The early 19th century was a heady time of repeated challenges to the assumption that the social order as it stood was supernaturally (divinely) ordained. A particularly sticky web of politics and romance traps Susan Voight and James Cobham in a dense, thrillingly suspenseful plot connecting a reforming democratic labor movement, Chartism, to a secret society, the Trotters Club, whose corrupt members intend to exploit a magical ritual for their personal, complicated purposes of vengeance and power. Layers of truths and falsehoods mislead and confound the protagonists in their dealings with each other and the conspiracies; they come to understand that only honesty can save them. Although the perversion of the natural power of sorcery fails because it is unnatural, the social order, unnatural or not, is more resistant to justice. The swift pace, surprising developments, and appealing characters make it nearly impossible to put this book down. Though the women's rights movement is glancingly acknowledged, the conventionally romantic fulfillment is a little disappointing. Is there no other end for intelligent, financially independent women than maternity and love-partnership (as binding, or more, as legal marriage) with a man?
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