This book serves as the culmination of the main arc in the Night Flyer Trilogy. It brings various story lines together from as far back as the first book, Merchants of Milan. Still, the catchup is smoothly inserted into the action, making it possible for the new (or forgetful) reader to understand what’s going on without reading the previous two books first.
As usual, the characters were my favorite part. Madelena (Maddie) refused to be pushed to the side for her safety. Alessandro is open to changing his position based on new knowledge. Florentina (Fiore) is both restricted as a female and employee, and unrestricted thanks to her upbringing. Her choice to continue the Night Flyer’s protection of her city after fulfilling the revenge that set her on this path gives her an outlet as well. Fiore is my favorite of them, unsurprising when I consider her thirst for knowledge, penchant for puzzles, and her clever inventions. I enjoyed most of the characters, with the grand exception being the master villain, though not because he is any less well drawn. Even the assassins offered a bit of amusement at times.
Fiore’s inventor side seems in greater play with this book than the others. It might be a failing of my memory, but I loved seeing her come up with, work out, and then use different inventions in Chaos in Milan. I only remember the last step from the previous books for most cases.
I appreciated Maddie’s development in running the charity house. It isn’t all easy, but she’s making a difference while learning how slow change can be. We see more sides to her through this. Her work in the textiles house, though enough to earn her a full partnership, is more told than shown.
I have been afraid for Antonio, Alessandro’s oldest, since he left to join the French army. His development, and the portrayal of war and its effects, is powerful. He is also one catalyst for Alessandro’s growth.
Antonio and Benetto, the villain of the first book, have excellent character arcs. One finds maturity in the horrors of war and the other reclaims his humanity through humiliation.
The cast is quite large, though we already know most of the characters, but each offers something to enhance the explored themes, whether philosophy, love, or change. It’s odd in some ways how change of character is such a dominant theme in the series when change itself is a key component of the chaos philosophy they are trying to squash. Again, it offers a bigger perspective than even the characters see.
The romantic developments are also more in the forefront for this novel. Doubt no longer holds Maddie and Fiore apart, and the strength love and passion bring all the characters is shown on the page. The passion is closed door without detail, however, regardless of the couple involved. Alessandro’s love for his wife and Antonio’s determination to get home to Agnese add to the main love story. Even Benetto’s change of heart, seen in the previous book, grows as he remembers to value his loved ones over power.
Thanks to the manifesto recovered in the previous book, Chaos in Milan has more of the rival philosophies in play between those seeking order and those who want chaos to reign. I enjoyed seeing the different philosophies and how they governed these secret organizations. There’s something to be said for each position, if not for how the Shadow Guild went about it.
The main characters are not so willing to see all sides, nor can I blame them. Fiore, as the Night Flyer, has been facing direct attacks on the woman she loves after all. Still, I enjoyed the analysis of the Shadow Guild’s philosophy and how the main characters saw its flaws and contradictions.
I learned a lot of where Fiore, Maddie, and Alessandro stood from watching them puzzle out the manifesto and compare it to the Shadow Guild’s actions. Nor were the philosophies limited to the secret organizations as the characters were quick to share their opinions and reactions to the events.
Their progress through the manuscript seems a little slow, but then they haven’t been taught crypto puzzles by their older sister. I like how the steps they take, and the work to get there, appear on the page rather than behind the scenes. The seeds to support the narrative and what the main characters learn are present, allowing the reader to work the puzzles too, something I enjoy.
Gender politics are another point of fascination, showing how women of the early 1500s Italian states were active in more than just the home front and charities. The costs of beauty standards, and the belief in traditional marriage as safety and security come up in context of what women were actually doing versus expected to do. This offers a well-rounded sense of the period I appreciated.
The description is heavy for me in places, possibly even more than in the earlier books. At the same time, I already trust the author to give a good story. Also, the description became a fascinating guided art-and-style tour of the period at points. I never thought I’d consider this element part of my enjoyment, but there you have it.
Secrets have played a big part in the series, and this book is no different. Between attempting to discover the meeting place of the Shadow Guild and keeping Alessandro’s connections from Maddie, the theme behind controlling information, especially to protect loved ones, is still being explored. Some choices I appreciate, but others I understand and still think are the wrong ones. A nice way to explore a difficult concept in all its various twists.
Chaos in Milan offers a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, though with the possibility of additional books in the series. The various relationships have deepened, some characters mature while other change, and the description offers a tour of the period. Antonio brings the consequences of war to life even as the chaos manifesto praises conflict. All this without considering how they must track down the Shadow Guild to end the attempts on Maddie’s life. There is a lot of meat in this novel on many fronts whether you prefer plot, character, or philosophy. How these elements blend and support each other is well done. I have enjoyed the trilogy from start to finish.
P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.