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The Glass Magician    by Caroline Stevermer order for
Glass Magician
by Caroline Stevermer
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2020 (2020)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've long enjoyed Caroline Stevermer's works of historical fantasy from A College of Magics to The Grand Tour. Now she gives fans a taste of magic (both real and staged) in New York's Gilded Age, in The Glass Magician.

It's 1905 New York, where the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and the Morgans rule. They are elite shapeshifting Traders, with strong magical powers. Below them in the rungs of the societal ladder are Sylvestri, with Solitaires at the bottom. Solitaire Thalia Cutler performs stage magic, learned from her father, as the Lady of the Lake. Her manager is Nutall, an old friend of her father, whom she has known all her life.

During a performance in Philadelphia, Thalia is unable to extract herself from the Siege Perilous. With death imminent, she finds herself shapeshifting to release herself from manacles - could she be a Trader? If so, she could be in great danger. Manticores feed on young Traders who don't fully control their powers (Skinners protect young Traders from manticores.)

Unable to perform because of a competitor's legal action, Thalia is hired by New York Trader Nathaniel Ryker to teach his younger sister Nell stage magic and so keep her out of trouble. Eventually, Thalia's real magical ability is revealed and they teach each other. Then the rival magician is murdered and Nutall arrested for the deed, while a manticore is on the loose in town.

Of course it's all sorted by the end, via a dramatic revelation Thalia makes on stage. She also learns more about her own history and enjoys swimming in the river as a swan with Nathaniel Ryker's seal self. I hope we'll read more of them both!

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