Princess Imogen of Goslind has been shut up in the castle with the king, her sisters, and other nobility for years in order to keep them safe from the deadly mori roja plague that has ravaged the country. She is keeping a big secret and, if the king finds out, things could go south for her very quickly. But with rations dwindling quickly and the people tired of being cooped up inside, the years-long performance she has put on is in danger of unraveling.
Meanwhile, Nico Mott has been working as a servant for Lord Crane ever since he plucked him off the side of the road near death. He owes everything to Crane so when he is sent to look for other survivors at the castle, Nico heads out without a second thought. But as his journey continues, he starts to question whether his master’s interest in finding survivors is really as benevolent as he thought.
This was such a beautifully twisty gothic fantasy retelling that pulled me in immediately and never let go. While I’ve not read Edgar Allen Poe’s THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, so many elements of this story gave off the exact vibes that I associate with Poe with a wonderful fantasy twist that spoke to my millennial soul.
Imogen and Nico are strangers when the story begins and it takes time some before they actually meet. In other stories that have kept me waiting for the main characters to meet, it has felt like the story drags on a bit, but not this one. Imogen and Nico have their own journeys before they find each other and it allows for their characters to develop independently. In addition, Rutherford is also able to develop the relationships between characters that informs their actions in sometimes surprising ways later in the story.
With plot twist after plot twist and ever-rising stakes, I was kept guessing and on the edge of my seat throughout. Rutherford infused fantasy into a world that was much like our own and while some suspension of disbelief is necessary to follow along, it didn’t feel like too big of a leap for me to take (though reading fantasy is nothing new to me so that probably helped).
The choice to explicitly name Jews and not allude to them via a made-up-but-similar-enough religion grounded this fantastical story in reality that actually hit home for me in a way that I never would have expected. Through this story, I learned of how Jews were traditionally used as scapegoats for plagues and deadly diseases and, having lived through a deadly pandemic in which people who look like me have been used as scapegoats, I found myself able to relate deeply to the fear that laced the Jewish community.
A MULTITUDE OF DREAMS by Mara Rutherford hits shelves August 29, 2023 and you can order a copy for yourself here.
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 as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."