Format: E-Galley, 400 pages
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Alternative History, Science Fiction
After the earth’s power under her city is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magic to survive in this fresh fantasy standalone from the author of the acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.
In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation— the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong secretary Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her own talent—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.
When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose the earth’s power to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese forces, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming San Francisco into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .
Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her already considerable magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.
Breath of Earth is the first installment in author Beth Cato's new series called Breath of Earth. Cato is also the author of the steampunk driven duology known as Clockwork Dagger, as well as several novella's in the same universe. Breath of Earth is a story that takes place between April 15 and April 18, 1906. The last date should be familiar to anyone who has heard about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake that destroyed the city.
The twist is that this series is set in an alternative history, steampunk world where the United States and Japan have formed an alliance called United Pacific. There are other alliances as well, including the Russian & Ottoman Empires. Cato has created a world where Japanese airships and technology helped the North win the Civil War. It is a world where Japan is the senior partner in the alliance with the US and has no hesitation in destroying China while showing its muscle.
Geomancers are important to a city like San Francisco. They can absorb the energy from earthquakes, while keeping severe damage from happening. The energy they absorb, is transferred into a crystal known as Kermanite. 25-year old Ingrid Carmichael is the personal secretary to Earth Warden Sakaguchi, a member of the Cordillean Auxiliary of Geomancers. Ingrid, however, has a secret. She may be the only woman in history who is more powerful than those in the Auxiliary. Ingrid is able to store energy like a bank vault.
A fact that belays the fact that she is also a woman who isn't white, which means that she gets very little respect if any, from men of this era. People actually people that Ingrid is an immigrant who is likely illiterate since only white people have the brains and skills to be a Geomancer. Cato doesn't hesitate to use sexism and racism to tell her story. Something that is actually a breath of fresh air and accurate for this era, especially towards the Chinese and women.
Ingrid's situation becomes dire when she and Warden Sakaguchi nearly die after a bomb goes off under the Auxiliary. Ingrid's powers become even more impressive when she is somehow able to save herself and the man who has raised her from a child. Ingrid's adventure starts in earnest after she meets the pacifists Cypress Jennings and his partner Fenris Braun who own a steam driven airship. I loved the fact that Cato twists Theodore Roosevelt's history. Instead of becoming President, he is instead one of the powerful Ambassadors.
I can't say this enough. If you are truly interested in learning more about this era, then please feel free to read the Afterward at how certain people were treated during this age. Happily, this book is not a standalone. I have been told that the next book will be titled Call of Fire, and will release in 2017. That's good news.