I picked Iron Cast up from the New shelf at the library, and it turned out to be a great debut from a novelist I will follow eagerly. The gorgeous cover drew me in, and the setting matches: 1919 Boston, the Cast Iron nightclub. It's right before Prohibition, but there's still something illegal going on at the Cast Iron: hemopaths are performing.
I love the 1920's—flappers, speak-easies, jazz, independent women, gangsters and shady backroom deals. Add magic and you've got a smoky, intoxicating backdrop for a tale of two girls from the opposite sides of town with a friendship strong enough to take on the world.
The magic was intriguing—hemopaths have an "affliction of the blood" that makes iron painful to them but gives them various magical talents, like manipulating emotions, creating illusions, changing their appearance. I loved how the magic was associated with an art: musicians use their music to make people feel emotions; wordsmiths use poetry to create illusions, actors can change their appearance.
The plot was twisty with betrayals and the looming menace of the Haversham Asylum (what exactly are they doing to hemopaths in the basement???). All sorts of divisions—class, money, race, background—are mined for all the tension and mistrust they create. But holding fast at the centre of it all is the friendship between Ava and Corinne. Rich, white, high society Corinne and poor, black, immigrant Ava have an unshakeable loyalty and trust between them that was a pleasure to watch. So many fist-pumping moments where one girl comes through for the other, who never doubted she would.
I also loved the two romantic relationships, which were realistic and respectful (I mean both the characters' treatment of each other and the author's treatment of the characters: they were all real people who weren't being crammed into a plot device), but I was very happy that the key relationships were the friendships. As this goodreads reviewer cleverly points out, Iron Cast is all about trust, and it was explored in so many different ways through all the different characters.
So many happy things about this book! I don't know much about '20s food, so I'll compare it to jazz—not the boring kind, but the swinging, be bop kind you can dance to. Sing Sing Sing (here it is with awesome dancing from that fantastic movie Swing Kids):