Read an eARC from NetGalley
Content warning: Homophobia, anti-Asian racism, murder, sexism, violence
In an magical alternate history of old Hollywood, magic is very real and the studio heads are literal monsters. All Luli Wei is to be a star, under three conditions: no maids, no funny accidents, and no fainting, in order to carve out her own career. She will stop at nothing to get the recognition she thinks she deserves, no matter the cost.
A world of magic and fey wrapped up in the glamour of the 1920’s, an immersive, sensual experience that’s equal parts dark and fabulous.
Magic leaps off the pages in this book like glitter. It’s everywhere, from the description of why Luli wanted to become an actress to the rules governing magic. Everything can be exchanged for something greater, the first instance being hair in exchange for years added (or subtracted). It also has one of my favorite tropes in this kind of fantasy: names as currency. Luli is just the name we know our narrator as, and I don’t believe Vo ever reveals it in the text. It’s fascinating to watch and some of the puzzle unravels right before the reader’s eyes. There’s enough detail to the magic that I firmly understand what’s going on, but if there were more backstory or even more stories in this world, I am so on board.
This book fucks. The sex scenes are hot, and, in addition, do a lot to move the interpersonal and personal plots along. I loved the relationships between Luli and Emmaline and Luli and Tara. Tender and transactional in different ways, both of which lead to a veritable whirlwind of lesbian relationships that not only raise Luli’s personal stakes but impact the politicking between the actors and the executives. It’s tense. It’s hot. It works so well.
The monstrosity here is unsubtle both in its depiction and its metaphor. Watching Luli navigate with grace and determination had me majorly with my chin on my hands. I love her so much.
I will read anything Vo writes, and this book is another to add to a career of solid bangers.