The Impossible Contract

5/5 stars — an edge-of-your-seat fantasy adventure The second chronicle of Ghadid lives up to its predecessor while introducing a new cast of characters and a mystery with scarily high stakes. The Impossible Contract expands the setting introduced in the previous book, elaborates on the water-based magic system, and continues K.A. Doore's seamless incorporation of queer characters into fantasy stories. Thana: daughter the famed Serpent of Ghadid, an assassin anxious to prove herself independent of her mother's legacy on a high-stakes contract. Mo: a young but powerful healer who dreams of traveling beyond Ghadid despite rules dictating that healers may not leave the city. Heru: a mysterious foreigner sent to Ghadid by Emperess Zara ha Khatet herself on business that immediately sets him at odds with Thana. A web of half-truths binds these three as they set out in the same direction on three different missions. One of my favorite aspects of the novel was watching the dynamics between Thana, Mo, and Heru evolve as their objectives slowly merged and they were forced to work together. Doore wrote complicated, ever-shifting character relationships well in The Perfect Assassin, and The Impossible Contract continues that trend to endlessly entertaining effect. The Impossible Contract felt more plot-driven than The Perfect Assassin, but that's not a bad thing by any means. Though lighter on mystery and heavier on adventure/quest than TPA, the plot of The Impossible Contract was still suspenseful and excitingly tense, with elements of horror and a couple of devastating twists. In short, it's a different kind of story than the first book in the series, but no effectively told and very fun to read. Also, Thana and her companions traveled outside of Ghadid, giving context to life in the desert city and expanding the world. I'm interested to see whether Ghadid's tensions with the Empire play into future books in the series. If it wasn't apparent from my review to this point, I highly recommend this excellent book to anyone who enjoys fantasy novels. To readers who liked The Perfect Assassin: Great! You'll love The Impossible Contract too. Haven't gotten around to TPA yet? That's fine! TIC can be read as a standalone. You honestly can't go wrong with a fast-paced fantasy featuring zombies, awesome magic, and an extremely relatable protagonist. A personal footnote: This was actually my second readthrough of this novel. While I usually take notes as I read so I'll be able to write my review afterward, I got so caught up in the story I stopped annotating after the first quarter. I guess now I can say with certainty that The Impossible Contract has high reread value! content warnings: fantasy-typical violence, some gore/body horror, brief fantasy racism, death of a parent