Rust in the Root (Hardcover)

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Rust in the Root By Justina Ireland Cover Image

Rust in the Root (Hardcover)


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Staff Reviews

Justina Ireland's latest fantastical story is is set in 1937 America that is reeling from the Great Rust, an event that decimated the magical system and countryside. A young mage may be the key to restoring the balance needed to rebuild the country, but her mission is plagued by issues from the start. Ireland explores race, power, and technology in this alternate history that reminded me why I love all of her work.

— Chelsea

The author of the visionary New York Times bestseller Dread Nation returns with another spellbinding historical fantasy set at the crossroads of race and power in America.

It is 1937, and Laura Ann Langston lives in an America divided—between those who work the mystical arts and those who do not. Ever since the Great Rust, a catastrophic event that blighted the arcane force called the Dynamism and threw America into disarray, the country has been rebuilding for a better future. And everyone knows the future is industry and technology—otherwise known as Mechomancy—not the traditional mystical arts.

Laura disagrees. A talented young queer mage from Pennsylvania, Laura hopped a portal to New York City on her seventeenth birthday with hopes of earning her mage’s license and becoming something more than a rootworker.

But four months later, she’s got little to show for it other than an empty pocket and broken dreams. With nowhere else to turn, Laura applies for a job with the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps, a branch of the US government dedicated to repairing the Dynamism so that Mechomancy can thrive. There she meets the Skylark, a powerful mage with a mysterious past, who reluctantly takes Laura on as an apprentice.

As they’re sent off on their first mission together into the heart of the country’s oldest and most mysterious Blight, they discover the work of mages not encountered since the darkest period in America’s past, when Black mages were killed for their power—work that could threaten Laura’s and the Skylark’s lives, and everything they’ve worked for.

Justina Ireland is the New York Times bestselling author of Dread Nation and its sequel, Deathless Divide, as well as Vengeance Bound and Promise of Shadows. She is also one of the creators of the Star Wars High Republic series and is the author of the Star Wars adventures A Test of Courage, Out of the Shadows, and Mission to Disaster. She lives with her family in Maryland, where she enjoys dark chocolate and dark humor and is not too proud to admit that she’s still afraid of the dark. You can visit her online at

Product Details ISBN: 9780063038226
ISBN-10: 0063038226
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: September 20th, 2022
Pages: 448
Language: English

"The bold narrative eerily echoes many of the issues that presently plague the country, describing the destructive nature of capitalism and the impact its oppression wreaks on a nation. Insightful, admirable, and well executed.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Delivers a knockout punch. Ireland mingles an in-depth understanding of human nature with a wildly ambitious reimagining of the Depression era, balancing matters of race, gender, and sexuality in this thoroughly unique perspective of historical magical fantasy.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Tackles important social issues while providing an ­exciting and fast-paced adventure that’s hard to put down.”  — School Library Journal (starred review)

"Complex world-building rooted in dark events of American history is leavened by humor and a pace that rarely lags. The sheer breadth of imagination on display is extraordinary." — Booklist (starred review)

“Ireland has confidently merged the historical and the mystical into a fast-paced, complex, and entertaining read.” — The Horn Book

"Justina Ireland sets her dazzling new novel, with its blistering critique of the nation's racist history, in 1936-37 during the "Great Rust"—a steampunk version of the Great Depression. Thrilling." — Buffalo News