Rust in the Root

Rust in the Root
Age Range
Release Date
September 20, 2022
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The author of the visionary New York Times bestseller Dread Nation returns with another spellbinding historical fantasy set at the crossroads of race and power in America.
It is 1937, and Laura Ann Langston lives in an America divided—between those who work the mystical arts and those who do not. Ever since the Great Rust, a catastrophic event that blighted the arcane force called the Dynamism and threw America into disarray, the country has been rebuilding for a better future. And everyone knows the future is industry and technology—otherwise known as Mechomancy—not the traditional mystical arts.

Laura disagrees. A talented young queer mage from Pennsylvania, Laura hopped a portal to New York City on her seventeenth birthday with hopes of earning her mage’s license and becoming something more than a rootworker.

But four months later, she’s got little to show for it other than an empty pocket and broken dreams. With nowhere else to turn, Laura applies for a job with the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps, a branch of the US government dedicated to repairing the Dynamism so that Mechomancy can thrive. There she meets the Skylark, a powerful mage with a mysterious past, who reluctantly takes Laura on as an apprentice.

As they’re sent off on their first mission together into the heart of the country’s oldest and most mysterious Blight, they discover the work of mages not encountered since the darkest period in America’s past, when Black mages were killed for their power—work that could threaten Laura’s and the Skylark’s lives, and everything they’ve worked for.

Editor review

1 review
A Vibrant Alternate Earth
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What I Liked: I love the bold and sassy personality of the main character Laura. The setting was a rich reimagining of America in the 1930s with magic. Most major events that we are familiar with from our American history are represented in this version but are the result of magic and politics in this book. One of the major focuses is the black experience in this time period and the insidious nature of racism and Jim Crow laws. It shines an unflinching light on this time period while spinning a wonderful magical mystery.
Laura becomes an apprentice for the Skylark at the Bureau of the Arcane Conservation corps, Colored Auxiliary, and gains the name Peregrine. Learning about the possibilities and the laws of magic was interesting. The photographs and “file notes” helped set the stage for this world. While I think it enhanced the story and made it feel more official, it did give hints to what was coming in the plot. I am confused with the fake information added to the file notes as the case unfolded inside the Great blight in Ohio. The notes place the blame on an important character and I don’t understand why that was the decision versus just saying the character decided to leave the Bureau after the mission was completed.
Final Verdict: This book reads like a standalone, but the world was rich and Laura has many adventures in her future. There is room to revisit this time and place if the author chooses and I would be there to read it. This book had energy and mystery that made it easy to read and enjoy. It would make an excellent conduit for discussion on racism as well as the industrial revolution and its implications in our own society. Overall, this was a great story and I am interested in reading other books by the author.

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