Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Received from NetGalley for review.

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience.

Iron Cast tells the story of best friends Corinne and Ada, two hemopaths who work for gangster Johnny Dervish, and the tangled web their underground life becomes. In this world hemopaths are seen as dangerous and showcasing or using their skills is illegal – by night Corinne and Ada use their abilities as a wordsmith and musician to play to those in Boston who want their illusions, and by day they con Boston’s less than virtuous elite. I loved the idea of hemopathy – creating images and feelings out of words and music seems like a beautiful thing, but in their society, Corrine and Ada are deemed lesser, branded either crazy or criminal, because of their abilities.

Suddenly the ceiling above them was a blanket of stars, with a silver moon draped in gossamer threads of light…She spoke of sinking stars, dark broad seas, and men who strove with Gods.

This book deals with a multitude of themes and ideas – hemopaths, racism, experimentation, cons, murders, gangs, an anti-hemopath movement, privilege – but Soria manages them all in a skilful and enjoyable way, whilst writing in a beautifully fluid way. The story also has a wonderful amount of diversity – different races, beliefs, and sexualities, as well as very subtle romances. The plotline itself follows Corinne and Ada through their lives as hemopaths, and becomes gradually murkier as we realise something is amiss in Boston – hemopaths are being kidnapped and killed and the Haversham Asylum is full of hemopaths who are never seen again, and when Johnny disappears all hell breaks loose. For me it was part murder-mystery and part social commentary; the hemopaths seem to be treated in much the same way many with misunderstood illnesses and abilities, or different looks, are – with undue fear and contempt.

I had a love/hate relationship with many of the characters, in the sense that I couldn’t say whether I actually liked them or not until I reached the end of the book – so many of them are not who they seem and it’s not until the end that it becomes clear who is good and who is not. It made for an extremely exciting read as I spent half the story wondering what people’s motivations and allegiances actually were. I always liked Ada and Charlie, who were always themselves, always trying to do the right thing in a world that had gone very badly wrong. Saint, Gabriel, and Johnny ended up being completely different that I expected in many ways. Corinne was something else entirely.

Corinne was a really interesting character for me because she is incredibly loyal, smart, and brave, but also bratty, entitled, and reckless – not a good combination but probably a common one. It was really interesting watching her grow and develop as a character and realise that not everything in life would always go the way she wanted; by the end of the book she was a very different person in some ways. One quotation from the end really sums up Corinne, my feelings for this book, for people, for all the crazy that can happen in the world: ‘You’re not nice, but you’re good.’ Maybe that’s what counts the most.

Read: October 11th-16th 2016

4/5 stars

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