A rich tale of revolution, magic and conflict.
Synopsis: It’s the Age Of Enlightenment, a revolution is brewing in France – spearheaded by Camille and Robespierre, Britain’s political stance is shifting at the hands of Pitt and Wilberforce, abolitionists are rising up to put a stop to slavery, and Fina and Toussaint are determined to free their people. The Common people want to use their magic freely, but at what cost? A war is brewing and blood will be shed, but how much of this is for freedom?
CW/TW: Torture/Abuse, Slavery, Violence, Gore, Murder/Death, War
A Declaration Of The Rights Of Magicians, by HG Parry is a clever and immersive tale of revolution, politics, freedom and war. This is the first book I have read by HG Parry so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but I have to say this was a fantastic read.
This book is beautifully written, Parry masterfully creates a dynamic story with a wide scope spanning across multiple years and countries. The scope of the story is perfectly aided by the narrative structure – We get multiple third person narratives from each of the key characters in Britain, France and Jamaica and each of their stories align and come together perfectly.
I really enjoyed each perspective of this story, though I feel we didn’t get as much of Fina as we did the other characters at least not until the last quarter of the book. I will admit this book is incredibly heavy on politics, there are a lot of debates, talks about legislation and reforms, as well as abolition of current regimes – so if you are not one for political intrigue and debates then this book may not be for you. However, this was the perfect read for me, the politics was engaging, the debates dynamic and powerful, and the web of laws, reforms and abolitions was impactful and impressive. Parry certainly knows how to weave an impressive story filled with politics without losing the attention of the readers. Each narrative perspective has a unique voice and view of the social unrest during this time period along with a unique look at the magic Parry has incorporated into the story.
On the whole, Parry’s writing is beautiful, captivating and magical. There is the perfect balance of beautiful descriptions of magic, characters and settings contrasted with the harsh realities of revolutions, slavery and oppression.
The actual story is wonderfully crafted. Parry seamlessly combines magic and fiction with history making it appear natural and realistic. We follow multiple different strands that all eventually become tied together. In Britain we follow Pitt and Wilberforce, two close friends with an affinity for politics and speaking, as they accumulate political power. Their story starts with them, and their friend Eliot, as young 20 something year olds who are seen as rising stars in the government, particularly Pitt. The three are more progressive than the majority and hope to move towards broadening the legal use of Commoner magic, specifically Pitt and Wilberforce, as they believe magic should not just be reserved for the Aristocracy. The two work to use the law in order to produce social change, Pitt as the eventual Prime Minister, and Wilberforce as an independent and abolitionist. Their views quickly widen to wishing to abolish the slave trade, despite the heavy opposition, and in turn abolishing spellbinding.
However, in the midst of the political battle to abolish the slave trade and free commoner magicians, Pitt and Wilberforce soon realise there is a dark and terrifying mastermind who is manipulating their opposition subsequently creating tension between France and Britain. The two encounter multiple supernatural threats that lead them to this dark and mysterious figure – though the threat may be greater than they ever could have imagined. There is an excellent blend of human and magical/supernatural threats throughout this story, but we are always returned to the core of each problem – humans. Though there is magic and ‘supernatural’ beings that exist, the most demanding, dangerous and cruelest threat is humans and the oppression they create – this story had the perfect historical setting for the message it construes.
This is further developed upon in the second thread of the story, France. We follow Robespierre and Camille as the spearhead the French Revolution, desperate to build a new France where everyone can use magic freely the French people take to uprising and protests to enforce social change. A stark contrast to the slow, reformatory approach taken by Britain, instead we get a more dynamic and passionate attempt at change. Though Robespierre initially attempts to make changes via his profession as a lawyer, he quickly aids Camille who is a revolutionary to fan the sparks of protest until Robespierre himself eventually becomes the face and drive behind the revolution.
This was an intriguing thread in the story because Robespierre is not as passionate or impulsive as Camille so we see him slowly grow to make more and more difficult and questionable decisions in the name of freedom. If this wasn’t enough, Robespierre isn’t acting alone – a voice in his head and in his dreams is masterminding a plan of his own and guiding Robespierre’s revolution. This was extremely interesting because it allows us to grapple with the question to what extent are these Robespierre’s choices? For a character seemingly mild and more of a bystander he grows to make crueller and more horrifying decisions in the name of the revolution. I found this element of the story fascinating because revolutions are messy and this shows you just how easy it can be to cross the line because freedom comes at a cost but can the price be too high? The French storyline truly illustrates Parry’s masterful writing as it shows just how perfectly she can incorporate magic and a unique magical history into our own history without distorting it or changing any of the crucial points.
We have a clear view of this time period, staying true to what occurred but we also have the addition of magic and the history this brings, namely the Vampire Wars. This book seamlessly blends real and fictional history together with very real and believable results and effects of this time.
