Aoife is afraid of her sixteenth birthday because she fears she will, like her mother, show symptoms of the necrovirus and turn mad. Aoife is almost sixteen years old and she is afraid of having the necrovirus, a virus that makes one insane. Aoife is a ward of the city of Lovecraft and one of the rare female scholarship students at the school of Engineering at the Lovecraft Academy of Arts and Engines. The Academy is an oppressive school, where students are encouraged to oust each other out if they suspect someone showing signs of madness or, irrationality or having symptoms of necrovirus infection. The citizens in the city of Lovecraft are heavily indoctrinated to follow the Rationalist thought represented by a deified figure called the "Master Builder" that stands for science and reality - any citizen that acts otherwise, believing in magic or practicing magic, is killed/burned.
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The story starts with the main character, Aoife, visiting her mother at an insane asylum. Her mother became insane because she had contracted the necrovirus, a virus of the brain, and has been committed to the insane asylum since Aoife was 8 years old. Her mother is convinced she sees things like fairies and demons. Aoife herself is afraid that the virus is laying dormant in her (transmitted by blood) and that when she turns 16, she will start showing symptoms of her infection. On the way out of the insane asylum, she meets up with a fellow engineering student, Cal. They decide to take a short cut back to school. On their way, they are almost attacked by a nightjar, a creature that is infected and mutated by the necrovirus. Aoife didn't have any iron on her so instead she used a glass aether tube to light the creature on fire so that they can get away.
Back in her dorm room, Aoife is informed that the headmaster wants to put her on a probationary period with the school until it is assured she is not infected with the necrovirus. She also receives a letter from her brother, Conrad, who was sent to a madhouse himself when he turned sixteen but escaped and has been sending letters to Aoife in secret. This time the letter only said one thing - "Help". But, Aoife knows her brother's love of puzzles, and she finds a second message under the ink that directs her to Graystone manor which is her ancestral home. Later that day, Aoife attends a burning of a heretic, and she has a terrible feeling that she might be next, or that maybe her brother has already been caught and will be burned, too. She tells her most trusted friend Cal what is happening and he insists on going with her to Graystone manor, which involves a dangerous journey out of Lovecraft.
Aoife and Cal escape from the Academy and make their way towards Nightfall market which is at the poor fringes of the city. Nightfall market is full of unsavory types of heretics who sell things that they claim are magic. Aoife pays a handsome sum for a guide who can take them to Graystone manor. Later on, a boy appears and reveals that Aoife's guide is a trickster that is claimed by a ghoul's den to bring them fresh meat. Aoife and Cal agree that the boy, named Dean, should be their guide. Dean takes them to the Night Bridge which is a ghostly bridge that has an automaton manning the toll. As they are traveling across the bridge, a Raven patrol appears - clockwork bird-like machines designed to search the city for heretics. During their escape, Cal breaks his ankle. Dean takes them to an airship manned by some air pirates who agree to take them to Arkham, the city where Graystone manor is. During their flight, someone betrays them, destroying key components of the ship and alerting the Ravens that the heretics Aoife and Cal are on board. The airship crashes but luckily Aoife, Cal and Dead are alright. They continue their journey towards the manor. On the way there, Aoife is attacked by a monster called a Shoggoth. Cal is worried that Aoife will go viral and start mutating from the Shoggoth's infectious bite. They have no choice but to wait out the infection and see what happens.
When the troupe arrive at Graystone Manor, they find the door open. Aoife, weakened from her wounds, blacks out. When she comes to, everyone is asleep. She decides to explore her ancestral home. She discovers that her home is almost alive, with mechanisms installed to open doors and a deep, thrumming engine of a heart somewhere in the house. Aoife wonders about her father, the father whose house this belongs to and the father who had forsaken her and her brother when their mother succumbed to the virus. Her father is mysteriously absent from the house and the house overall looks in ill repair. During her explorations, Aoife finds another letter from her brother asking her to "fix it", though she doesn't know what. Later on, Cal joins her and the two notice a set of footsteps leading to a wall. Aoife figures out if she pushes a lever, the wall opens up to a secret room where a girl named Bethina, who claims to be a former servant of the house, is hiding. Bethina claims to have seen Conrad and that something bad happened to him.
Bethina tells them that when she worked at the house, she often saw these mysterious and frightening "Tall men" at night and that Aoife's father disappeared one day and his disappearance might be related to these creepy men. She also tells them that Aoife's brother arrived a few weeks later but was taken by Shadow things which is why she has been hiding in the secret room. After finding this out, Cal insists that their quest was a lost cause and that they should return to Lovecraft and beg forgiveness from the Academy. Aoife refuses believing that her brother might still be out there somewhere. Aoife busies herself with fixing a clock that her brother told her about. When she fixes the clock, the entire house rumbles and a wall rolls back to reveal a sort of control centre. The panel of buttons reveal that she can open, shut, lock and trap the doors and windows of various rooms in the house. They find that one switch causes a trapdoor in the library ceiling to open. In the room, Aoife finds a battered little book her brother called the witch's alphabet. When Aoife touches the pages of the book, something magical happens which gives Aoife an inky mark on her palm that looks like a gear. The witch's alphabet turns out to be a Gateminder's journal, documenting encounters with those from the Land of Thorn. Near the end of the journal are entries from her father who became a Gateminder. When Aoife tries to tell Cal about her tattoo and what she had experienced, Cal thinks she is showing symptoms of the virus as her birthday is but two weeks away. Dean doesn't think Aoife is crazy, however. His belief in her cements her feelings towards him.
