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About Subversive by Colleen Cowley

A wizard. An unwilling assistant. An explosive secret.

In an America controlled by wizards and 100 years behind on women’s rights, Beatrix Harper counts herself among the resistance—the Women’s League for the Prohibition of Magic. Then Peter Blackwell, the only wizard her town has ever produced, unexpectedly returns home and makes her work for him.

Beatrix fears he wants to undermine the League. His real purpose is far more dangerous for them both.

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Review of Subversive

100 years after the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote in the United States, comes a book that imagines history a bit differently.  In Subversive, male magicians have taken over as lawmakers and women were never granted voting rights.  Not much has changed in the last 100 years, so women are still expected to marry, have children and leave the good jobs to the men.

Beatrix finds this situation to be quite unsatisfactory.

After the death of their parents leaves Beatrix and her sister Lydia with no means of support, Beatrix must forget her dreams of going to college and instead, take a job as a store clerk to earn money to send Lydia to school. When Omnimancer Peter Blackwell arrives in Ellicot Mills, little changes, except now Beatrix must work for Blackwell.  Or so it would seem.

There is a lot going on in this story.  Lydia is an active social reformer.  Beatrix works to support Lydia, but is secretly interested in magic.  Blackwell has a secret project that takes a lot of time, so he gets Beatrix to do much of his work.  Another omnimancer shows up to spy on Blackwell by courting Beatrix.  Lydia’s League group has a spy.  There is sabotage and attempted murder.  All the while bonds, magical or otherwise, are drawing Beatrix and Blackwell together.

Because of all these elements, it takes a while for the story to warm up.  But once it does, the danger is real, the adventure is exciting and the romance is, well, frustrating.  But the discoveries along the way for Beatrix, Peter and Lydia lead to a satisfying (if temporary) conclusion.  Expect to experience a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of this book.  It’s not terrible, but it is slightly annoying for someone who doesn’t like cliffhangers.

According to the author the entire series is to be released this fall.  So, with any luck, my cliffhanger frustration will soon be alleviated.

One of the interesting aspects of the story is the struggle for women’s rights.  Whether they want to vote, go to college, get a good job or just control their own destiny, the truth of the matter is that in Ellicot Mills, as in any town where women and men live, it is difficult to change minds and expectations.  It seems Lydia and Beatrix have an uphill battle ahead of them.

Many thanks to the author provided a copy of her book in exchange for my honest review.

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