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Iron Cast is a fantastic escape read. It’s also woke as hell, which is a magical combination that warmed my heart and filled me with hope and determination in a season in which I am sorely lacking both. Historical fantasy to the rescue!

In an alternate version of pre-Prohibition Boston, Ada and Corinne work and live at the Cast Iron Club, a nightclub/cabaret hybrid where hemopaths like them perform nightly shows using their special set of skills. Hemopaths have a blood abnormality that gives them the ability to create illusions and control other people with their art. For example, Ada is a violinist and can influence people’s emotions with her music, while Corinne exerts similar power by reciting poetry (how delightfully nerdy is that?!). Along with their power comes the inevitable Achilles heel—they are sensitive to metals, particularly iron. Even the proximity of metal—say, a gun in someone else’s pocket—is enough to cause burning and discomfort, which when you think about it is a heck of a liability considering how widely prevalent metal objects are.

As you might guess, hemopaths are viewed by the general public with anything from suspicion to fear to outright violence. The book opens with a breathless scene in which Ada is incarcerated in a hospital for hemopaths and Corinne comes to break her out. Even after the successful escape, however, things are only going to get worse for them as the tide of public opinion turns ugly and the few safe havens hemopaths rely on are eliminated. You can feel the relevance and timeliness wafting off the pages.

I was totally enthralled by this story. It’s a killer premise paired with brilliant execution. I’m always excited to find something I haven’t seen before, and I’ve never seen anything like the world of Iron Cast.