A magical shape shifter thief breaks in to take a mask that reminds him of his youth. The mask calls to him reminding him of a time he's long tried to put behind him. But now, this village seems to hold answers for Ronan, and questions. He will learn what the mystery is here. Ella witnesses the thief running away from Penherem Manor, in her dream. Yet, she's not the only there to see him. A sightless woman as well. And another, none know of, awakens this same night. A dark seed blooms by the magic smell released from the mask. The smell of a realm of which the gates are and have been closed for hundreds of years. To steal the mask, Ronan will have to stay a while and learn the lay of the museum it's in. Ronan finds he is rather intrigued with the surprises of Penherem. Then the murders start in this quiet tourist town.
Aroha has the breeze talking to her. New Zealand is being attacked and brings a man to her, a man that will have to help her on her journey after she asks the fey to save his life. By asking the favor of the fey, she is in turn bound to a favor in return.
First, I can't tell you how much I enjoy the way Philippa has taken a digital world and blended it with a touch of fey. The connection to the fey realm is lost, severed years ago. But, there are lesser fey who choose to live here. And more.
This sounds like a harsh world at the start. For thievery people trade "flesh for metal" and "soul for machine". Yes, they really do. The digital world is alive and thriving in this time setting. The tech here is really neat! There is even a 'online' type world called lining. It's where people have ports installed into their body and can plug in to the magic of the digital world. Baraki has one of these plugs.
Interesting setup of the world. Little Penherem is to resemble a small village around London. An England piece of history yet different from the past it's to represent and safer. The shape shifter, Ronan, seems different. As he's been around a long time and with pure magic in him. Ella has a past she doesn't look back at, and a past she doesn't remember. She lives in Penherem as it's a comfortable little town where she can write and work a job to pay her bills. Everyone in Penherem seems to have secrets they don't share, and maybe more them than we even know.
All the paths start to cross and their histories become clearer and clearer as you read. Ronan, Ella, Baraki, Aroha, the darkness - all have a connection and it's amazing watching Philippa weave the world and the draw between them all.
I was afraid to read this story as it's hundreds of years afterChasing the Bard, and I loved Chasing the Bard so much I didn't want to ruin the memory. I should not have wasted time in getting to this book. This book lives and breaths it's own story. What happened in Chasing the Bard in the end impacts the world here but isn't the story, it doesn't affect the characters story here. I loved this story for what it shared with us, and how different it was from Chasing the Bard.
You could read this book without reading Chasing the Bard. I think you will be safe with the small connections and they are explained.