Book cover: Any Other Name - Emma NewmanCathy has been outmanoeuvred by her family and pushed into a marriage with Will Reticulata-Iris. He’s hardly enthusiastic about the idea, but his healthy fear of Lord Iris means he must win her over – in spite the allure of the seductive Amelia Alba-Rosa White – and make a play for the Dukedom of London…

If Between Two Thorns left me wondering how much worse a world can get – from the perspective of a clever, independent, modern woman – then Any Other Name is a resounding answer of ‘a whole lot and then a bit more’.  

This isn’t a book I’d recommend as an entry point to the series. The Split Worlds are a single story in multiple volumes, not independent novels. So we pick up exactly where we left off, rejoining Cathy and Will on the morning of their wedding. 

The main thrusts of Any Other Name are the developing relationship between our now-married protagonists; the declining relationship between Sam & Leanne; and the tortuous politics of London. As Cathy is immersed in her own household, we get new perspectives on the Agency (even creepier than they looked) and as she is launched into London society it becomes evident she’s not as ill-suited to it as she and her family believe. Sufficiently motivated, she’s very capable indeed. The key question is what motivates her…

On this front, we meet Lord Iris and Dame Iris, letting us know that really the Rhoeas-Papavers may be horrid but they’re not monstrous when you’ve got a Nether yardstick to measure them by. Every step Cathy takes deeper into the Iris world is calculated to make you shudder – or, possibly, to offset Will’s sins and encourage some empathy. 

And, inevitably, the Rosas are still up to no good. Living on Will’s charity, there’s a brief space where it’s possible to think of Amelia at least as a victim of circumstance and feel sorry for her (and intrigued by the extent of her secret affairs in Mundanus). Don’t worry, it won’t last. That clue is right there in the book title. Never trust a Rosa. 

I persisted in #TeamWill through the first book, comforted by signs that he was a non-traditional thinker even if he was a well-trained son of the Nether. As he grapples with Lord Iris’s demands and Amelia’s seductions, he crossed the line of my tolerance almost immediately and then set about making me hate him. But is he justified in his actions – are they, in fact, the lesser evil to disappointing Lord Iris?

This book may have made me angrier than any other I’ve ever read, not least for tempting apologism. It’s success is that I never considered setting it aside: I much preferred it to Between Two Thorns in spite of the regular volcanic rage. Key to this is Cathy, who stops snivelling and starts showing us she’s a smart girl instead of just telling us she is. The scene at Hampton Court is a turning point for her and for me. Finally, I became invested in our heroine. But I remain unconvinced that I can be persuaded to forgive Will. 

With less weight of world-building and more agency for Cathy/Will, this instalment felt more rewarding than the first. That slow pace barely wavers though – we get relatively little progression in the Agency or Sam’s plots, the latter of which also continued to deliver wrath in spades (not least SPOILER (mouse over to read) the fridging of much-maligned Leanne) – before it ends in a flurry of action to resolve the notionally main plot of the Duchy of London. 

If I was lukewarm about Between Two Thorns, I think Any Other Name is a very successful sequel. However, I’m starting to feel that perhaps these books have at least one too many plots. All’s Fair needs to work hard to reintegrate the Sorcerer, the Agency and Lord Iron and push them forward. 

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Any Other Name is available now as an ebook and is being re-released in paperback in August (original release paperbacks are quite rare).

I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.