BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Delia and Gabriel face the legacy of the Great War as ghosts, anarchists, royalists and refugees threaten to irrevocably change their San Francisco
PROS: Well formed set of characters and their interactions; excellent historical detail well integrated into the story; beautiful cover.
CONS: Novel doesn’t stand well on its own.
BOTTOM LINE: Moyer sticks the landing in completing Delia’s story in this third and concluding volume to the series.
European Royalty, immigrant ghosts, anarchists, labor strife, and more swirl around the life of Delia in Against a Brightening Sky, the third and final novel in the Delia Trilogy.
In the several years since Delia’s Shadow, and through A Barricade in Hell, Delia, her family and friends have grown to accept and use Delia’s ability to see ghosts. There is still tension, and pain, and difficulty in being a conduit for the wishes and the needs of the dead, especially when they conflict and threaten the needs of the living. This is a theme that has permeated the trilogy, and which comes to full fruition in Against a Brightening Sky.
The style of the novel follows the same template as the previous two novels: Delia is our first person narrator for her scenes, continuing to give us an intimate look into her heart and mind; Gabe, her husband, is our other viewpoint character, and again, the author uses a third person POV to help distinguish his scenes from hers, and also to give the reader a slightly different kind of camera lens as events unfold.
The plotting revolves around anarchists. fleeing royalty, ghosts (of course) and Delia and Martin being caught in it all, set against the looming shadow of Prohibition. In many ways, Delia’s hometown of San Francisco, circa 1919, is a “final shore” for a lot of these emigrants and refugees from the horrors of the Great War in Europe, and the author does an excellent job in depicting how a West Coast city deals with people fleeing half a world away. Before reading these novels, I never gave much if any thought to how a place like San Francisco would deal with the war’s aftermath. The social, political and personal consequences (both for humans and for ghosts) were a revelation for me.
The Delia Trilogy reminds me of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist series in two important ways. Both novels are rich in the historical detail of their period. I have learned a surprising amount about what 19th century English gentry life is like in Kowal’s novels, and similarly, learned quite a bit about the post Great War San Francisco world that Delia inhabits. Both authors know how to drop historical detail and immerse, not drown, the reader. The other parallel is in the development of their main characters’ relationship. It’s still uncommon in genre fiction to follow and develop the lives of a couple who come together, get married, and continue to explore their lives after marriage. Gabe and Delia’s relationship has grown and developed in believable and realistic ways from their courtship in Delia’s Shadow, just as Jane and Vincent do in Shades of Milk and Honey and its subsequent novels. Part of the joy of the Delia’s series is following the course of the relationship.
Finally, both series show the development and challenges of a young woman with magical talent. Delia is, even here, reluctant and conflicted when connecting to the spirit world. It is very much a burden and a responsibility she has undertaken, instead of a joy, as in the Kowal novel. However, Delia’s training and growth in her knowledge and capabilities in dealing with the spirit world come to a more than satisfactory climax in the denouement of the book, as Delia’s power becomes crucial to dealing with the source of the problem. The Delia that ran from ghosts most of her life only to return to face them reluctantly in Delia’s Shadow has come a long way, and part of the joy of the novels is to watch that evolution of, and confidence in her abilities.
Three books later, I feel like I’ve really gotten to know Delia and her San Francisco-centered world. It is bittersweet that it is time, bibliographically speaking, for me to leave it for another. I was pleasantly surprised when I first started the series, and didn’t expect to like it. But, I ended up enjoying it quite a bit! With the Delia Trilogy coming to a solid and satisfactory conclusion, I now eagerly look forward to what Moyer decides to write next.