I’m here shaking my head at myself because I read this back in early April and am just now getting around to the review — a whole one month later. I keep procrastinating on the books I enjoyed reading the most. I feel like I won’t be able to do the book justice to let y’all know how awesome they were and that, yes, you really should get a copy and read it too!
I buddy-read The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry with Millie at Milliebot Reads. We had read Waggoner’s debut novel Unnatural Magic together and enjoyed it (and loved the cover) so much that we were eager to pick up the second book together too. It turned out to be a really good read (with a beautiful cover) as well.
A charming historical fantasy with a tender love story at its core, from the author of Unnatural Magic.
Hard-drinking petty thief Dellaria Wells is down on her luck in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees a want ad for a female bodyguard, and she fast-talks her way into the high-paying job. Along with a team of other women, she’s meant to protect a rich young lady from mysterious assassins.
At first Delly thinks the danger is exaggerated, but a series of attacks shows there’s much to fear. Then she begins to fall for Winn, one of the other bodyguards, and the women team up against a mysterious, magical foe who seems to have allies everywhere. (Goodreads)
I really enjoyed reading Ruthless Lady’s Guide and it’s all because of Dellaria “Delly” Wells, the protagonist, who is now one of my favorite characters. Delly is a poor, but powerful, fire witch who gets by as a thief running small scams and such. When the story begins, she’s in a tight spot needing money for rent before her landlady casts a hard promise (like a temporary curse) on her and needing to find her mother, who is addicted to drip, a drug.
After getting herself into an… unfortunate situation with the cops, Delly manages to get a spot on a team of women who will be paid a lot of money to protect a rich young woman from being assassinated before her upcoming wedding. This was quite exciting to read, and I thought it would be all that the story is about. But the mystery takes over later, and Delly surprises herself by taking charge in uncovering who is trying to kill the young woman and who’s supplying all the bad drip in her town.
Part of the reason why I enjoyed the story so much is because Delly is so relatable. Despite all that she gets caught up in, it starts out with her just needing to get some cash to get by for a while and get her mom off the drip. Then she began playing to her better qualities to impress another woman on the team, Winn, a half troll, who Delly immediately took a fancy to as soon as she saw Winn. I enjoyed seeing how their relationship develops. They are both book nerds and would read to each other to pass time when just getting to know each other.
“It was the sort of book that was full of sentences that started off with a lady, took the measure of her eyes, tramped across her bosom, and stopped by a scenic viewpoint over her plump arms, before ranging down along the bank of a long rushing stream of discussion on the Moral Character of Woman, in general, until you’d forgotten the name of the lady in question and had to shove your way through dense thickets of grammatical undergrowth to find it again.”
Delly undergoes much character growth, which surprises many, including Dok, but especially herself. Delly’s experiences had given her a poor image of herself, but this lucky, though dangerous, gig she got (and Winn) helps her to realize that she has a lot of good qualities and to believe the good she has in herself.
I also enjoyed seeing how Delly interacts with the other women on the team, especially Dok since they clash so often. Mrs. Totham was a sweetheart, and it was funny to see how the others reacted once she got Buttons, the skeletal rat (lol). Speaking of rats, Rat was another favorite character although she only pops up a few times, but she stood out to me each time because of her hats.
The world the story is set in really interests me, partly because I don’t often read fantasy stories set in that time period. After learning a bit more about fantasy subgenres, I’ve started to describe Unnatural Magic and Ruthless Lady’s Guide as gaslamp fantasy. It seems to fit. It’s not a Victorian society exactly, but it has the whole strong focus on etiquette thing going on and some cultures/countries restrict women quite a bit, as seen in Unnatural Magic.
The magic system is also very interesting because it seems to have a mathematical bent to it. To effect magic, one must construct the parameters for it. So witches create parameters for how they want the hard promise (mentioned above) to take effect. This book was a lot more focused on Delly figuring out the mystery at the heart of the story (the assassins and who’s making drip), so we don’t get as much about parameters as we do in Unnatural Magic.
Although Waggoner’s two novels aren’t listed as being part of a series, they are set in the same world. It’s not necessary to read a particular one before the other, but I’d recommend reading her debut novel, Unnatural Magic, first since, if there was a timeline for the story, the events in Unnatural Magic came first and Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry kind of builds on them.
Hopefully I’ve gotten across that this is a good one to pick up and an entertaining story to read because of Delly’s voice. If not, then look at that pretty cover! It’s worth getting to feature such a cover on your bookshelf. 😉
Delly hooked me, and I hope to read more about her and Winn (and the other characters from the first book: Onna, Tsira, Jeckran, the Mage of Hexos dude whose name I forgot).
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I mean… look at that pretty cover!
Lol, “Mittens of Monsatelle.” Really enjoyed that whole part.