Revenant Eve is the third book in Sherwood Smith’s ongoing Dobrenica series, which also includes Coronets and Steel and Blood Spirits. The series follows Kim Murray, a young modern American woman who finds out her grandmother is actually the long-lost princess of a small European country called Dobrenica. This isolated country is also brimming with magic, so when Kim walks into a fairy tale, it’s not just in finding out that she’s royalty.
In the third book, Kim is busy preparing for her wedding when she’s suddenly blasted back over 200 years into the past. She’s been called to serve as a spirit guide for her ancestress Aurélie during Napoleonic Europe. In order to get home, Kim needs to get Aurélie from Jamaica to Dobrenica and then save Dobrenica from an unknown trouble, all while Aurélie just wants to return to her family in Jamaica.
The Age of Empire
A lot of my fun with this book was following Aurélie through the age of Empire and the beginnings of Napoleon’s campaign to conquer everything he could. While Kim remains the narrator for this installment in the series, the protagonist is really Aurélie, as it is her choices and actions which drive the novel. Kim can’t move anything while a spirit, and can communicate only with Aurélie (with a few exceptions), which limits her ability to affect the world around her. Aurélie starts out as the daughter of a female privateer captain, comes of age in an English country house, then serves as a lady-in-waiting to Josephine Bonaparte before finally making her way to where she needs to go. Each place she goes, Smith has done her homework. The English countryside feels different from Paris, and the characters inhabiting those two places act differently. Revenant Eve is not really an alternative history, as the Haitian Revolution and Napoleon’s rise to power happen in the book as they happened in reality. Aside from the fact that Dobrenica doesn’t exist and the narrator is a spirit guide, this could very easily be read as historical fiction.
A word on magic
One of the key elements in fantasy is the magic system in use. Many staff members here at the Ranting Dragon love a Sanderson-style system: one where there are clear rules and a delineated process. Smith doesn’t use that kind of system in her Dobrenica series. How Kim ends up getting pulled out of her own time is never explained, particularly since Kim herself has no clue. There are no explanations for magic here other than the fact that it’s magic. If this bothers you, the bright side of this is that Aurélie has no inherent magical ability of her own and is living in a world that, for the most part, discounts the very existence of magic, so magic doesn’t play a large role for most of the book. Rather than being mages who actively use magic, the characters are more often the victims of magic working in ways beyond their control.
Why should you read this book?
I’ll be honest: Sherwood Smith is one of my favorite authors. I love her prose and how she develops characters. As an added bonus, Revenant Eve, even though it is the third book in a series, could be read as a stand-alone novel. While there are a few things that aren’t explained in this book, the main part of the book features brand new characters. I’m fairly certain that the few things you’ll have to guess will not greatly affect your enjoyment of the book. Overall, this is a fun book, perfect for when you want something light, but not utter fluff, to while away an afternoon with.