Quick-take: All about the hustle. Not much fantasy.
Opal Yong-ae's debts are quickly coming due, and with the help of Nik, she is hustling like crazy to make her payments.
75% of the book is all about making bank. Anything to make a buck, Opal goes for it. Clothes? Sold. Furniture? Sold. Sleep? No time. Gotta hustle. These decisions are going to hurt next month, but who cares? Opal is trying to win this month. The following month can wait.
That is the main story of the book. I do appreciate a good hustle. I like to see a character bend rules and blur the line of legality to win the day against a bad character (in this case her father). However, if it wasn't the scenery of the DFZ, which Rachel Aaron describes nicely at every step, this could barely be called a fantasy novel.
Opal is a mage, but a bad mage. However, in her own way she makes it work for her by sheer force of will. She took it too far this time and injured herself and cannot use her powers. Thus, her powers basically take a back seat throughout the story. I think taking away superpowers from a superhero and forcing the main character to succeed purely on grit and wit is a bit a of trope. It mostly works OK here. Like I said, she wasn't that good of a mage to begin with.
The story is classic Rachel Aaron, and I am fan. She is in the top #5 of my most-read authors for a reason. Her books typically move swiftly, are interesting, and I can read them with a beer in one hand. I am not looking for deep insight. I just want to be entertained, and that is what this book provides.
Score: 4/5. I enjoy a good hustle. Having Opal buying disposable clothes out of a vending machine and wearing them for 3 days until they fall apart is a nice touch to really bring home the hustle culture.
The ending was a bit of a cliffhanger. I like to be invited to continue the story rather than demand it. However, I kind of expect that with a book 2. I had already decided to finish out this series. There is only 1 more after all (I think).