What I enjoyed the most were those four protagonists, each on with agency, each one with a purpose in life, who do not necessarily begin as friends, but who all know each other due to this also being a novel of manners, thus family and social connections are not only plot points but help define characters strengths, weaknesses and growth.
The characters! The worldbuilding! The derring-do! The alchemy! The interesting magic system! The romance! (Neither sappy nor over-eroticized, bless you Ms. Jones.) Even the Alpennian language was well-thought-out! I DREW FAN ART, OKAY? ... If you’ve ever enjoyed Austen or Heyer or Susanna Clarke stop reading this blog and go buy the first one right now.
(Not a review, as such, although there are links to reviews. But some gorgeous art Shira commissioned for a promotion.)
The Alpennia books by Heather Rose Jones are everything I wanted when I was a teenager and I’m so happy they exist now–19th century costume drama fantasy taking place in a tiny imaginary country near France, Switzerland, and Italy, starring a bunch of lesbians who do magic or swordfight and also featuring bi women and a trans guy. The books are full of political intrigue, pretty clothing, all types of relationships between women from romantic to friendship to rival princesses.
[Mother of Souls] is a quiet book, not a flashy one. And Jones is ambitious in the kind of quiet stories she’s choosing to tell: it is an unusual choice in a fantasy novel to have the politics and sorcery, although an integral part of the story, come second (not co-equal with, but very definitely second) to character growth and development. Mother of Souls is an interesting novel, and a compelling one.