The Golden City
by J. Kathleen Cheney
I don’t remember where/how I first heard of this book, but I’m glad I did. What an interesting read! It’s got bits of so many things: alternate history, fantasy, murder mystery, romance, conspiracy. Merfolk, selkies, and seers are real, and Portugal is divided in half. The story takes place in North Portugal, which is under the reign of a mad prince who has banned all seafolk from his shores, on penalty of death. Oriana is a sereia, the author’s interpretation of a cross between a siren and a mermaid. She is a spy in the Golden City, constantly having to hide her gills, webbed fingers, and scaled lower body. When she and her wealthy employer are mysteriously abducted and left to drown, Oriana survives due to her aquatic nature and embarks on a quest to discover who is behind the death of her friend. This leads her to cross paths with a dashing police consultant with the gift of a seer, a selkie missing her pelt, one of the prince’s sinister counselors, and her own people’s most effective and dangerous spy. It’s book 1 in a series, so there’s lots of action still to come, but I felt this first book tied up enough threads to be it’s own story in the larger series. It’s a good read, mixing art and magic with history and fiction. I await book #2 eagerly.