Steampunk Historical Paranormal
320 pages, paperback
Available August 7, 2012
Review copy provided by publisher via BEA
Emma Bannon, Prime sorceress in the service of the Empire, has a mission: to protect Archibald Clare, a failed, unregistered mentath. His skills of deduction are legendary, and her own sorcery is not inconsiderable. It doesn’t much help that they dislike each other, or that Bannon’s Shield, Mikal, might just be a traitor himself. Or that the conspiracy killing registered mentaths and sorcerers alike will just as likely kill them as seduce them into treachery toward their Queen. In an alternate London where illogical magic has turned the Industrial Revolution on its head, Bannon and Clare now face hostility, treason, cannon fire, black sorcery, and the problem of reliably finding hansom cabs.
The game is afoot…
I’ll say it: I’m a Lilith Saintcrow fangirl. I know, I know. She’s not for everyone. Her writing can be seriously dark at times, her characters go through hell and sometimes struggle to make it even halfway back, and her action scenes are dizzyingly fast and brutal. But for me? Love. And I love the fabulous Orbit people for finally caving to my groveling…*hugs (but not in a creepy way)*
That being said, THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR is a departure for Ms. Saintcrow, leaving behind the grittiness of her modern urban settings for the somewhat more urbane gas-lit streets of an alternate Victorian England, Steampunk style. This story is told through the points of view of Emma Bannon and Archibald Claire, two very different characters. Both brilliant and outcast in their own ways, Emma and Archibald must work together to solve the puzzle of who is killing the mentaths and why–before Archibald becomes one of the victims.
Both Emma and Archibald are such intriguing characters. Emma may present herself as a decorous gentlewoman on the surface, she is more than capable of holding her own and taking down her opponents with a carefully slung spell or venomous come-back. As a Prime Sorceress, she also has Mikal, her Shield–a protector who would lay down his life for her. Mikal and Emma have a convoluted relationship with distrust warring with love/lust. As a mentath, Archibald is brilliant, ruled by numbers and logic, but close to insanity due to boredom. Shades of the intrepid Sherlock Holmes? Most definitely. And most fabulous.
One thing Ms. Saintcrow is adept at is building a detailed, realistic world and the world in this story is no exception. There is very little in the way of backstory or info-dumps–a good thing, though it does leave the reader with the challenge of puzzling out the meaning of words or how things came to be (use your context clues, children!). The mash-up of genres–steampunk, paranormal, fantasy, historical–leads to a very unusual story, a world that I’m dying to delve back into, and characters I can’t wait to visit again. Long live the splendiferous detective duo of Bannon and Clare!
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