The first book in the historical fantasy series the Shadow Histories.


Publication year: 2020

Format: Audio

Running time: 20 hours, 53 minutes
Narrator: Andrew Kingston

It is the Age of Enlightenment — of new and magical political movements, from Maximilien Robespierre calling for revolution in France to Toussaint L’Ouverture leading the slaves of Haiti in their fight for freedom, to the bold new Prime Minister William Pitt weighing the legalization of magic amongst commoners in Britain and abolition throughout its colonies overseas.

But amidst all of the upheaval of the early modern world, there is an unknown force inciting all of human civilization into violent conflict. And it will require the combined efforts of revolutionaries, magicians, and abolitionists to unmask this hidden enemy before the whole world falls to darkness and chaos.

The story follows three groups of people. In England, the young Prime Minister William Pitt, his friend and abolitionist William Wilberforce, and the people around them. They are working inside the system so that the commoners could use their magic. In France, Roberspierre and his friend Camille Desmoulins are working for the same goal. Roberspierre has mesmerizing powers himself and a mysterious benefactor encourages him to use them. In Jamaica, a girl was enslaved when she was six. She, and all the other slaves, are forcefully fed a drink that makes them helpless to resist mesmerizing magic and so they are easier to control. But little by little she starts to resist the drink and the magic.

This is a retelling of the French Revolution and the Saint Domingue slave rebellion with magic. The main characters are almost all real historical people. The events happened so if you know British and France history, you’ll know what will happen.

Magic is inborn. In both France and England, infants are tested for magic and if commoner children have a talent for it, they’re issued bracelets that prevent them from using magic. Nobles can use magic. There’s a mention of vampire wars when commoner soldiers used magic and now they’re forbidden to use it. The Knights Templar is the organization that tests for magic. They also arrest and imprison people who use it without permission.

The story is meticulously researched and magic is very well infused into the historical events. However, it’s not an adventure story. Instead, it focuses on the politics of the time. The story starts with the description of the little girl being enslaved. The slavery descriptions are brutal.

The magicians seem to have just one or two talents: mesmerizing, fire magic, weather magic, blood magic, shadow magic, etc.

This was a nice change of pace for me and I will probably read the next book, too.