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Brittany N. Williams’s Saint-Seducing Gold Bears out the Promise of Its Title


Brittany N. Williams’s <i>Saint-Seducing Gold</i> Bears out the Promise of Its Title

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Brittany N. Williams’s Saint-Seducing Gold Bears out the Promise of Its Title

A review of the second novel in the Forge & Fracture Saga.


Published on June 6, 2024

Cover of Saint-Seducing Gold by Brittany N. Williams , showing Joan holding a sword against a purple background, surrounded by molten gold and some gold objects.

It’s been a long time since I read a sequel that picks up in the same scene that ended the previous book. I associate that immediacy with my reading in the 90s: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and most memorably for my young brain, K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs series. The fact that Brittany N. Williams’s Saint-Seducing Gold begins with the very lines of dialogue that end her first book, That Self-Same Metal, put me in a nostalgic mindset ready for some classic adventure. And whoa, did Williams deliver. 

Note that there are spoilers below for That Self-Same Metal. If you haven’t read that first book yet, check out my review of it here. You can also find an excerpt from the first book here.

In this second installment of the Forge & Fracture Saga, our heroine Joan Sands, a powerful metal-manipulating magician blessed by the Orisha Ogun, is thrown into a battle she is not so well-suited for: King James I’s court. Moments after realizing Queen Anne is in fact the Fae queen Titanea wearing the dead English monarch’s form, Joan becomes the subject of far too much scrutiny when “Queen Anne” appoints the middle-class Black girl to become one of her ladies-in-waiting. Not only that, the disguised Titanea cajoles King James to ennoble Joan. Though a few members of court are kind to Joan, most of the nobility are incensed by what they see as her good fortune and stratospheric rise—none more so than the vile Lord Salisbury, Robert Cecil. What none of these silk-and-gem-clad people know is that Joan has no wish to leave her job with Shakespeare’s theatre company and live at court. Our protagonist has in fact been forced to take the position by Titanea calling in one of the boons Joan owes her. It seems the powerful Fae wants to keep Joan close. 

With no other choice, Joan takes her place in the false Queen’s household, opening herself to constant threats from Cecil, as well as vilification by the Queen’s existing ladies-in-waiting and unwanted attention from Cecil’s own son. Yet these social pressures aren’t even the most of Joan’s concerns; what she really needs to do is figure out how to reforge the Pact that keeps the Fae from harming humans. She must find a way to speak to her mentor, imprisoned in the Tower of London, and she must use her proximity to Titanea to figure out what the Fae ruler is planning to do with her imposter act. If that weren’t enough, as their queen strengthens, so do the vicious Fae hunting humans all over London. 

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Saint-Seducing Gold
Saint-Seducing Gold

Saint-Seducing Gold

Brittany N. Williams

This bit of summary only covers a small part of Saint-Seducing Gold, because Williams’s sophomore novel is motored by story. It doesn’t linger on its characters’ angst or get caught up in overly-detailed worldbuilding. Certainly, Joan’s character develops a little, as in the moving moment when she realizes she must trust her family and friends to fight alongside her, rather than seeing herself as their sole protector. As in any good magical chosen one’s journey, Joan also sees her powers grow as her relationship with Ogun deepens. Yet overall Williams is writing about an already-fantastic character with strong convictions in a heart-pounding situation. Saint-Seducing Gold delights the reader more with Joan’s exploits than her interiority, and that results in a pulse-pounding read. 

Williams’s focus on her galloping plot still allows for the same themes to appear as in That Self-Same Metal: communities joining together to protect each other; mutual aid and organization; and an impactful collapse of the gap between the traditionally powerful and powerless. The family relationships begun in the first book continue to be lovingly illustrated, with the bond between Joan and her twin James being the strongest in the novel. Moreover, there are parents in this tale. So often young adult literature speedily separates its protagonists from their families, or makes the family a major part of the conflict. While such choices can be for good reason, it is refreshing to see parents actually parenting! Joan may be the one Child of Ogun who can reforge the Pact, but she’s also a teenager: impulsive, developing, and fixated on what she understands as Her Responsibility. I loved seeing the community’s elders relate to Joan as a young adult, and relished the familiar frustration Joan feels when her parents prevent her from behaving foolishly.

Williams is also beginning to win me over to at least one of the romantic relationships in her trilogy, even if Joan’s paramours left me cold in book one. There is a quiet and sensual scene of Joan doing Rose’s hair that captures the uncertain tenderness between two teenagers attracted to each other. I remain unmoved by Nick Tooley—who is he, other than handsome?—but Joan’s reactions to seeing Nick in danger are delicious. It is quite satisfying to watch Joan save her young man from his own incompetence at stage fights.

Even if Nick’s pretty face is never harmed, Saint-Seducing Gold is full of blood and guts. The fae creatures terrorizing London are frankly gross in their violent abandon. There is a lot of rending and tearing and people/monsters split down the middle, offering a fun counter to books where faerie courts are glamorized and fey men are the love interests. Though they (mostly) don’t draw blood, the Cecils are equally vicious, their words and entitled behavior as affronting as a bloody stabbing. Some trigger warnings thus apply, none of which should surprise: racism, sexism, classism, gore, violent death. I will note that if anyone has as pathetic a stomach as me, there is a scene of historically accurate torture and execution that, while not very graphically described, turned my stomach and tormented me for days, mostly because I knew it wasn’t fiction. (If this is you too, just skip chapter 28.) As with the rest of Williams’s world, the public executions are excellently researched. 

After reading That Self-Same Metal, I was excited for Brittany N. Williams’s entry into the young adult fiction world, and casually eager for the sequel. After Saint-Seducing Gold, I’m impressed to see Williams settling into her rhythm. Her second book was absorbing enough that I forgot for a while about the crushing horrors of the world we currently live in. Now, to be a bit Shakespearean about it, I await the end of Williams’s saga with bated breath and whispering humbleness. icon-paragraph-end

Saint-Seducing Gold is published by Amulet Books.
Read an excerpt.

About the Author

Maura Krause


Maura Krause is a writer and Barrymore-nominated theatrical director. They have an MFA from California College for the Arts and currently live in central Maine.
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