I have continued to rage-buy books by people of color and this is one I picked up at one of my local independent bookstores because it caught my eye and I had seen people saying good things about it online. One of my book group friends saw it and asked if it was one I had read and was going to talk about, and when I told her I had just bought it, she replied, “We’ll talk next month.” So this new purchase quickly rose to the top of my TBR list so I could talk about it with her. I still hadn’t finished by the time our book group met the following month and she ended up not making it to that meeting, but I’m still glad I read this book right away.
It’s a superfun YA paranormal fantasy by Destiny Soria that takes place in Boston in 1919. The two main characters, Ada and Corinne, are teenaged girls who can also do magic. They’re called “hemopaths.” Hemopaths can be trained and practice their magic, but they can’t help being hemopaths. It’s not something anyone chooses, their powers just start manifesting around the time they hit puberty.
Hemopaths influence people’s emotions and the world around them through art. Ada is a songsmith, which means she can sing/hum or play an instrument and the music she plays can influence your emotions and perceptions of what’s going on around you, including making you more likely to trust her or go to sleep or simply turn around and walk another direction. It’s not quite the same as getting into people’s heads and telling them what to do, but she can come pretty close at times.
Corinne is a wordsmith, which means she uses poetry to conjure illusions. There are also thespians, who can create an illusion to make themselves look like anyone they want. That’s a handy trick because only a thespian can spot another thespian. There are others, but those are the main talents that get mentioned and used a lot in this book.
One of the main drawbacks to being a hemopath is that any contact with iron is painful. Direct contact is excruciating, but even just being around iron can be enough to induce a substantial headache. Hence the title.
Another drawback to being a hemopath is that the practice of hemopathy has just been outlawed in America. Much like Prohibition, this has led to illegal clubs that feature hemopath performers to conjure illusions for patrons and influence their emotions. It’s a form of escape that people are willing to pay for, whether it’s legal or not, and the hemopaths get an iron-free space in which to perform.
Our heroines work for a man named Johnny Dervish who owns a club called the Cast Iron. In addition to the illegal hemopath shows, they also run the occasional con for him, using their magical abilities to steal from the rich and give to Johnny, who, in return, provides a safe haven for them in the form of the Cast Iron.
But practicing hemopathy comes with serious risk. There’s an asylum hemopaths get sent to when arrested and, although the upper levels are iron free, residents are not allowed to interact with each other or the staff and eventually they’re taken to the basement. No one knows for sure what happens in the basement, but those who go in usually don’t come out.
When we first meet our heroines, Ada is a prisoner in the asylum and Corinne is busting her out. The two are best friends who are apparently invincible when together and I loved their friendship and the fact that it was the focus of the story. Each girl has her own romance brewing throughout the story, but it’s their friendship that takes center stage.
Despite how close they are, they’re very different people. Ada is black and her father has been imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, so a big part of her motivation in working for Johnny is to provide for herself and her mother. She’s the sensible one.
Corinne, on the other hand, is a white member of one of Boston’s wealthiest families and she absolutely hates it. They think she’s in boarding school, but she left once her powers manifested and has been living in the Cast Iron ever since. She’s the carefree spirit who’s constantly getting into trouble and Ada is always bailing her out.
Shortly after the story starts, we learn the Cast Iron is in deep financial trouble and Ada and Corinne have to run another con to get the money the club needs to stay afloat. But another job goes bad and multiple people end up dead. Ada and Corinne have to get to the bottom of it to get justice for their dead friends and save the club at the same time. It’s full of twists and turns and cliffhangers and awesome characters all the way through. It was a lot of fun to read and I highly recommend it.
What did you guys read this week? Anything else you read just so you could talk about it with a friend?