Narrator: Kimberly Mandindo
Format: audiobook, eARC
Source: purchased from Audible, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Edinburgh Nights #2
Length: 9 hours and 1 minute
Published by Macmillan Audio, Tor Books on April 5, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org, Better World Books
Opening up a world of magic and adventure, Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments by T. L. Huchu is the second audiobook in the Edinburgh Nights series.
Ropa Moyo’s ghost-talking practice has tanked. Desperate for money to pay bills and look after her family, she reluctantly accepts a job to look into the history of a coma patient receiving treatment at the magical private hospital Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments. The patient is a teenage schoolboy called Max Wu, and healers at the hospital are baffled by the illness which has confounded medicine and magic.
Ropa’s investigation leads her to the Edinburgh Ordinary School for Boys, one of only the four registered schools for magic in the whole of Scotland (the oldest and only one that remains closed to female students).
But the headmaster there is hiding something and as more students succumb, Ropa learns that a long-dormant and malevolent entity has once again taken hold in this world.
She sets off to track the current host for this spirit and try to stop it before other lives are endangered.
In the wake of the tumultuous events at the conclusion of The Library of the Dead, ghost talker Ropa Moyo is in an even deeper hole now than she was then. She’s broke (always), unemployed and indebted to both the Director of the Society of Skeptical Enquirers (read as Mages’ Guild) and the leader of the criminal gang that controls Edinburgh. And that’s before she’s voluntold into finding the source of the magical ailment affecting young men who make the mistake of astral projection – for no pay whatsoever, while chasing down any opportunity she can to make enough money to support her grandmother and baby sister. Meanwhile her gran is predicting the end of the world, and the Society’s nobs and snobs are relentless in trying to kick Ropa off the tiny foothold she’s gained in scientific magic.
There are days when she wonders if it might be easier, safer AND more profitable to go back to just being a ghost talker. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Ropa after that first awesome book, it’s that she always keeps moving forward and never back. Not even when perhaps she should.
Escape Rating A+: Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments is just like The Library of the Dead in one very important point. The story rides or dies on the voice of Ropa Moyo. Both her narrative voice and her actual voice in the audiobooks – even though she is not voiced by the same narrator this time around. This series so far is one of those stories, because of the strength and the idiosyncratic thought processes of its first-person narrator, that works infinitely better in audio than text.
I read this book last year for a Library Journal review and loved it then. But the audiobook, this time narrated by Kimberly Mandindo, was just that much better that I stayed up late listening to finish even though I already knew how it ended. The audio is just that good.
Ropa’s Edinburgh is a hot mess in the summer – and a cold mess in the winter. The city is just a mess, period. It’s clear from hints in the books that there was some kind of apocalypse – and not all that far in our future. A part of me wants to call this story dystopian, but my mind balks at that a bit. Not that the situation isn’t FUBAR’ed but it feels like most of what’s wrong isn’t all that different from what’s wrong with the world right now.
Which is part of the point. Because one of the excellent and screamingly frustrating things about this story and Ropa’s journey within it is that it does such a damn good job of showing just how high and how thoroughly the deck is stacked against someone because of the circumstances of their birth. Ropa is still only 15 in this story and works her butt off every single second and it’s never enough because she’s female, she’s black, and she was born in a slum project.
What makes her worth following is that she knows the game is rigged against her and she keeps playing anyway, striving for a decent present and future for her family that nearly every authority has already decided they don’t deserve.
And she just might make it. Or she might be disappointed yet again. But she keeps moving forward anyway.
At first in – also at – the private magical hospital Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments – Ropa is brought in to investigate just what magic a group of privileged students at Edinburgh’s most prestigious – and of course exclusively male – magical academies got themselves mixed up in was so stupidly dangerous that it’s killing them by boiling them up from the inside.
Her investigation takes a detour when she’s presented with the opportunity to help a lost heir claim a stolen fortune – the finder’s fee for which she and her family need rather badly. Particularly as she’s not allowed to make a penny on that first job.
Between the two gigs Ropa is taking too many shortcuts, assuming much too much about the veracity of what she’s been told, and getting way too much exercise in jumping to conclusions without having all the facts in her hands – or head.
Only to find herself in the real, actual Library of the Dead, reading the book made from a dead practitioner, learning that there’s way more rotten in the state of Scotland in general and Scottish magic in particular than she ever wanted to know.
And that the plots go higher and deeper than anyone ever wanted a mere unpaid intern to discover. Which may be the reason that “opportunity” was presented to Ropa in the first place.
We’ll find out more – by digging deeper into the political muck – in the next book in this fantastic series, The Mystery at Dunvegan Castle, coming in July. I am eagerly anticipating the eARC, but I expect I’ll be picking up the audiobook as well. Because I want to read the new book ASAP, AND I still want the extra pleasure of hearing Ropa tell me her story in her own, inimitable style.