One day when Aoife is wandering in the manor garden, a mist appears and the mist surrounds her. She is transported her briefly to another world called Thorn land. When she demands to be released, she finds herself in a hexenring - a ring of toadstools - with a strange man named Tremaine. Tremaine tells her that the hexenring is a ring of protection and if she steps out of the ring, she's vulnerable to the mist and other things in Thorn Land. Later on she figures out from reading her father's journals that Tremaine is what he calls Kindly Folk and is not human. As she is reading, an infected owl bursts into the library. Aoife discovers her Weird is the ability to control the house, and the she kills the owl but making the window smash down on it. Later that night, she is visited by Tremaine again. She learns from Tremaine that the Kindly Folk don't have her brother and that she has not inherited the role of the Gateminder from her father. As they travel through the Land of Thorn, Tremaine gives Aoife magical goggles that allow her to see the truth of the world around her and not become be-spelled. Tremaine shows Aoife a field of lilies similar to the one her mother described. In the field, two coffins containing the Queen of Summer and Winter, Seelie and Unseelie lie in a cursed sleep which has caused the land of Thorn to die. Tremaine forces Aoife to help him to wake the queens by taking up the mantle of Gateminder and using her Weird or else he'll do something horrible to those she loves like Cal and Dean. He reveals that he had tried to do the same thing to her mother but she was too weak and now Aoife is his only option as she is the last of the Graystones. He promises that if she breaks the Queens' curse, he will help her get her brother back.
Aoife returns to the manor and does not tell Cal and Dean what she has seen. Bethina gives her a notebook that belonged to Aoife's father and Aoife finds out that her father left her and her brother in Lovecraft to keep them away from Tremaine and the Land of Thorn. He reveals that the magic to break the Queens' curse is unlike any from their world. He also reveals that Tremaine is trappin Aoife into a quest destined to fail and that Tremaine's true intentions is to have the Winter throne for himself. Later on she finally tells Dean of her experiences with the fairy ring and the land of Thorn. She tells Dean that she knows he has magical powers as well, in particular, he has the ability to light fires.
Later on, Aoife follows Cal out to the cemetery. Cal finds a sarcophagus that leads to a secret bootlegger's underground tunnel. In the tunnel there are huge hunting dog-like creatures that looks like a ghoul. To Aoife's surprise, the ghoul leader starts talking about wanting to eat her. Aoife uses her weird to control machines to activate the house to kill the ghouls to save her and Cal.
Later on, Aoife tells Dean the truth about why her brother was put in the insane asylum - because the virus incubated inside of him and made him try to kill her. She and Dean travel via the hexenring to the Land of Thorn to meet Tremaine. Tremaine tells Aoife that she her world and his are dying and that she is someone special, who will cleanse her world of the insidious plague of science. Aoife falls more in love with Dean and is caught in his embrace when Cal enters. Cal is crushed because he liked Aoife, too. Aoife finally tells Cal the truth, that she can do magic and she proves it to him. She and Cal somewhat reconcile. Later on, she has an epiphany about how to break the Queens' curse - by using her ability to fix engines.
When she next meets Tremaine, he tells her that her brother is dead, shot by Proctors, people who catch and kill heretics. In exchange for this information, Aoife reveals her plan to activate the Lovecraft Engine and funnel the power to Thorn so that they can use the power to wake up the Queens. Aoife must go back to Lovecraft to fulfill her end of the bargain. Dean decides to go with her. He tells her the truth about his heritage - that he's the son of an Erlkin or the People of the Mist. Dean gives her a geas he made which he thinks will force Tremaine to be bound to the truth.
On their way back to Lovecraft, they are caught in a random heretic search. Aoife gives herself up to the Proctor, telling Cal and Dean that it's part of her plan. The Proctor brings her to the Ravenhouse leader called Draven. Draven wants to use Aoife to bait her father to come. Draven claims to know about the mists, the Folk etc. Draven explains the history of Lovecraft - that a man named Nikola Tesla invented and turned on a machine that tore a rip between their universe and let in creatures from other worlds that created gates of magic and tried to dominate their world. This was why the people stood up to these magical folk and erased magic from all corners of the earth by making people believe any sign of it was due to a fictional necrovirus. Aoife finds out that her whole world was built on a lie and the truth was that magic does exist.
Aoife is brought to an interrogation room where a doctor will check her for contamination. The mysterious doctor helps her escape by staging a distraction that will allow her to go through the vents of her room. She escapes into the ventilation system where she finds Dean's prison cell. She tells Dean what she has discovers and the two try to escape but are caught again. This time they are thrown into a cell which happens to contain Cal as well. Cal has been beaten for information. They find out that Cal is a ghoul himself that has changed into some creature with claws. Cal reveals that Draven had recruited him years ago to watch Aoife, threatening to burn him and his family of ghouls out of their homes if he didn't comply. Cal helps the two escape via the underground tunnels that run through Lovecraft and introduce them to his den of other ghouls.
Eventually, Aoife will fulfill her quest to activate and funnel the energy from the Lovecraft machine into the land of Thorn so that she can awaken the Queens. She will find out the truth about what happened to her mother, father and brother and what insidious plot Tremaine has up his sleeve.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like the interesting play between magic and science, the twist that science was used to quell magic and that magic is trying to strike back.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Aoife discovers Cal is a ghoul - it is really shocking and also helps hit home the theme that everything she thought she knew about Lovecraft was a lie.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Aoife is a woman engineer and is smart and capable in a male dominated field.