View from the window seat:
Arilou is one of Gullstruck Island’s precious Lost, an oracle. Her younger sister, Hathin, is her invisible attendant. Neither is what they seem, and a carefully constructed lie surrounds their lives. When the sisters become implicated in an island-wide conspiracy, they must flee across jungles and volcanoes as their enemies hunt them. They must discover the truth before everything they hold dear in the world is destroyed.
Gullstruck Island. This is where my review has to start, because my god, is there some seriously amazing world-building going on in this book. Not only did I feel immersed in this island world, but I fell in love with its odd, magical, and sometimes terrifying and cruel setting. From the always smiling Lace to the volcanoes’ anger to the dead encroaching on the space of the living, each detail is intricately and naturally given to the reader so effortlessly that one just falls into this world without even realizing it.
I love, love, love the idea of the past influencing every single person’s present, an idea that drives much of the plot and characterization. The Cavalcaste stick to their ancestors’ archaic laws, making it impossible for any real governing to occur and also setting up an environment where a single man can come in and start pulling the threads in the terrible direction he wants. They also dedicate the best land to their dead, who slowly but surely creep onto land meant for living. Crimes of past Lace haunt the Lace of the present, who face crushing prejudice from everyone else on the island. It takes one girl to realize that the island’s peoples don’t need to continue the cycles of the past.
This girl is Hathin. Quiet, dedicated Hathin has spent her entire life caring for her Lost sister Arilou while protecting the secrets of her Lace village. Hathin’s journey from invisible caretaker to the one who changes the world is a beautiful one full of tragedies and triumphs. Hathin is the kind of character who demands to be loved. She shoulders the burdens of her entire village, she continues on even when it seems she’ll fail, and she shows mercy when others around her demand vengeance. Hathin, in short, is the kind of kickass heroine with agency and humanity that one dreams of.
The Lost Conspiracy is a masterpiece of world-building and characterization.