Kate Milford is one of my all-time favorite authors, and while I love the intricate plots, fleshed-out characters, and how her books read like something out of an Agatha Christie novel, what I love most about her books is the way in which all the books are connected. Many authors set their books in a “shared world,” as Kate Milford refers to it on her website, but Milford’s world is richer and more realistic than most.
Her books take place in either the crossroads town of Arcane, Missouri; the Sovereign City Of Nagspeake, near Magothy Bay and the Skidwrack River; or New York City. A few of the books take place in each of these settings, and those books are directly connected by place, but what makes Milford’s novels so unique is that the settings are tied together by characters who move between the places, linking all the books together into her very own universe.
As you read more and more of Milford’s books, you stumble upon characters with mysteries you can only uncover by reading other books, or maybe you already know something about a character or place that the protagonist doesn’t know yet because you read about it in a past book. We are introduced to Nagspeake’s smuggling history in Greenglass House, but it is only in The Thief Knot and Bluecrowne that we get a close look at its old iron that as far as anyone can tell, seems to move of its own accord. We find Simon Coffrett in Bluecrowne, but we only figure out what it means for him to be a Jumper in The Boneshaker. We meet Meddy in Greenglass House, but we only realize her amazing capabilities in The Thief Knot, and so on.
Every new book you read makes the shared world and the characters that inhabit it feel more and more realistic until readers almost convince themselves it’s real. On several websites, readers have asked if Nagspeake is real, and where it is, and if it’s a good place to take a vacation to, and this striking realism that makes it seem convincing enough to be true stems from the way the shared world digs deeper into Nagspeake (and Arcane) with every book. There are maps of these places, and a tourism website, and countless other things that most people have almost never done with a fictional place. It really goes to show how much the shared world impacts the credibility of the novels, considering that these places are obviously fantasy. There are ghosts, there are magical entities, there are machines in places set hundreds of years in the past so advanced that we don’t have the technology to build them today- and yet people still believe in the possibility of these places being real. The shared world that all of Kate Milford’s books are set in makes the plots more compelling, the characters more relatable, the settings more lifelike, and the books more electrifying.