Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Revisiting old friends

From my review of the Lady of Devices series, you may recall I am not a fan of alternate history. I enjoy historical fiction knowing that the researchers have taken great liberties with the information they have uncovered. Besides the standard dialogue, the authors have given personalities to historical figures based on the written word left behind of them. At the root however, the facts are historically accurate and taken from deliberate research. 

Alternate history on the other hand can be a dangerous balance. The steampunk genre seems to hang on its edge quite precariously. You can use the iconic figures of the past combined with the fun of the "what if" game, but I feel authors should have a certain responsibility to not pollute the education of the public. If you are going to write an alternate history, then please make sure it is obvious you have altered the timeline by adding dragons or magic, for instance.

A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway

I truly enjoy the works of the "gaslight" era writers of Doyle, Dickens, Austen, etc. These are the classics that every English major fawns over and writes 30 page theses dictating how the classics have molded our modern understanding. Of all the characters that have spanned the literature iconography, Ms Holloway has chosen to update one of the elite. Sherlock Holmes is such a monumental figure with such entrenched decorum I was surprised to see a modern author tackle the gentleman in a new series. The plot summary was very interesting and my curiosity was instantly alert (I just had to get a look inside this possibility). So I was greatly pleased when the publisher gave humble me a chance and I hope this review can give it justice. This story could either be a masterpiece of blending classical with modern or a complete travesty of fiction. (I mean, come on now, this is Sherlock Holmes here)

Call it a success! Ms Holloway does an excellent job of making a fantastic revisit to the past. The development of her clockwork hypotheses coupled with magic is refreshing. It revitalized my interest in the steampunk genre. Her leading lady is quite dynamic with an excellent dilemma of fitting in two worlds at once. (Who hasn't been in those shoes their whole life?) There is action, adventure, and love (without exceedingly long bouts of romance). Now my one complaint, sometimes Evelina makes it a little too obvious that she hasn't solved the mystery which spoils the intrigue a little. She clearly is not going to find the murdered in one chapter. I am not a fan of who-done-its, but this novel sucked me in because of the link to Sherlock Holmes (and I am very glad it did).

She stays far enough away to not challenge the brilliancy of Sherlock Holmes but interjects the tone of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle quite smashingly. I found myself highly intrigued by the mystery and entertained by the story, that I forgot I was supposed to be looking for clues and was overall surprised by the ending. It was quite a success for the first time author and she has written all three books at once, so now I am able to read the complete series with release dates one month following the next. I greatly look forward to picking up the next two novels.

Here is to only having to wait a month for the sequel!

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