It’s time for a fantasy with magicians and mentalists 😙👌🏻
The Unflinching Ash is absolutely everything I needed. I’ve always been super obsessed with magicians — the card tricks and the illusions and the sleight-of-hand, like YES I love this. (And secretly want to try it….which okay I did? But it lasted like 3 days because I was bad at it and have 0% of the showy flares.) This book is like fantasy meets a girl Houdini and it also has a stark commentary on how women vs men are treated within the same specialities. Ash is an incredible mentalist, but while men are allowed to entertain with their tricks — she’s likely to be burned at the stake or drowned as a witch for it. The unfairness keeps your teeth grit and your fury on edge as you root for Ash.
What she needs: immunity from the queen, protection so she can follow in her parents’ footsteps as a Mystic without risk of persecution.
To win: she has to get a recommendation, beat all the other magicians, oh and also SURVIVE until the contest.
I loved the way the magician part was written! The tricks are described and often explained too, and the author’s note lists a few famous tricks/magicians that inspiration came from. (Also challenges us to name some female magicians which…yeah 😩😭 I could not.) Ash does a lot of crowd-reading. She’s a mentalist and pulls off these literal death-defying tricks by accurately guessing people’s thoughts and intentions. Then she vanishes as soon as the show is over.
And what of her captors? Did they really think her so frail and helpless that darkness, some rope, and a perversion of blacksmithery would be sufficient to hold the daughter of Pabla la Presica and Alexact?
There are also so many amazing side-characters. Taking a second to gush about Ash’s sister Grete and her husband Wynn because they were amazing 😌 Grete is a tough-as-sticks older sister who worries after Ash, and Wynn often helps Ash with her tricks, and he’s just amicable and kind. And Ash herself is so bold and unapologetic, clever and forthright too. She goes through a LOT, just trying to avoid being murdered as a witch, but she’s constantly thinking of others and helping them too 🥺💛
“What is a witch, but a woman who understood something a man did not?”
And then THERE IS REN. Who I absolutely adored!! He’s after the queen’s immunity too and he is scoping out the opposition when he meets Ash. I loved their romance because it starts off with them just trying to impress the other by outsmarting each other. He’ll pick her pocket, she’ll do a death-defying trick. They have incredible intuition about each other’s tricks and so much chemistry. I also loved that soft Ren wanted to help Ash, but she KNEW she needed to do this 100% for herself.
High stakes and death-defying tricks and women magicians!! This is a fast-paced and clever story of female magicians and tentative love with real historical influences.
AD | Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the book for a review & feature!
In a world like ours, Mystics once ruled the night. Well, so long as they were men. On Ash’s day of naming, she chose the Mystic path nonetheless. The same illusions that garner gasps of awe from the lamp-lit crowds earn her scorn from the basilica. There is only one way forward: a perilous quest – earn the Queen’s Seal, a badge of honour, and immunity. She’ll simply have to avoid being hanged, burned or drowned first.