By: T.L. Huchu
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Fifteen-year-old Ropa Moyo, everyone’s favorite ghost talker, is back with a new adventure in Our Lady of Mystery Ailments; Edinburgh Night Book 2. What exactly is Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments? It is a special hospital that treats all kinds of illnesses that befall those in the magical community, and now there is a strange sickness that is striking boys and putting them in a coma-like state. No one knows the cause, but the best person for the job is our heroine, Ropa, with her special talent for ghost talking and sleuthing. The narrative is once again told in the first person of Ropa, who I loved even more in this book. She is a smart, sassy, and street-wise. In this book, she is inspired by Miyamoto Mushashi, the famed Japanese Samurai, or Brother Mushashi, as she refers to him. What Brother Mushashi would do is always what Ropa thinks, and she are privy to her as she quotes him when making decisions. As someone who is familiar with Miyomoto Mushashi, this an interesting contrast with how Ropa is seen by others, being judged by her lack of formal education and money, when in fact, she is always learning and reading as much as she can. I find Ropa to be a truly endearing character, full of dichotomies. As a ghost-talker, Ropa made her money delivering messages from the dead to living. She barely made enough money, living in one of the poorest parts of Edinburgh. In Our Lady of Mystery Ailments, Ropa’s friend Priya, who is treating the boys, knows only Ropa can find out what has happened to them. It is a fun, gripping, mystery, filled with magic, ghost-talking, and twists and turns I never could have predicted. Mr. Huchu addresses classism in reference to Ropa’s education and how she lives, but also, we see how Ropa appreciates all that she has. It was a wonderful second entry into this series, and I highly recommend it and look forward to more of Ropa’s adventures.
Ropa has loftier visions of doing more in the magical world so she can take care of her Gran and sister, Izwi. Classism still exists in the world Mr. Huchu has created, and I felt he handled it beautifully. Ropa is given an opportunity for a paid apprenticeship with The Society of Skeptical Enquirers, which runs magic in Scotland. Unfortunately, with no formal magical education, dropping out of school, and her poor background, she is deemed unqualified. They shuttle her into an unpaid internship. She is not only looked down upon, they hope she will fail, despite her mentor being Sir Callander, Scotland’s top magician. I was angry at her treatment and the assumptions made about what she could do. In these moments, we can take stock of how others are still judged by their appearance.
We know from the previous book, that story takes place in a future version of Edinburgh. Every so often we are given some insight to what actually happened and when it did. Referred to as the “catastrophe”, it’s clear that some people remember what it was like before. However, Mr. Huchu does not divulge when exactly it occurred, or how far into the future the book takes places. There are certain clues that we do know. Ropa uses a cell phone, she can text and her sister plays games on it. It took place after Ropa was born as she does not remember anytime before then. While the city is damaged, it is not unlivable. There are wealthy areas alongside the poor sections where Ropa lives. I also wonder if this was a world-wide event. At one point she encounters someone from Canada. In Scotland, when people address each other, they often say “God save the King”, and the person answers, “Long may he reign.” This person is puzzled by this. It makes one wonder if this catastrophe occurred only there, since this character was baffled by this “greeting”. In addition, is air travel still going on? Ropa never talks of places other than Scotland, and even then, it’s only in relation to her abilities. However, she is only fifteen, taking care of her family, trying to make money, so I doubt travel is something she thinks about. It is one of the best kept secrets of the book. I am so curious to find out what happened. Keeping the narrative in the first-person perspective of Ropa is a brilliant choice to keep us guessing about the catastrophe.
Ropa is still taking care of Gran and Izwi. They are her world, and when she is with them, we see another side of Ropa. No matter how they struggle, she cherishes the moments they spend together. We find out more about Gran and her connection to the magical community. Again, we know there is more to it, but we are getting snippets only from what Ropa hears. I am looking forward to finding out more about Gran. I think she is more powerful in terms of magic than she lets on.
Our Lady of Mystery Ailments is a delightful, unique fantasy that continues the adventures of Ropa Moyo. A ghost-talker who wants to improve her skills in magic and earn enough money to support her family, Ropa is called upon to solve the mysterious illness afflicting young boys in magic school. I love hearing this story in Ropa’s narrative. She is a smart, sassy, Miyamoto Mushashi quoting magical sleuth. It’s wonderful to hear her voice in her Scottish accent as well, as she thinks about what “Brother Mushashi” would do in her situation. Classism affects Ropa and she seeks to get a paid apprenticeship with The Society of Skeptical Enquirers. She is judged as unacceptable due to her lack of formal training and dropping out of school, and put in an unpaid position. Despite all she faces, Ropa remains remarkably upbeat. She loves and cherishes the moments she spends with her Gran and her sister, Izwi. There is plenty of intrigue and suspense, and Mr, Huchu has a way of making Ropa hooking you in from the first page. Edinburgh still has the mysterious dystopian-like setting, but we are getting tiny glimpses of what the catastrophe was. Gran has some connection to the magical community and I hope we will find out what it is over the next books. I enjoyed this book as much as the first, and loved Ropa even more. Our Lady of Mystery Ailments is a brilliant book that I highly recommend. I eagerly await the next book in this series.
Summary (from NetGalley)
Some secrets are meant to stay buried
When Ropa Moyo discovered an occult underground library, she expected great things. She’s really into Edinburgh’s secret societies – but turns out they are less into her. So instead of getting paid to work magic, she’s had to accept a crummy unpaid internship. And her with bills to pay and a pet fox to feed.
Then her friend Priya offers her a job on the side. Priya works at Our Lady of Mysterious Maladies, a very specialized hospital, where a new illness is resisting magical and medical remedies alike. The first patient was a teenage boy, Max Wu, and his healers are baffled. If Ropa can solve the case, she might earn as she learns – and impress her mentor, Sir Callander.
Her sleuthing will lead her to a lost fortune, an avenging spirit and a secret buried deep in Scotland’s past. But how are they connected? Lives are at stake and Ropa is running out of time.
My thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC eBook for an honest review.