Review of ‘The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry’ by C.M. Waggoner
This was an oddball book but I enjoyed it anyway. I don’t get to read a lot of historic fantasy so I’m always excited to read them when I can. This has a Victorian feel but with witches, trolls, necromancers, and an animal shifter. I have read other fantasy books that take place in a similar time period and place, but I really liked the different mix of beings and magic. It’s been a while since I have read a book that even had a troll in it, and then you put them in this kind of setting and the book felt more unique because of it.
Like most fantasy books, especially ones that have a different way for characters to speak and even new names for things, it took me a little while to get into the story. I actually felt comfortable faster than I expected because most of the new names and phrases were very easy to understand. While it was annoying that the troll character said What? at the end of every other sentence -even when a question was not asked- I thought all the other differences were well done. I also thought the world-building was integrated pretty seamlessly. I don’t recall thinking ‘oh here comes another info dump’, instead I found myself pretty immersed and felt like I learned everything that I needed to know.
One of the main reasons I wanted to read this, besides it being historical fantasy, was that this promised a sapphic romance. The main character, Dell, is a petty criminal, bisexual, fire-witch. When Dell takes a job to be a magical bodyguard, she meets a fellow bodyguard, our troll, Winn. Dell sees Winn as a mark, someone wealthy to buy her gifts or maybe even the long game to wife up with her, but things start to change when real feelings get involved. I was actually surprised by how much time was spent on the romance. It was more than I expected and I was happy with it. There were no explicit sex scenes. It was a little annoying that Dell slept with a couple of guys but never with her potential love interest, but that’s because Winn wanted to treat her like a lady. There were a couple of passionate scenes but nothing really explicit.
It was interesting that this book had a bit of a darker feel, one of the storylines is about the drug trade, there is some death, attempted revenge, and people that have it tough in life. But this book was also quirky and had humor that made you feel like this wasn’t dark fantasy at all. It was a really interesting and well-done balance. I always talk about how I struggle with book humor, but here I found quite a few things funny and I didn’t even realize that they were jokes. It was subtle dark humor and it leads me to my favorite character, Mr. Buttons, a dead mouse that is being inhabited by something…. I’m being vague here not to spoil anything but it was so damn bizarre and unique that I completely loved the thing.
I would recommend this book to historic fantasy fans. There are not a ton of books in this category so it is always nice when a good new one comes out. This did have a few pacing issues. It’s funny, but after the first one-third of the book, it almost felt like the book should be ending, but then it climbs up again for another adventure. So the pace was a bit up and down and I think I would have edited a few parts out. On the other hand, some of the slower parts were nice because it gave time for Winn and Dell to grow closer. Anyway, I think most sapphic historical fantasy fans will enjoy this even with the few bumps it has. I don’t know if there will be a sequel but I would absolutely read more about Winn and Dell. In the meantime, I will read ‘Unnatural Magic’ that takes place in the same world but with different characters. 3.75 Stars.
A copy was given to me for an honest review.