Advent Day 2
For our second day of Advent, I thought I would stick with a historical fantasy novel. Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis.
Masks and Shadows is set in the court of Eszterháza Palace at the height of its decadance, 1779. While war rages in the American colonies over taxes and tea, Prince Nikolas is driving the peasants into the ground to maintain his lifestyle and expand his palace. He keeps a private opera company and one of the best composers of the age, Joseph Haydn, for the amusement of himself and his guests. Further, he has his mistress acting as his hostess while his wife, Princess Marie Elizabeth, remains cloistered in her rooms.
Into this decadence comes Countess Charlotte von Steinbeck, the widowed sister of that very mistress. Charlotte is hoping for some peace and quiet with her sister in order to recover from the death of her husband and to dodge the matrimonial schemes of her mother. Instead, she finds a palace teeming with intrigue, vice, and music.
Kapellmeister Haydn is composing a new opera for the Prince. One of the foremost castrati in Europe, Carlo Morelli has come to sing, and Charlotte’s own maid has demonstrated an unexpectedly pure and beautiful voice.
Ranked against the sublime music, there is treason, espionage, and dark magics. And it comes down to Charlotte and Carlo to penetrate the masks of civility that everyone is wearing and stop the plot before it can overthrow an empire.