In the slums of BrightStone, Moon Children are worth less than the scrap they must collect to survive. It doesn’t matter that these abandoned half-breeds are part-Meridian with their ancestors hailing from the technologically advanced city that floats above the once-thriving, now plague-ridden BrightStone. Instead they are rejected by both their ancestral societies and forced to live on the outskirts of civilization, joining clans simply to survive. Not to mention their role as Tithe, leading the city’s infected citizens deep into the Pits where their disease can be controlled.
Nineteen-year-old Raggy Maggy is no different, despite the mysterious heart-shaped panel that covers her chest. Or at least she wasn’t… Not until her chance discovery of a Meridian-built clockwork dragon—and its murdered owner. When the Inquestors policing the city find Maggy at the scene of the crime, she quickly turns into their prime suspect. Now she’s all anyone can talk about. Even her clan leader turns his back on her, leading her to rely on an exiled doctor and a clanless Moon Child named Ghost to keep her hidden. In return, all she has to do is help them find a cure for the plague they believe was not exactly accidental. Yet doing so might mean risking more than just her life. It also might be the only key to uncovering the truth about the parents—and the past—she knows nothing about.
That blurb. That blurb and that cover. I was kind of entranced the first time I saw this available for review. Lately I’ve been reading quite a bit more fantasy and science fiction and I could not resist the temptation of the first book in a new Allison Pang series. REQUEST.
Magpie’s Song is a mix of Dystopian, Fantasy and Steampunk. Which I loved, but honestly, I’m not sure how to review this book because so much of it was set up. The world building is amazing, but it wasn’t until toward the end that it all began to take shape in my mind. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on until about the 80% mark.
This world is divided into several classes of citizens. The slums are populated by the poor and cast off Moon Children who have gathered into clans, there are the middle working class, and the rich high-class citizens, who are protected by a sort of military force called Inquestors. And then there are the Meridians, who are quite literally floating in a city above BrightStone and who come across as other worldly and untouchable. There is a plague called the Rot that has affected the inhabitants of BrightStone for years and no one seems to really know what causes it or why it strikes who it does. The poor are oppressed by the higher-ups in society and forced to offer up tithes, always a Moon Child who are naturally resistant to the plague, to lead the plague ridden into the Pits, a cave system deep into the ground, so they are segregated from the rest of society.
Pang introduces readers to Raggy Maggy, a Moon Child who while out digging for scrap to bring back to her clan leader discovers a clockwork dragon. This discovery leads her into trouble as almost immediately she also comes across the murdered body of what must have been the owner of the mysterious dragon. Turned out by her clan and on the run from the Inquestors, she finds herself taking refuge in a brothel with an odd group of allies; A doctor, the brothel owner and Ghost, another Moon Child with no clan affiliation who has always lived off the grid. She is tasked in helping them figure out the origins of the Rot and helping by finding a way into the Pits.
See? A lot of world building and character development to get through. While I truly enjoyed getting to know Raggy Maggy and Ghost, I feel like most of the secondary characters are still mysteries and I’m not sure what their motivations are. Actually, I have the feeling that almost everything that has to do with this world and these characters will remain a mystery right up till the last book in the series. Still, despite muddling my way through and trying to piece together what was truly happening, I read this book straight through from beginning to end. I was simply entranced by Ms. Pang’s writing. By the time I got to the cliffhanger ending I was ready for another 240 pages. I didn’t want my time in BrightStone to end.
All in all, I enjoyed the first book in the IronHeart Chronicles series and will 100%, absolutely be reading the next book in this series. Final Grade-B-/C+