Nothing screams “autumn” quite like a historical fantasy novel. What about one that centers around Black mages in America in the 1930s? We at THP have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing one such novel: Rust In The Root by Justina Ireland!
This September book release is ideal for the upcoming spooky season. When our main characters uncover the horrors within the country’s systems of magic and machinery, it may cost them their lives. (But don’t worry, we won’t give away too much of the book.)
The Black and LGBTQ+ representation is enough to convince us to read this historical fantasy. But if you’re still not sold, here are three more reasons why you should read Justina Ireland’s Rust In The Root!
Content Warnings: racism, violence, death, suicide, murder, and gore
Summary: It is 1937, and Laura Ann Langston lives in an America divided—between those who work the mystical arts and those who do not. Ever since the Great Rust, a catastrophic event that blighted the arcane force called the Dynamism and threw America into disarray, the country has been rebuilding for a better future. And everyone knows the future is industry and technology—otherwise known as Mechomancy—not the traditional mystical arts.
Laura disagrees. A talented young queer mage from Pennsylvania, Laura hopped a portal to New York City on her seventeenth birthday with hopes of earning her mage’s license and becoming something more than a rootworker.
But four months later, she’s got little to show for it other than an empty pocket and broken dreams. With nowhere else to turn, Laura applies for a job with the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps, a branch of the US government dedicated to repairing the Dynamism so that Mechomancy can thrive. There she meets the Skylark, a powerful mage with a mysterious past, who reluctantly takes Laura on as an apprentice.
As they’re sent off on their first mission together into the heart of the country’s oldest and most mysterious Blight, they discover the work of mages not encountered since the darkest period in America’s past, when Black mages were killed for their power—work that could threaten Laura’s and the Skylark’s lives, and everything they’ve worked for.
First, Justina Ireland’s Rust In The Root is a brilliant reimagination of America in the 1930s, and we mean it! We love how she incorporates the mystical arts into the U.S. government and distinguishes how different mages can use their powers. And we can appreciate the commentary on people straying away from natural and sustainable practices in favor of automation and convenience at any cost. This imbalance has dire consequences, as we’ve read. It does take several chapters to get familiar with this fantasy world, but the explanations are definitely worth revisiting!
Has anyone had those moments where you’re reading so quickly you have to stop your eyes from jumping to the bottom of the page? Well, we had to do that several times with Rust In the Root! As our main characters travel through the Blight, we’re constantly wondering who will be strong enough to survive and who will be the next to die. Multiple characters will surprise you with their betrayals and plot twists. And we even had to cover the text with our bookmarks to avoid spoilers!
Built-In Reading Breaks
Finally, if there’s one thing you should know about us, it’s that we love epigraphs! Justina Ireland’s Rust In The Root features confidential government documents, newspaper clippings, and more between each new chapter. We get a brief reading break with reports from the Skylark at a later time. And her testimonies purposefully leave room for interpretation. They make us think something’s not quite adding up in the current plot, which makes us want to read further.
Rust In The Root by Justina Ireland is out September 20th and is available for preorder here!
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