This blend of steampunk, mystery and historical romance is an intricately woven story that introduces a series that provides a remarkable glimpse of Victorian London as seen through the eyes of a young female. The impressive depth of detail that blends magic and science while incorporating elements of the considerable body of work that surrounds Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart companion Dr. Watson immerses the reader in an alternate society that is both frightening and fascinating. There are many mysteries presented beyond the obvious murder that propels Evalina to action and for every clue that is resolved, there are twice as many puzzles presented for the reader’s delectation.
The combination of magic and technology provide a delicious facet to this enthralling tale, and it was quite entertaining to be introduced to characters such as Mouse and Bird who have their own significant roles to play even as one shivers at the various villains who prowl through the story. The most impressive aspect of this admittedly very weighty tome is the richness of development of many of the secondary characters who all have their role to play, if not necessarily significant in this volume, undoubtedly they will be pivotal in subsequent ones. Every character seems to have unexpected depths that send the story in a slightly different direction as it unfolds and the reader finds it difficult to know whether to be hopeful for that person’s success or failure. I confess to being disappointed at the developments surrounding one particular character and hope that there is ultimately some form of redemption but naturally, I am an optimist.
This is a beautifully crafted and imaginative tale that will undoubtedly provide hours of entertainment with the end result that one is temporarily satiated yet hungering for the next exciting episode in these characters’ lives. As Evalina tells one of the other characters, “If you really want to go, I won’t make you stay, but then you won’t get to find out how the case ends.” I can’t help but be curious how the overall case ends even as I admire how this particular episode was temporarily resolved.
“A Study in Silks” by Emma Jane Holloway is the first volume in ‘The Baskerville Affair’ series and is the wonderfully complex tale of Evalina Cooper, a young girl living in a Victorian England that is held hostage to the machinations of a group of individuals known as the steam barons. The country is at the mercy of these manipulative people who possess the power to ‘Disconnect’ from sources of energy any who oppose them and there are serious repercussions for attempting to develop alternate sources.
Evalina has many remarkable resources at her command, despite being an orphan who has been torn between longing for the rigorous life in a circus where the spark of magic within her has been nurtured and the greatly desired life as a debutante participating in the social whirl of the Season. A shocking murder in the household that she is staying with propels Evalina into the world occupied by her famous uncle, the renowned Sherlock Holmes, and forces her to re-evaluate what she wants to do with her life. She must decide whether the magic within her is worth risking her life to nurture and who she wants to pursue her life with, her childhood companion who shares a mysterious heritage or the alluring and creative heir to the household that she is trying so hard to conform to. The decision may be taken out of her hands as other forces are brought to bear on her until her very existence may be threatened.
Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London Society. But there’s a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse.
In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch and sorcery the demon enemy of the Empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?
But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock Holmes’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.