Harbor for the Nightingale is the fourth book in the Stranje House series and to say I've been looking forward to it would be an understatement. This series began with A School for Unusual Girls, one of my favorite YA debuts, and has been getting better and better with each book. This time we're experiencing the story from the point of view of Maya Barrington, an Indian girl with an unusual gift. She has the ability to influence others through her voice, and she senses the world around her in the same way. Sound is a medium for her to communicate but also a way for her to sense the intentions or emotional state of others. And the neat part is there's an author note at the end that sheds a little light on this and the origins of the character.
The thing I like about this is it's not really magic per se- this is a series grounded in the real world, even though it's an alternate history of sorts. The year is 1814 and Napoleon threatens England, and as in the previous books the girls of Stranje House are thick in the intrigues. It's almost an alternate timeline where things have occurred differently, and so history is taking a somewhat different course. This also plays into the overarching theme of the series, which is that everyone makes changes to the world around them everyday, and in the lives of those around them. It's a fascinating idea, and true when you think about it- I love how this has formed the underpinning of the story.
So this one starts out with the girls having a coming- out ball, and the intrigue and romantic entanglements begin from there! The girls are now highly visible in London society and are well known in the upper echelons of the aristocracy, so this lends a higher stakes element to the plot. The girls must not only navigate the treacherous waters swirling around Napoleon and his desire to subjugate England, but they have to walk the high society tightrope as well. This novel felt like settling in with old friends at this point, and I'm happy to report this book was as readable and compelling as the previous stories.
Each novel has an element of romance to go along with the intrigue, and here Maya is paired with Lord Kinsworth, a charming rogue with a heart of gold who just happens to confound Maya. She is used to being able to read others, even manipulate them to an extent with her talents, but Kinsworth frustrates her since she has trouble reading him. Could that be because they are more alike than she realizes? There are the usual misunderstandings and a scene where Maya had to set him straight for the good of the mission- it was almost painful to read because you knew it was breaking her heart to do it, but she had to for the good of the mission.
All in all I can't say enough about this series. Alternate history, friendships and intrigues galore, suspense and action- this one, like the rest, has it all. And Napoleon shows up as well! Maya and Sera have always seemed a little different from the other girls, and I was happy to see in this one that Maya's friendship with Sera was not only examined but strengthened. The next book will be from Sera's POV and in many ways I've been looking forward to that one the most! At the same time we see enough of Georgie, Lady Jane and Tess so that it still feels like an ensemble- I love how the characters each retain their personalities and get moments to shine. This is, quite simply, an awesome addition to a stellar series.