The third thread of the story is that of Jamaica, that eventually links with Saint Domingue. This is where we follow Fina, a young woman who was stolen from her homeland and forced to become a slave on a plantation. Parry truly captures the horror of this part of history, and doesn’t shy away from drawing a stark picture of this brutal and shocking time – not only does she draw light on how monstrous this was she manages to use her fictional magic to illustrate just how awful it was. Fina is taken when she is young and forced onto a boat that takes her miles away from her home, on the ship she is Spellbound – a process of feeding those taken a magical elixir making them unable to move their body unless given direct orders from the slave owners, moreover it suppresses any magic they may have rendering it useless.
We follow Fina as she somehow breaks free after years of being bound as a slave and follows a voice calling for them to take revenge. Fina’s narrative is shorter than the other two, but in the scheme of the story it does make sense because as her story combines with the other two threads more of the mystery behind the monster in the darkness is revealed as are the results of the war brewing between France and Britain.
The scope of this story is very broad, though the details are impeccable, and watching as the three narrative become intertwined was fascinating. The conflicts between the characters naturally grow alongside the political and revolutionary conflicts and become a key part of the story that is truly intriguing. Friendships and trust become strained and tested, conflicts between those who have only ever supported you test the characters resilience and betrayal has brutal results. Moreover, the conflict between characters across the sea is beautifully depicted despite them never meeting because it shows the tensions that rise due to social unrest and looming wars.
Despite being based on our own history, thus we know the result of some events (i.e we know what happens to the King of France, and we can foresee King George’s insanity) the story still manages to be engaging and surprising by committing to making the twists and turns occur on a personal level between characters, as well as using the fictional history and magic to create new and surprising events without harming the real history and events.
The magic that exists in this world is fascinating, it exists in so many unique forms from being able to use/control the weather, to control over the elements, to being able to summon and use shadows, it is incredible diverse but the system is meticulous. Magic exists and is passed down through the bloodlines, though bloodlines are not enough to ensure a magical child. Moreover, certain forms of magic are seen as dark magic, stemming from the fictional magical history that exists, these include things such as necromancy and blood magic, and the magic is governed by the Templars who test children at birth to see if they have magic or not.
The dark forms of magic are (mostly – shadowmancers are allowed) not allowed to exist in the world, blood magicians were eradicated – they came to be known as Vampires because they could become immortal through sacrifices – the horror of the ‘Vampire Wars’ lead to their eradication. The magic and its own embedded history is rich and well developed, we learn about it all naturally and organically without feeling like we are having information dumped on us, it is also masterfully entwined with the story and real/natural history. There is also a social divide in terms of magic, the Common people are not allowed to use magic freely and are given a bracelet at birth that will burn them and let out a high pitch whistle should they use their magic – only the Aristocracy are allowed to use magic freely – which is a crucial part of the revolution and social change that occurs throughout the story.
While we have the revolution, abolition of slavery, and the dark mysterious villains plot driving this story it is, at heart, a character driven tale. Everything that occurs is because of the characters choices, be it cruelty or kindness. The revolution is brought about my Camille/Robespierre/suspicious dark figure, the abolition of slavery is bought about by Pitt/Wilberforce, and the uprising of the slaves themselves is propelled by Fina and Toussaint.
The characters are where this story shines, we all know roughly the history, so it is down to the characters and their magic to make this story engaging and they do so wonderfully. The characters are diverse in terms of race/ethnicity as this story spans across several countries – it also appears male dominated but that is simply a result of being based on actual history and Parry does her best at incorporating strong female characters around the historical male figures, as well as including Fina and giving her her own perspective.
Each character is incredibly well developed, particularly despite the large cast. They all are dynamic, unique and complex with their own strengths and flaws making them realistic and relatable. Moreover, every single characters development over the course of the story is intriguing and raw – their developments are human and messy but they still stick to their values – it was incredibly well done and I could easily connect with the characters. Not only are the characters outstanding as individuals, their relationships are a highlight throughout the story, particularly Pitt and Wilberforce’s friendship. Despite being a story about shocking oppression and the questionable nature of humanity, we still get to see the good in people through the friendships built over the course of the book by those wishing for equality. There are a lot of contrasts between the characters and relationships and the trust between them all is frequently tested – I absolutely adored each connection the characters made and cannot wait to see how this changes or progresses in the next book.
There is so much more I could say regarding the plot, the characters and the magic in this story but I don’t want to spoil anything and it is definitely better to experience it for yourself because this story is so rich and immersive!
Overall, this is a rich and immersive story where the magic hums through every single page. It is a brilliant take on our history and the incorporation of magic was flawless. This was an excellent story of humanity, social change and friendship – it will stop and make you think but also captivate you and compel you to rush through the story.
*I received a free ARC from Orbit/Nazia @Gambit589 in exchange for an honest review – A big thankyou to the publisher!*