(books one and two of the Spiritwalker trilogy)
This is set in the late Regency period of a world in which the Roman Empire never completely toppled, mage houses are a powerful force from a long-ago alliance between West African and Celtic mages, people are making airships, revolutionary forces are in the brewing, the spirit world is close at hand, Camjiata (the Napoleon equivalent) is about to make a second attempt at empire, and oh yes, by the way, there's still a bit of the ice age going and did I mention the intelligent dinosaurs (called "trolls" by the humans in the world)?
Our heroine, Cat Hassi Barahal, gets entangled in mage house politics while also uncovering her own ties to the spirit world in book one. In book two, she ends up in Expedition, a trade city in the world's equivalent of the Dominican Republic which struggles to maintain its independence from the next-door Taino empire.
This is basically everything and the kitchen sink. The pacing in book one is kind of terrible; I didn't get into it until a revelation around the halfway point. Book two does much better, partly because there is much less journeying involved and way less worldbuilding to cram into your head, because if you couldn't tell, there is a heck of a lot of worldbuilding in these books. Some of it is less explicit than I would like (want more about the trolls!), but I find the eventual migration of various African peoples up north and the blend of African and Celtic society to be absolutely fascinating.
It's not even the biggest point of the world either, just the background! The books are basically about revolutionary and radical ideas and the spread of ideas about equality and property and rights, and I am really impressed that Elliott manages to make these ideas feel (afaict) true to the Regency time period we know and true to her own world. It's a great example of how fantasy doesn't actually have to be about the restoration of monarchical bloodlines, and I like that she does it in a way that doesn't use that much modern jargon about social justice or democracy (in the USian sense, not the Greek sense).
I did find that the characters suffer a little due to this. Cat has an extremely close relationship with her cousin Bee, but I often felt as though we were told that more than seeing it. Some of it is due to Cat getting separated from Bee for long periods in both books, and I'm hoping the third will have much more Cat-and-Bee adventures. Cat herself is a fine character but not one I am completely in love with (unlike, say, the women in Melina Marchetta's Lumatere trilogy), though I very much like that Elliott emphasizes both Cat's fighting ability and her skill with a needle.
I was really not sold on the romance in book 1, but book 2 convinced me. I am a fan of wooing people via assorted tropical fruit. I am also a fan of romantic gestures via revolutionary principles, i.e. Andevai using his love of fashion to try and support indie tailors instead of the high-end stores in Expedition.
I'm not really sure I liked the Master of the Hunt storyline. Part of it is due to me being bored with Celtic mythology thanks to overexposure, particularly when the heroine is of the spiritual/fey world and the human world.
I have no idea what is going on with Bee by the end of book 2. Why was she hanging out with Camjiata again? In general, I like that Bee very clearly has stuff going on outside of Cat's adventures, but it's really awkward for the books to have her randomly appearing 3/4 of the way through with a convoluted explanation of how she got there.
Yay, Cat gets to have sex with someone she doesn't love, enjoy it, and not get punished for it!
Rory is hilarious.
Haha, glad Andevai and not Bee is the one to get saved for book 3.
I feel like I should have more to say about the racial bits of the worldbuilding, but I can't think of anything intelligent right now. I really like that there are multiple cultures in multiple places, so even the African migration north is composed of different peoples and etc. I also really loved Expedition. I'm still not entirely sold on having a Napoleon equivalent in the book, given all the other very large changes. Also, given all the changes, having the Napoleon equivalent there inadvertantly feels like it is the one bit of history that is inevitable.
There is a lot of repetition, which might be good if you read the books over a long period of time, but I thumbed through quite a few pages while reading them back to back.
It's kind of funny, given the title of the trilogy, but I actually find the spirit world component of the book to be the least interesting.