfere.
Lastly, the best part of the entire reading experience was the interpersonal bonds between several individual groups/pairings. There is a wife character who was probably the least colourful of any that I have encountered but written in such a way that she endeared herself to me almost immediately, and I looked forward to her subtle presence in the narratives. I waxed poetic (to my husband, unfortunately for him, he was home as I was reaching the final chapters) about the friendships that are all not flowers and kind words, with sharp falling outs and patching ups but done in a way that had me cheering them on as if I was watching it on stage.
The magic, its implications, Slavery, the real battle for freedom and Haiti are all mixed in there in a very cohesive fashion, making it a highly satisfying read.
I highly recommend it to any history buff who is not against a combination of fantasy and good writing mixed in for good measure. I kept postponing reading it because I thought it would be as heavy as the first, but it was released in July, and I should have gotten to it sooner!

I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is (as is obvious) entirely based on my own reading experience of this and the previous work in the series.

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