Book Review: Congress of Secrets

Author: Stephanie Burgis.

Publisher: Pyr.

Publication Date: November 1st, 2016.



It’s about time I reviewed this book. Finished it a long time ago, but needed some time to write down a proper review, fitting of an excellent book like this.

I am not new to Ms. Burgis’ writing, whether it’s her other novel, MASKS AND SHADOWS, or her numerous shorter works, which actually are what got me to read this book.

This “fantasy” is a tad different from I usually read. It’s more of historic fantasy, meaning that real events from the history we know are there, weaved meticulously with elements of alchemy and magic.

The story happens after the fall of Napoleon, 1814, in Vienna. We have a congress held by emperor Francis, and a huge number of nobles who arrived from all over Europe. Those came to celebrate and — you figured it — are hoping to grab a piece of the cake. As we might expect, a lot of political intrigue and fine details of the time period are there, very nicely written.

The book features two protagonists, Karolina Vogl and Michael Steinhüller. Two very different people with totally different agendas that brought them to attend the congress, yet as the book progresses, we start to learn of the thin — and powerful — threads that connect these two characters.

As usual with Ms. Burgis’ writing, the characters are very well-developed. Real people with real names and motives, the kind of people you easily believe they existed somewhere on this earth. We are subtly introduced to their history and lives, with the right amount of information cleverly delivered at the right time. Not only them, but we also get to see a great deal of fleshed-out secondary characters, like the emperor himself, the count, a traveling troupe of artists, and many more. These give the world depicted by the author a very realistic feel, yet maintains the aura that ‘it’s all fantasy’, when we get to understand the dark alchemy part, and its role in the world.

The events are brisk, with a plethora of twists and turns along the way. The author does a great job of building tension to reach a strong climax, and a very nice ending as well. The book actually coaxed me to go search more about the time period it depicts, another bonus for a history fan such as myself.

Verdict? Thank you Ms. Burgis for such an enjoyable read. I look forward to the next book.