Iron Cast by Destiny Soria (first published in 2016 by Amulet Books)
A supernaturally gifted young black girl working in a speakeasy during a time when the prohibitions act is on the verge of being ratified? Well, colour me intrigued.
Blending a combination of fantasy and history, Destiny Soria’s debut novel is a unique offering that explores what happens when two young girls find themselves caught up in a dangerous game where every illusion performed means one step closer to giving up on everything they’ve ever fought for.
Ada and Corinne are not only in danger of being out of work because of the impending prohibitions act, but they’re also persecuted for being hemopaths – people whose blood enables them to create illusions through their art medium and thereby, in some cases, manipulate the emotions of their audience.
Because they’re indebted to the owner of the Iron Cast, the club where they perform, Ada and Corinne often use their gifts to con the wealthier patrons out of money, in order to provide for both themselves and the rest of the folk who reside at the club.
When a con goes wrong and Ada finds herself in trouble, the events that follow set off a chain reaction that brings to light questions, betrayals and a fight that is bigger than the two girls could even begin to fathom.
What a jam-packed and unique offering in a genre that often falls back on popular and familiar tropes to tell a story.
While the book is by no means perfect (it took me a while to get used to the writing style and I’m still not sure if I can suspend my disbelief enough to be convinced that the illusions created through the use of their art have been executed convincingly), I found myself enjoying it for the engaging story and diverse cast of characters.
Ada and Corinne are two characters that couldn’t be more different. Ada is a black girl who grew up in the less than savoury part of town, while Corinne comes from a prominent family whose reputation is on the verge of only being solidified further due to an impending and seemingly politically motivated marriage.
Ada is the steadfast one – the calm one who thinks things through before taking action, while Corinne is the impulsive one who rushes headlong into something with no thought for the consequences whatsoever.
Yet, together, the two of them make a formidable pair. If there’s one thing this book brings to the forefront, it’s the strength and bond of the friendship depicted between these two girls. It’s refreshing to see a book that places the value of friendship above that of the romance – and even though there is some of that in this book – it takes somewhat of a backseat.
There’s layers and depths to this novel that I also found fascinating. Not only does the book explore the underlying racial tension and elitism, but the fact that these girls, with their gifts, are also persecuted for their blood and talent and through means that are both scientifically primitive and involve torture, add an element to this novel that made this book that much more compelling.
The fact that it’s also taking place in an era before the prohibition act is set to be ratified plays a significant role, one that definitely leads to more than a few surprises.
All in all, if you’re looking for a book that delves into the heart of human nature, deals with betrayal and explores what happens when you’ve got nothing left to lose, Destiny Soria’s Iron Cast is a novel that will be right up your alley.