on 22 July 2015
Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London. Airships soar in the skies, whilst ground trains rumble through the streets. But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side. Queen Victoria is kept alive by a primitive life-support system while her agents Sir Maurice Newbury and his assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, do battle with enemies of the crown, both physical and supernatural...
Newbury is currently investigating a series of murders, strangulations of the poor, in Whitechapel, assisting his old friend Charles Bainbridge. But it's not long before he's called away by the Queen herself, an airship has crashed in Finsbury Park in suspicious circumstances and the pilot is missing. A pilot that isn't exactly what it appears to be.
On top of all that another helper of Newbury's, Miss Coulthard, has a missing brother, and there's revenants roaming in the fog, eager to pass on the zombie like plague to others. Not to mention the malfunctioning automatons, and automaton assassins in general. The question is, could any of these cases be intertwined?
Halloo new favourite series. Seriously. I can't wait for the next book, and this book is seriously awesome, like read for hours and forget what the time is and forget that food is a thing you need, kind of awesome. I devoured this in a couple of sittings and I would have finished it a lot faster if I hadn't had other work to do! It's definitely a series I'll be re-reading, because it's so much more than the mystery, the writing is fantastic, the characters come alive and I enjoy the relationships between all of the characters and the world itself.
The books begin in a suitably creepy yet intriguing setting, letting you know straight away that this book is original and has quirks to make it stand out from the crowd. It draws you in and sets up one plot thread straight away, as well as immediately starting up an intrigue. That's seriously just the prologue. The actual first chapter is even better, and gives you a feel for Newbury straight away, entertaining and amusing you before the real action kicks off.
What I found really interesting, is that as we start the book Newbury and Hobbes have already met and been working together for some weeks. But you don't feel as if you've missed out, you can immediately see their connection and get a feel for their partnership, as well as a feel for them individually. You miss the awkward jut met stage and of straight to the "I kind of know you but I've still got a way to go" stage which is always interesting and over the course of the book they get to know each other better.
Likewise we join the book as Newbury is helping helping his friend, Chief Inspector Bainbridge, investigate a series of murders and we're up to body number seven as we join. Again, you don't feel like you're missing something as some genius dialogue fills you in on what's going on, and it's not the only instance. You get a concise overview of what's been going on.
While there's the whole strangling case going on, another one comes to light almost immediately and is of an entirely different nature. So one investigation ends up taking a backseat to the other as well as a third mystery of an associates missing brother. While one or other may take a backseat, it's not for long, and it's not a plot point that's forgotten about until later. It's still mentioned in dialogue of passing characters, and you're still kept up to date, so the intrigue is kept alive.
There's a lot going on in the book plot wise and action wise, but each plot thread is woven together and there's no confusion. They are threaded together that seamlessly, and with the fast pace, that's literally the perfect kind of fast pace, the plotting and the story are just fantastically on point.
Veronica is an interesting character, and one of my favourites! I feel she's quite forward thinking for a woman of her time, she's running about trying to help chase down criminals and not overly concerned with what's proper for a woman. She's not insipid, she's a bit of a fighter. There's also plenty more to her but....spoiler alert.
Newbury is also an interesting character, I actually really liked both of our main characters because they where so well written and had so much depth to them and there's still so much to learn about them. I'm so intrigued by Newbury and his backstory, he dabbles in the occult and is an agent for the Queen, how could I not be?! I loved the fact that while Newbury was a hero/did heroic things, he was not your average type of hero. He's kind of the geeky type being an anthropologist who practically lives at the museum. He's also delightfully flawed, which frankly, made him all the more realistic and believable, especially as his flaw was a very appropriate one of the time. His laudanum addiction is a very well written element to the book, and it's a very interesting struggle to watch and I have a feeling it's going to develop more and be more of a problem in the future. Newbury is such a likeable character that you don't end up disliking him or being pitying of him or anything.
It's not just the main characters that are well written, there's an entire cast of colourful and lively characters to enjoy. Bainbridge is also incredibly well written, and I'm so intrigued by him and his past, I also really want his lightening cane. Not to mention the Fixer, Miss Coulthard, the Queen herself, Amelia and various other characters that are well written, but you don't see that much of, but you know there's depth to them that you're just waiting to find out about. Amelia is a particular character that I'm desperate to see more of and find out more about, she has visions and due to that and the nature of her visions she's locked up in an asylum, which also offers an interesting insight in to the time, now that you mention it!
Like I said the book is full of action and there's so many original little quirks. There's zombie like creatures shuffling about in the fog, spreading a plague about. Automatons and airships and steam carriages and ground trains and I could go on and on. I loved the steampunk elements it was very well done. I've just given you an example of a few things, but there where other things as well and it made the book so magical to read. I looked forward to seeing what other things there where in it. The thing I loved most about the steampunk elements was how it wasn't overdone.
Each steampunk device/invention and so on, was explained in enough detail that you can imagine it and understand how it works but without long, over complicated and stuffy explanations that leave you confused, which I've experienced in a few other books. Seriously fantastically done keeping up the pace of the book and the enjoyment.
