Published by Angry Robot on April 3, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
I have to say from the outset that I had fun reading The Sisters Mederos. This is a fantasy of manners with two sisters, raised with privilege, whose family loses everything, and who, using their wits and determination seek to reinstate their family’s good name and fortune.
There’s not too much to go into in relation to the plot. The Mederos family was one of the most influential and wealthy merchant houses in Port Saint Frey until the fleet was sunk and it was discovered their was no insurance. Their fall from grace was as spectacular as it was speedy and clearly somebody orchestrated the whole affair. The sisters are determined to find out who is to blame although at the same time they need to take action to keep their family afloat.
As the story sets off we meet the Mederos family as they’re in the process of being accused. The family home is taken from them, the girl’s uncle is imprisoned and the two girls are sent to boarding school. When we next meet up with them the sisters have been returned home to their family after an absence of six years. Times have changed, none of their former friends speak to them, they are impoverished and without any prospects reduced to bickering amongst themselves. Thankfully the two sisters still have some ideas and enough guts to take matters into their own hands.
Yvienne is the elder sister and probably my favourite of the story. She’s definitely the brains of the piece and has a plan for revealing those behind her family’s downfall. She already has ideas about what happened but she needs time to uncover more. Becoming a governess helps her to come up with an alibi for being out of the house without raising her family’s suspicion and dressing in boys clothing enables her to experience a new degree of freedom at the same time as helping her to come up with a new persona in the form of the Gentleman Bandit. Tesara on the other hand is a little like the black sheep of the family. She keeps secret the magic that she is capable of and blames herself for the storm that caused the fleet’s destruction out at sea. Tesara always seems to be in trouble with the family and longs for relief which comes in the form of invitations to parties – her families notoriety giving her a certain level of entertainment value. Using these invitations and the friendship of a couple of young people who are not too worried about reputation Tesara eventually finds her forte is gambling. Unfortunately as she moves in these circles she is starting to attract notice from parties that she would be better off not coming to the attention of. Both girls take risks, they were scared, but they put their fear behind them and I have to say I admired their pluck.
Eventually both the sisters become deeper embroiled in their own webs of deceit until the final showdown where everything will either fall into place or a greater price paid. The sisters thought they’d lost everything but their lives are at stake now.
This is a period drama but being set in an alternate world it doesn’t necessarily mimic the rules of propriety as strictly as a novel set in our world might do. Both the sisters manage to get out and about with far fewer restrictions than you might expect but I liked that, it gave them a bit more agency to achieve things. The place itself is only really briefly drawn but I didn’t find that a problem either as it felt easy enough to imagine a small seaside town of the era.
I think my main reservations with the story came in the form of the family ties. I wouldn’t say that I really got a feel for them caring about each other, even the sisters. If they’d communicated a little more with each other they might have been able to work together as oppose to going off independently at tangents and sometimes almost working against the other and adding to the risk. It felt like they could have come up with a more cogent plan for action, two heads being better than one. The magic was also not really elaborated on and felt almost tacked on to add more of a ‘fantasy’ element – I’d like to see this explored a little more.
However, in spite of reservations and a few, what felt like, unfinished storylines, I found this an entertaining read. Yes, certain storylines were left open but I’m figuring that maybe they’ll be focused on in future books and I would definitely be interested in reading more to see how the sisters develop and what adventures they get tied into next.