This intricately woven tale continues to enthrall with its depiction of a remarkable society where progress in mechanical and chemical sciences intersect with manipulations using magic and arcane elements. The delightful utilization of key elements from the Sherlock Holmes tales are very entertaining as the unique twists only possible in this particular version of the universe are applied, including the appearances of the inimical Moriarty and the infamous Hound of the Baskervilles. The various threads that have been dangled, including the struggle for possession of Imogen’s body, the fate of the charismatic Captain Niccolo and his beloved deva Athena, the machinations of Lord Bancroft, Tobias’ ethical and personal challenges, Evelina’s thirst for knowledge and fear of her powers and the overall fight for control of England itself are all (relatively) neatly tied off with quite a few unexpected developments.
I think that I particularly enjoyed the glimpses of the Holmes brothers as Sherlock revels in irritating his brother Mycroft, sets out to teach and confound the faithful Watson, and reluctantly faces his attachment to his talented niece. The various romantic relationships present throughout the series have all definitely had their rough phases and I am reminded that this is not a romance with a guaranteed happily ever after ending. The fantastical inventions are memorable (although a few are a bit stomach-churning) and do a wonderful job of bringing the story full circle as the inventive mind that helped create the infamous mechanical squid brings yet another creature to life.
This story is a delicious masterpiece of vivid imagery and breathtaking adventure, reminiscent of the old matinee adventures, and a highly entertaining and thought-provoking tale. The various players have to make very difficult choices and face harsh introspection as a result of those choices, with sometimes very unpalatable results, just like real life. It is very strongly advised that one start with the first book in the series to best savor this story but be forewarned that all are weighty tomes (but well worth reading). An excellent tale from an author with a wondrously fertile imagination, I can’t wait to find out what else has been percolating in her mind!
“A Study in Ashes” by Emma Jane Holloway is the exciting conclusion to ‘The Baskerville Affair’ trilogy which is a wonderfully textured and multi-layered steampunk series. The remarkable Evelina Cooper lives up to the reputation of her famous uncles, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes as she applies the deductive techniques and adaptability that they have bequeathed to her even as she struggles to harness the arcane and ofttimes dark aspects of her power. The puppet-masters, including the manipulative Gold King who has entrapped not only Evelina but her former love, Tobias Roth, brother of her best friend, Imogen, continue to pull strings but those are becoming frighteningly tangled. The events that are depicted in the second book of this series, “A Study in Darkness” have provided Evelina with the opportunity to attend college but the cost has been much too high and the world around her is in major upheaval, forcing her to decide what she truly values in life. The rebellion continues to gain momentum but it is possible that there will be no kingdom to rule once all of the factions come into play.
As part of her devil’s bargain with the industrial steam barons, Evelina Cooper is finally enrolled in the Ladies’ College of London. However, she’s attending as the Gold King’s pet magician, handcuffed and forbidden contact with even her closest relation, the detective Sherlock Holmes.
But Evelina’s problems are only part of a larger war. The Baskerville affair is finally coming to light, and the rebels are making their move to wrest power from the barons and restore it to Queen Victoria. Missing heirs and nightmare hounds are the order of the day—or at least that’s what Dr. Watson is telling the press.
But their plans are doomed unless Evelina escapes to unite her magic with the rebels’ machines—and even then her powers aren’t what they used to be. A sorcerer has awakened a dark hunger in Evelina’s soul, and only he can keep her from endangering them all. The only problem is . . . he’s dead.