Nineteen-year-old Raggy Maggy is no different, despite the mysterious heart-shaped panel that covers her chest. Or at least she wasn’t… Not until her chance discovery of a Meridian-built clockwork dragon—and its murdered owner. When the Inquestors policing the city find Maggy at the scene of the crime, she quickly turns into their prime suspect. Now she’s all anyone can talk about. Even her clan leader turns his back on her, leading her to rely on an exiled doctor and a clanless Moon Child named Ghost to keep her hidden. In return, all she has to do is help them find a cure for the plague they believe was not exactly accidental. Yet doing so might mean risking more than just her life. It also might be the only key to uncovering the truth about the parents—and the past—she knows nothing about.
From the first page Mags is a large character that demands to be noticed. A young woman with no memory of who she was before her twelfth birthday and now a reviled, almost invisible Moon Child struggling daily just to survive. Like other Moon Children Mags is dreading the thought that one day she might be sent to the Pit with those who have succumbed to the wasting disease they refer to as Rot. All Mags has to care about is her friend Sparrow but when Mags finds the body of a dead man she sets in motion a chain of events that very quickly change her life forever!
Wow, there's a lot of world building being set up here with not just the reason some children change in their twelfth year but a disease that might not be as unexplained as Mags always thought. Yes, religious zealots have latched on to the idea that it's the sins of many that condemn them but as Moon children are immune to the Rot they are considered to be sin eaters and forced under tithe to accompany and look after the afflicted in their final days. Plus, there's the system they live under on the street which reminds me of gangs (think Gangs of New York) that are violent, territorial and living hand to mouth. Then there's the one thing that overshadows the plot and that's the Meridions who live above in a floating city tethered to Brightstone and it's that race who have technology but in this the first book in many ways they are a mystery as the few we meet on the streets of Brightstone have changed and lost their' shine’. They are ruthless, violent and its apparent that corruption is rife but as the plot thickened (which took longer than I wanted) it's clear that the Rot and the Moon Children are no coincidence.
This story for me was character driven and Mags is a colourful character whose bravery knows no bounds. She's also a mystery to be solved but alas I cannot divulge why. What I can say are the characters around her are not quite what they seem. Ghost a young man who is a fellow Moon Child clearly likes Mags but he has secrets of his own. We meet Lucian, a doctor desperate to find a cure for the Rot but you need to pay attention as he's a man of two sides! Then there's the madam of the brothel with her pointed teeth and ambition who doesn't seem to like Mags much. Plus, the author throws in crazy steampunk automatons that vary from human sized to small and delicate and one in particular has taken a shine to Mags but why?
This story thunders along but some revelations (such as Lucian) felt rushed and perhaps could have waited for another book. As it comes to a close there is no resolution, it's a hollow ending really although it does leave Mags with a quandary. This book felt dark and it's an oppressive world described but surprisingly the end gave this reader hope. So in conclusion if you want to read about a tenacious heroine who can be brash and foul mouthed then Mags will charm you. Clearly her adventures have just begun and I for one can't wait to see how everything plays out in this dark inhospitable setting the author has created.
This voluntary take is of a copy I requested from NetGalley and my thoughts and comments are my honest and I believe fair opinion.