A high imperial officer seemingly dead of contagion elicits an investigation from brilliant and eccentric master investigator Ana Dolabra. With the help of her new assistant Dinias Kol and his magically altered brain, she sets off to discover what truly happened to the officer and ends up stumbling upon a potential plot to take down the entire Empire.

Sherlock Holmes meets Benoit Blanc, but make it fantasy! Does it get any better than that? Well, it does if the world-building draws you into a magical new world with minimal disconnect and that is exactly what Bennett does with this story. It hits heavy in the beginning while establishing the rules of the world, so it took me a little bit to get into, but once the world is established, it was game on, rushing as fast as possible to get to the end because the story was so twisty, confusing (in the best way!), and compelling.

One of the best parts of characters like Sherlock Holmes and Benoit Blanc is that their minds are absolutely extraordinary, allowing them to process things in a way that a regular person does not. This is also true of Ana Dolabra and makes her quite an interesting character to follow. But this story centers more around her assistant, Dinias Kol, who has been magically altered to have a photographic memory—literally. He has perfect recall, though we find later in the story that there is one exception to this rule and it haunts him and makes him worry that Ana will find out and kick him to the curb. These little pieces that Bennett sprinkles upon the characters makes them feel more grounded even while visiting them in a fantasy world.

With expert ease, Bennett weaves together a story that keeps you guessing throughout. Each twist and turn leads the reader deeper into a world that is hard to untangle, but still manages to be compelling and intriguing. The plot of this story finds its resolution by the end, but also leaves us wanting more and ready to jump on the next book in the series upon its release.

THE TAINTED CUP is the first book in the Shadow of the Leviathan series by Robert Jackson Bennett and is available now. Pick up your copy here while you wait for its sequel to come in 2025!

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores like my local fave Linden Tree Books! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2024 Book Recommendations."