Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Girls at the Edge of the World, by Laura Brooke Robson

In the kingdom of Kostrova, The Captain's Log has foretold a series of ten storms that will bring on a great global flood in its conclusion.  It's not supposed to come for many more years, but as the storms start occurring as they have been described, people start to panic.  There are no preparations and not nearly enough boats for everyone.  It readily becomes apparent that people will do anything to find a place on one of them.  Natasha, the leader of the elite Royal Flyers (a group of young women who perform acrobatic ballet on silk ribbons, has her eyes on the attentions of King Nikolai who is searching for a wife.  

For the elite Royal Flyers themselves, their chances are slightly better than average. So, when a vacancy appears, many apply.  For most of the applicants, getting a foot in the door would improve their chances of survival.  For Ella, she knows she is doomed regardless and she doesn't care.  She's joining the Royal Flyers for an entirely different reason:  to exact revenge by killing King Nikolai.

As the storms progress, and the prophecy unfolds as it was foretold, social unrest breaks out and palace intrigues start to emerge.  There is tug of war between Nikolai and the faith's leader, mass poisonings, and acts of arson.  However, in the end, everyone's plans get thrown off and things take their own course.

I loved the immersive world building.  While I found it a little distracting, I even enjoyed the faint Russian and Finnish references in the novel.  However, the ending is a rushed mess in which so much of what is built up in the story gets tossed aside.  It keeps us on our toes but so little of what happens in the end is actually built during the story.  The storms, the revenge, the struggle over the crown, competition for the king's hand, and even the planned murder weapon become irrelevant for how the story wraps up.  And a romance that is barely hinted at during the bulk of the story becomes determinant in the end.

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