You really get an authentic feel for the time despite the fact that it's an alternate London. The way of thinking and so on was so realistic and authentic that it really helped to suck you in to the world of the book so you completely lose track of reality. I also liked Veronica's stance on progress, she doesn't seem to like it much. She dislikes the steam carriages, and with the automatons I found her thoughts so fascinating. She was worried about people's jobs being taken over by the automatons and I found it a concern that echos in the modern day with all this AI stuff that people are getting involved in, despite every bad thing that has ever happened because of AI in films, but there you go. Anyway, she considers the consequences of progress, whereas Newbury is all for it and it was an interesting difference between the two.
Like I said, it's a very immersive world with incredibly vivid and engaging settings, each different to the last, and each will stick in your mind. Each setting was also incredibly atmospheric, particularly the creepy scene in the fog. The atmosphere in that particular chapter could be cut with a knife the way it was coming off the page and enveloping you. You felt like you where in the fog with them. Likewise the suspense was another palpable atmosphere/element whenever it made itself known. Towards the end, you could feel the urgency as the pace pounded towards the end of the book. (That was a rubbish sentence but I couldn't think of the word I was looking for!)
I enjoyed the writing a lot, it's slick to go with the fast pace, and each chapter leaves you wanting more. The author has an interesting way of keeping the book streamlined and keeping it pacey and on track. Like I said earlier about the opening, where you're caught up to what's been going by the dialogue. There'a a few other instances of this, like for example, one chapter ends with them discussing finding a person at a party. Then in the next chapter it's an entirely different setting, but a conversation with another character yielded results and answers. I loved whenever the book did this as it kept things fresh and interesting as well.
The Affinity Bridge is a delightful and enchanting read. The plotting is fantastically done, there's lots of threads that twine together and flow towards a satisfying conclusion, while keeping you intrigued and the book has many unpredictable twists and turns. You end up frantically reading to see what happens next and struggling for a place to put it down. It's fast paced, action packed, and there's lots going on to keep you hooked. There's a nice little twist at the end that made me smile, everything was wrapped up nicely and then right there at the end....another little intrigue. I'm incredibly intrigued for the next book and what adventure our characters will be going on next.
The Affinity Bridge is entertaining, dramatic, richly created with a fantastic plot and pace. There's never a dull moment and you'll find yourself desperately wishing to go back to the world of the book and the characters. This is a must read book to be honest, and like I said, I'm desperate to get my hands on the next one!
This first entry in a steampunk mystery series introduces the dynamic (and sure to become romantic) duo of Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes. The former is a well-traveled special agent of Queen Victoria (who is being kept alive by a sinister steampunky medical contraption) with a specialization in the occult, and a cover career as anthropologist at the British Museum. The latter is his fetching new assistant, who has very modern sensibilities about the capabilities of her gender, and the plunk and panache typical of such "modern" female characters in period books. The pairing reminded me a fair amount of Laurie King's popular mystery series that gives Sherlock Holmes a fetching female assistant (see The Beekeeper's Apprentice, et al).
Newbury and Hobbes are almost immediately thrown into the investigation of the suspicious crash and explosion of a zeppelin in the middle of Hyde Park. This leads them to a factory that is cranking out not only plenty of airships, but clockwork automatons who may be programmed to perform almost any task. Meanwhile, a zombie-like plague is infesting the East End, and the grisly corpses are starting to mount. Although the story is set in 1901, it has more of a mock-Victorian feel to it in terms of language and manners, and I suppose one's enjoyment will largely depend on just how seriously you take all that. For example, if the characters stopping to take a pot of Earl Grey tea every few pages is going to annoy you, then I suggest you skip this series. The element I found the most annoying is the sheer amount of physical abuse Newbury is able to absorb as he battles with "revenants," street toughs, and automatons -- way too action-heroish for my taste. As I'm not familiar with steampunk as a genre, I'm not sure how well it hews to those conventions, but I did enjoy it as a kind minor mystery with some fun elements. I'll probably pick up the next in the series (The Osiris Ritual) to see if it gets better.
on 9 August 2010
Set in an alternative Victorian London populated with mysterious scientists, brass automatons, airships and zombies, this book was very silly but also very entertaining.
At times it seems as though Mann has a few too many subplots on the go at once and that certain aspects are being ignored for too long. However, he handles them all skilfully and eventually they become so impressively interwoven and dependent upon one another that I was willing to forgive their seemingly disparate nature because of the way they come together so spectacularly in the end.
The rapid pace of the plot admittedly didn't allow for much character development, but in my opinion many mystery stories of this sort employ stock characters (the Butler, the Village Gossip, the Policeman with a Secret etc.) so this wasn't particularly surprising for the peripheral characters. I have every faith that Newbury and Hobbes themselves, already made interesting through several tantalising hints, will be more fully fleshed out with each further encounter with the pair. There are a lot of Victorian English stereotypes to be found, but some were played with beautifully (I particularly enjoyed Queen Victoria herself). Besides, what situation can't be made better by a pot of Earl Grey?
So yes, the book does suffer from some inconsistencies, the storyline is utterly improbable and the characters are a little one dimensional, but this book is still a lot of fun to read.