Sorry to the author and publishers for not getting out a release day review. Best laid plans and all that... I had a very exciting holiday season dealing with a credit card thief, but countered it with Christmas caroling and excellent friends at church.
The Outlaw and the Upstart King made me glad that I gave Duncan another shot. I was very vocal that The Queen of All Crows left me seriously underwhelmed with the "Gas-Lit Empire" series. I felt it was a poorly contrived attempt at New Age feminism that just did not fit well with the Elizabeth Barnabus built in the first trilogy.
Duncan refreshes the series with an entirely new character. Heck, we don't even see Elizabeth until Part Two. Once Elizabeth introduces herself to Elias, we finish the novel switching between perspectives.
The new leading gent Elias No-Thumbs has a name you just have to get the story behind. The small blurb showing him as a leading character on Netgalley is the sole reason I requested the ARC and headed back to the Gas-Lit Empire at all.
Elias is a man down on his luck and living off the scrapings of the rich and mighty he used to rub shoulders with. He sells his freedom for a ride on an unwelcome smugglers rig and gets enslaved in a glycer factory. He then sells his future for revenge. Little did he know what we would find on that return trip when he signed the oath with his blood.
This is not a happy novel. It is filled with disgust, shame, dirt and hardship. There is pain. There is angst. But I read every last sentence with rapt attention. I haven't read a book ensconced in the darker side of human emotions combined with the hopes of faith and love in ages. Too often you get the dark ennui with only the devil for company or you get a pink-spewed rainbow of endless joy. The lack of balance has sunk many a great story.
Congratulations, Duncan, on making a story that showed sides of the human experience I haven't read in a long while and bringing me back to why I loved the "Gas-Lit Empire."