Saturday, October 29, 2016

ARC Review: Congress of Secrets by Stephanie Burgis

Congress of Secrets
Author: Stephanie Burgis
Publication: Pyr (November 1, 2016)

Description: In 1814, the Congress of Vienna has just begun. Diplomats battle over a new map of Europe, actors vie for a chance at glory, and aristocrats and royals from across the continent come together to celebrate the downfall of Napoleon…among them Lady Caroline Wyndham, a wealthy English widow. But Caroline has a secret: she was born Karolina Vogl, daughter of a radical Viennese printer. When her father was arrested by the secret police, Caroline's childhood was stolen from her by dark alchemy.

Under a new name and nationality, she returns to Vienna determined to save her father even if she has to resort to the same alchemy that nearly broke her before. But she isn’t expecting to meet her father's old apprentice, Michael Steinhüller, now a charming con man in the middle of his riskiest scheme ever.

The sinister forces that shattered Caroline's childhood still rule Vienna behind a glittering façade of balls and salons, Michael’s plan is fraught with danger, and both of their disguises are more fragile than they realize. What price will they pay to the darkness if either of them is to survive?

My Thoughts: It is 1814 and the Congress of Vienna has made Vienna the place to be for schemers of all sorts. The kings, emperors, and diplomats are scheming to divide up Europe now that Napoleon has been deposed. The well-to-do from all over Europe are gathering to be part of the social scene.

Two others have come to Vienna again for their own purposes.

Caroline, Lady Wyndham, is searching for her father who was arrested for political dissent when she was eleven. She fell under into the control of the Austrian Emperor's head of the secret police. Count Pergen used her in his alchemical experiments and kept her imprisoned for four years. At fifteen, she was sold to an English Alchemist. She has managed to build a life for herself as an English peer. Now widowed and with the war in Europe over, she can finally travel to Vienna to try to find and rescue her father.

Michael Steinhuller has also come to Vienna to try to make his fortune. He has spent the years since his master was arrested for sedition living as a con man. Now, he wants one final score to secure his future. However, the secret police are still looking for him.

One other prominent fictitious character is Peter Riesenbeck who is the owner of a theatrical troupe and who hopes that Vienna will be the place where they can make their fortunes. Michael uses them to smuggle him into Vienna. His use of them brings Peter to the attention of the secret police.

Another fictitious character is Charles Weston who is Caroline's secretary and a student of Alchemy. When Caroline disappoints his hopes, he throws himself in with Count Pergen.

The story is also filled with historical figures from Emperor Francis to Talleyrand to the Prince de Ligne who have large parts in this story and countless diplomats and society people who make up the background characters.

The setting was well-developed and the atmosphere was a nice combination of the paranoia of the age and the frenetic energy of people who were running all sorts of schemes. I enjoyed the story.

Favorite Quote:
No matter what Alexander thought, success in politics did not depend on six hundred thousand soldiers in the field, nor on any ability to shout louder than anybody else and fly into public rages when one's will was thwarted. Success in politics, as in every other aspect of life, lay in the ability to wear a mask in every situation, no matter how seemingly intimate...and in the determination never to let your enemies guess your aims until your trap had already closed around them.
I got this one in exchange for an honest review from Amazon Vine. You can buy your copy here.

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