Tag Archives: Catherine Egan

Book Recommendation: Julia Vanishes, by Catherine Egan

JuliaJulia has the unusual ability to be…unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.

It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned—crime pays.

Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who keeps forbidden books and sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman with an infant son who is clearly hiding—though from what or whom?

Worse, Julia has a creeping suspicion that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.

The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price.

And even a girl who can vanish can’t walk away from her own worst deeds.

I picked this one up cause I got to read a first two chapter sampler. It sounded fun! And it was fun. It was also really, REALLY good. It’s good enough that even though I’m having a really hard time making words happen this month, I had to tell you to read it.

It’s the book about what happens after the revolution, after you do what you need to survive, after you get caught in a no-win situation, and it delves way deeper than I expected into a lot of issues. I kept seeing tropes start to happen, and think “oh I know how this goes down” and then it actually ENGAGED with the issues it brought up.

Everything from romance to religion, from what it means to be a good person to unpretty trauma coping methods, they’re all bashing right through the tropes.

The main character opens the book in a relationship with a dude who she loves absolutely, but then breaks up with him when he cheats on her. But then he’s not allowed to be totally horrible. He still loves her, and he gets injured trying to help her, and she still loves him; the situation is just complex. When the book starts, there’s a passing mention of superstition being stamped out, and I went “oh, this is a book with a background radiation about how religion is a crock of lies. Okay, I know how this goes down.” But then a few chapters further through the book, I realized that the superstion is being stamped out by an autocratic government, and characters are advocating for freedom of religion. But it isn’t a book about how faith and magic are good, either, because we see people do appalling and terrifying things with magic, both on our side and the enemy (of the moment). The situation is just complex. The main character has seen her

More than anything else, I think this is a book about how things are complicated. Everyone in the book is unpleasant, and also likeable. We left a murderer at the bottom of a pit and I felt sorry for her. The main character is a sneak thief and a kidnapper, and while the book is about her drawing the line in the sand and saying “okay I won’t do ANYTHING for money”, that line is still drawn a bit further out than I’m comfortable with. But I also like her and I see where she’s coming from. It’s REALLY good.

(Read it!)