Rust in the Root, by Justina Ireland, (Sept. 2022, Balzer + Bray), $18.99, ISBN: 9780063038226
Justina Ireland’s new historical fantasy is everything that other historical fantasy about magicians in the 1920s and 1930s should have been. Set in 1937, Laura Ann Langston arrives in New York, from her small town in Pennsylvania. She wants to earn her mage’s license so she can become a baker to the stars, but fate has a curve ball waiting. She takes a she applies for a job with the Colored Auxiliary of the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps: magic exists in this history, and like everything else at the time, it’s segregated. Ireland expertly weaves U.S. history into her fantasy to give us an incredible story where white Necromancers and Mechomancers – magic with metal – threaten the world’s structure; the Auxiliary, made up with different areas of magic users, use natural means to combat them. Sent into the Ohio Deep Blight – an area of Ohio under attack from Necromancy – and Laura, now known as the Peregrine, ventures into the Blight with her mentor, the Skylark, and a group of apprentices. When they arrive in Ohio, they discover a deep, evil purpose behind the disappearance of the previous team sent out, and that their own lives are in danger. Justina Ireland views American history through a social lens and brings to life a fantasy that makes perfect sense. Black and white photos run throughout, with wry observations from Peregrine; missives from the Skylark will keep you guessing until the end. Incredible storytelling and world-building make this one of the best books I’ve read this year. Read this, booktalk this, and give it to history and fantasy fans alike.
Rust in the Root has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, and Kirkus.