Thursday, May 23, 2013


Pages: 294
Date: 23/05/2013
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 2 Bannon and Clare Case
            Received from Orbit
            Through Nudge

Archibald Clare is a Mentath, a genius detective with exceptional powers of observation and deduction. Emma Bannon is his opposite in every way. She is a Prime sorceress who has only gotten more powerful after the events in The Iron Wyrm Affair. According to established wisdom these two polar opposites shouldn’t be able to work together, after all magic and logic are opposing forces. In practice though Bannon and Clare form a talented and successful team when it comes to investigating crimes against the Empire.

When Queen Victrix instructs Emma to find and return a missing doctor in possession of a deadly new weapon, she turns to Clare for assistance. And it isn’t long before they discover that this new weapon is powerful enough to bring death and destruction not just to Londinium but to the whole world. And with no known cure, not even our heroes are immune to the poison that is about to be released. Because once the red plague has been unleashed upon the capital, nobody, regardless of their rank or position will be able to escape its deadly power.

And so we find ourselves back in what is the steampunk version of Victorian England. Imaginative and well developed this world is both very recognisable and completely alien. Lilith Saintcrow makes clever use of historical facts and figures, both fictional and real, although she changes them enough to ensure that the reader never forgets that they are inhabiting an alternate universe.

Archibald Clare is strongly based on Sherlock Holmes, something which is emphasized with sentences such as:

“It is elementary, sir.”

And when a character named Kim Finchwilliam Rudyard is introduced it shouldn’t surprise anyone when he states:

“The female of her species is deadly.”

In many ways the author has taken events and people to fantastical new heights. Archibald Clare is not just an exceptionally clever man he is a member of an exclusive and specially trained group of talented people, born with extreme mental powers. The Queen, Victrix, is the chosen vessel of Britannia, the ever continuing spirit ruling the Empire and as such two different creatures; one human and vulnerable the other ruthless and indestructible. And the same is true for the various districts of Londinium. With names close enough to those we are familiar with, they resemble their real world counterparts while at the same time being something more; darker, more sinister or brighter. In fact, the author has given the reader the opportunity to engage in two mysteries. There is the disaster our two heroes have to try to divert and then there is the quest to trace characters and places back to their Victorian original.

Bannon and Clare are fully-fleshed and fascinating characters to read about. Observing how they work together, despite their differences, watching them develop ever increasing respect for the others’ exceptional powers and witnessing them dealing with the feelings they may or may not have about each other is a pure delight.

While it isn’t absolutely necessary to read “The Iron Wyrm Affair” before starting this book I would advice readers to do so. This alternate Victorian world is well established and explained in the first book and some events from the first story are referred to in a manner that relies on the reader being aware of what happened in the first book.

This is not a light or a fast read. Fascinating and thrilling as it is, it pays to take your time while reading this book. The characters, the world they move in and the mysteries they’re up against all are multi-facetted. It is easy to miss hints and clues if you allow yourself to get caught up in the heat of the chase and start turning the pages too fast. This is a good thing though since it gives the book an added depth. The language used in this book is also slightly different from what we are used to. While this certainly helps to keep the reader rooted in the alternate world, it also means that real attention needs to be paid to what is actually being said.

This is more than just another intriguing mystery set in an alternate Victorian England; this is a well thought out tale in a fully realised world with characters that are as intriguing as they are relatable. In short, this is a fascinating story and imaginative book.

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