The delicacy and insight of a cat with its head stuck in a box

A Little Knowledge
by Emma Newman

This is the fourth book in the Split Worlds, a fantasy series that Newman started in 2013 with Between Two Thorns. This review may contain spoilers for the previous three books.

The story still centres on Cathy – one of the “fae-touched” humans, whose life is controlled by the Fae – and Max, whose job is to protect innocent humans from magical misdeeds, such as being disappeared. Cathy must now live in the Nether, a magical reflection of the human world, known as Mundanus. Though she theoretically inhabits a powerful position in fae-touched society, she is frustrated by the confines of an extremely patriarchal system. Her experience in Mundanus exposed her to feminism and women’s rights – thoroughly foreign concepts in the Nether. But the resistance to her proposed changes is so extreme that she wonders if something else is going on.

“It didn’t help that at social events she just wanted to sneak off and read a book, like she had as a child. Although Cathy understood that wasn’t possible anymore, it was too much of a leap to suddenly acquire all the social delicacy and insight now required of her. Cathy had the delicacy and insight of a cat with its head stuck in a box moving backwards to try and escape it, and she knew it.”

Cathy’s trust in her husband is tested over and over again. He pays lip service to supporting her, but he is under pressure from Lord Iris to have a child and that is where his efforts really lie. Meanwhile, Sam is learning what his new job entails, and – like Cathy – that having money and power does not necessarily make it easier to make the world a better place. At least not while there are other people with money and power who think things are fine as they are. Max and the Gargoyle continue to provide light relief, but they too have depth and history woven into their story.

Although it’s been there all along in the series, this book was the first time I saw how all the magic and fairies are metaphors for the real world. The fae-touched are completely aware of and living alongside a more progressive human society but don’t evolve themselves? There are plenty of communities that could refer to, not least the rich and powerful elite in whose interest it is to maintain the status quo.

“Sam raided the hotel minibar as some arsehole from the government talked on the news about how there wasn’t enough money to keep paying for all the beds in a hospital straight after a report about how they’d spent millions bombing people in some distant nation…Everything was fucked, and now he knew why. The most powerful people in the world didn’t give a shit about anything except money. And why was there no fucking lager in the fridge?”

I really loved this book. The characters are fascinating – no-one is purely good or evil and they have realistic motives. Plus it’s funny. Although it took a few chapters for me to pick back up all the plot threads, once I was there I found it so comfortable to be back in that familiar world.

Excitingly, I read this just in time before book five in the series, All Good Things, which came out this week.

Published 2016 by Diversion Books.

Source: Amazon.

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