Thank you BookSparks for sending me a copy of Rust in the Root for an honest review!
America in 1937 is divided. Since the Great Rust, the land has been rebuilding, abandoning the traditional mystical art of dynamism in favor of mechanism, industry, and technology. However, Laura Ann Langston is a talented root worker from Pennsylvania who believes magic and momentum are the way forward. But after moving to New York City, penniless on her behalf, she joined the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps, a branch of government dedicated to repairing Dynamism to improve Mechamancy’s efforts.
Laura and the team embark on their first mission together into the land’s oldest and most deadly plague, a dead land where nothing grows and monsters roam. There they discover that nothing is as it seems. Forbidden magic is at play, magic not seen since the darkest times of America’s past.
I came in rust in the root with love for Justina Ireland’s Terrible nation duology. I loved the alternate history of the Civil War, which pitted young black women against zombies and white supremacy. That means I feel like rust in the rootwhile a fun standalone novel, bit off more than he could chew.
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Ireland shines when she combines innovative world-building with race commentary, which she does well in her new book. I love an alternate history where small changes have monumental effects. In this case, the collapse of traditional forms of magic led to the Great Depression, and members of the Ku Klux Klan are turning the remaining magic into something sinister.
Ireland has done a lot of historical research. She inserted real photos rust in the root extracted from the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. This added a ton to their world build and increased the realism of this magical book.
In the author’s note, Ireland says that while researching for Immortal Division“I have always been drawn to the images of real Black Americans who had once loved and fought and fought in the same places where I had loved and fought and fought… I wanted to know more about the lives of these Black Americans, their names lost to history, but her image frozen forever in electrons.” Ireland carefully selected the images included rust in the rootand they enhance the story and world-building.
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In addition to the photos, Ireland also provided the novel with letters and reports from Laura’s mentor. However, instead of adding something, I felt like they were interrupting the flow of the story. They even ended up becoming a weird plot point. Without spoiling anything, I think Ireland could easily have dropped them without having too much impact.
As for Laura herself, I haven’t really gotten a real sense of who she really is. Right at the start, readers learn that she moved to New York City from rural Pennsylvania with very little money and no big plan. We also know that she wants to become a famous baker by using her magical abilities, something she seems to give up early in the story. Beyond that, there’s not much of her personality other than the fact that she’s brave, impulsive, and more powerful than everyone else.
my opinion aside, rust in the root receives fantastic reviews from publications including Kirkus Reviews and publishers weekly. I think it’s fair to advise readers to approach these with an open mind. The fact that I didn’t love it doesn’t mean everyone will feel the same way.
rust in the root will be released September 20, 2022 and is available to pre-order now from your local independent bookstore or Bookshop.org.
TW: Blood, Body Horror, Death, Gore, Murder, Racism, Suicide, Violence
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