What happens when the world's most advanced computer system goes awry? The Demi-Monde is the best simulation ever invented, designed to train the US Military in the most realistic way possible without any deaths. Programmers have created a world occupied by dupes based on real people including the world's greatest psychopaths. They have deliberately created friction by developing racial and religious tensions, with the aim of causing conflict. However the programme develops in an unforeseen way when one of the dupes is able to bring the President's daughter over from the real world to the Demi-Monde. The team in charge of the Demi-Monde bring in young singer Ella Thomas to go into the Demi-Monde to retrieve her. Once there Ella is stunned by what she finds and the threat posed to the real world.
Having completed the book I'm not quite sure how to classify it: fantasy,sci-fi, dystopian or steampunk. I'm not really fussed though because I loved this book. The author has created this amazing, detailed world based on a skewed version of the real world, including various historical elements and characters such as Robespierre, Henry Tudor and Nazi Reinhard Heydrich. The Demi-Monde is a dark place, reliant on Victorian technology, with fantastical spiritual and fantasy elements. Author Rees performs some fantastic linguistic gymnastics, creating new religions such as mysogynistic HimPerialism and the feminist HerEticals. I thought his use of language was brilliant.
The plot moves at quite a pace and the main characters were well developed. Ella, as a woman and a "Shade" or as she prefers woman of colour, has to overcome her initial disgust with the world she has entered in order to focus on her mission. She is smart and resilient, and I enjoyed her developing relationship with faux psychic Vanka. The President's daughter was far from the prissy spoilt girl I was expecting, although not necessarily in a good way, and priviledged Lady Trixibell was an interesting character even if I found her pretty unlikeable as events unfolded. Meeting the real life historical figures added a different dimension and as a fan of historical fiction this aspect held a lot of appeal for me.
I don't think there is really much I can say about this book in the negative (apart from the overuse of the word ersatz perhaps) I'll definitely be looking out for the next book in the series to see where the author is going to take the Demi-Monde.
Format: Kindle, ARC
My Rating: 5*