Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
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…. (Amazon)
In this alternate history, the United Kingdom has experienced civil war and is thus divided into the Kingdom of England and Southern Wales and the Anglo-Scottish Republic. The regions are essentially the opposite of each other; one is all about bright colors, show, and selfish intentions, while the other is sedate, drab, and about the greater collective. While living in the Kingdom, Elizabeth’s father’s debts are called in by the Duke of Northampton because the duke desired Elizabeth. With the loss of her family’s circus and possessions and her father, Elizabeth flees to the Republic disguised as her “brother” to escape indentured servitude. She cannot openly live alone as a single woman and make a living so she continues the ruse of having a twin brother to survive, and she finds she is a decent investigator.
Elizabeth is hired by the Duchess of Bletchley to find the duchess’s missing brother who is believed to be with Harry Timpson’s traveling show. The story follows Elizabeth’s efforts to find him and discover what everyone seems to be looking for (a box believed to have the ability to turn lead into gold) while eluding The Patent Office’s, the first institution of the Gas-lit Empire that is charges with “expunging unseemly” science from the world, agent, John.
What is real and what is an illusion is the central theme of this Steampunk adventure. I had a hard time getting into this alternate universe. I never felt a real sense of place, and the descriptions did not seem complete. There is a glossary at the back of the book (that I should have perused first) that might have helped with these feeling of inadequateness. Throughout the adventure, I felt no sense of urgency, even when Elizabeth was threatened or on the run. It just did not feel like she was really in any danger. Elizabeth, as a character, is interesting, and I think she will be further developed in future writings. I wish John’s character had been more developed. The surprise resolution (I won’t spoil it here) saved this book for me and made it ultimately a satisfying read.
I would recommend this to fans of Steampunk and those who enjoy the characters of a traveling show.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*