Publisher: Angry Robot
Publishing Date: August 2014
Publisher Description: Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life – as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus. But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…
Review: Cover art is pretty inventive.
This novel kind of crept up on me…in a good way. Elizabeth’s past is inter-woven into the story line and this picture emerges of a traveling family whose lives were ruined because of the Duke of Northampton’s desire for young Eliza. She flees to the Republic to escape the Duke and subsequently becomes an investigator in the guise of her non-existent brother. She takes a commission from Lady Bletchley to find her lost brother, whom does not wish to be found, especially by his sister.
The characters were well built and the story-line really was the entirety of the novel. As Eliza moves through her life in the constrained Republic, the nuances of that life and her inner dialogue draw you into the tapestry of her world. While inner dialogue usually decries a failed attempt at world building, the author makes good use of this time to center Eliza’s thought processes on evading bad people, staying under cover, planning for contingencies and using her wiles to escape the Dukes and Mr. Timpson’s minions. She has sudden allies in the form of street people, orphans and her neighbors whom rent the boat slip to her.
Really, a fine and well crafted novel. Those of us who imagine novels in pictures will enjoy this work for the subtle descriptors that build an alternate world reality. The author plans a few of the “Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire” novels. As per the glossary, Elizabeth plays a key role in the fall of the Gas-lit empire. Cheers to that as she is a captivating character. Angry Robot has picked a winner.