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on 27 June 2013
First experience of Steampunk started by my having to find out what it was. Now I know and have dipped by toe in the genre I'm impressed. Turned out to be science-fiction, occultism and conspiracy theory set in late Victorian times. Mann cleverly combines these elements with convincing characters,good and bad. His mechanical life -support machines and Jurassic park creatures are believable and are a different twist on Victorian ingenuity.The plot has enough twists and turns to keep you thinking;and London is'nt given the standard Dickensian/Holmesian atmosphere which adds to the refreshing differnce this novel has.Well constructed and exciting- a welcome move away from the standard Victorian whodunnit. Bring on more Steampunk!
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on 27 June 2013
Following hot on the heels of the events in 'The Immorality Engine', George Mann brings us the fourth installment in his highly entertaining Newbury & Hobbes series of novels.
Thrusting us right back into a steampunk London of machines, monsters and madmen, we once again find ourselves in the company of Queen's Agents Sir Maurice Newbury, his assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes and Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, Sir Charles Bainbridge as they investigate a series of brutal murders. The victims savagely mutilated, their chests ripped open, and subsequently deprived of their still-beating hearts. The perpetrator, a fabled assassin known only as 'The Executioner', seemingly able to act with utter impunity as they leave a trail of blood-soaked crime scenes across the city.
Beneath these events is a backdrop of political intrigue, the potential interference of insidious foreign agents, a demonic cult, the founding of the Secret Service and the ever-present Queen Victoria as she clutches at the tenuous threads of power, and her own life. Other ideas, established in previous novels are also given attention, much to the joy of established fans. Though, to elaborate on such things would certainly deprive the reader of discovering such things for themselves.
Thankfully, Mann's easy, flowing style is once again in full force, but there are also some changes in store as well. Changes that seem to indicate an ever-increasing confidence as a writer. He now appears far more comfortable with the world he has created, letting the story summon the steampunk London to mind, no longer having to stress the numerous facets that make it such. Additionally, there has been a shift in the pacing that has typically been apparent in the series thus far. However, this is not a detrimental change. Mann has always shown a flair for energetic scenes of action, and they do still indeed make an appearance this time around. But, they are now more concentrated to the latter parts of the story. More space has been given over to the characters, and their furthering strengths, gifted the responsibility of holding the story. Which they do, admirably so. We are given the chance to see more of what drives them, what makes them who they are, building further on the progress made in the pages of 'The Immorality Engine'.
In another break with the established format, there are also chapters given over exclusively to the villain of the story, to their past, their actions and motivations. It's another welcome change, showing how Mann can comfortably present us with different viewpoints without changing the narrative in a jarring manner. Each chapter flows effortlessly into one another. You never find yourself becoming aware of the outside world, knocked out from the scene the story has created. It's an immersive experience that grabs you tightly and doesn't want to let go.
I adore every moment I spend with these characters and 'The Executioner's Heart' is no exception. They have become stronger, more intriguing, more real, and, as a result, the novel benefits massively from this. I simply couldn't put this book down. It's the best in the series so far. Mann should be commended once again for having the bravery to try new ideas whilst skilfully keeping important elements that we know and love.
In conclusion, I only have one real complaint: The book's ending. It knocked me so damn hard, I felt exhausted for a whole weekend. Whilst some threads are resolved, the events in the closing scenes raise new and exciting prospects, and will leave you utterly desperate for the next book. I once again find myself consumed with anticipation for more adventures with Newbury & Hobbes.
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on 16 September 2013
After what feels like a longer break than it probably was, perfectly mannered steampunk adventurers Sir Maurice Newbury and Veronica Hobbes romp back in a new full length adventure. It's a delight to see them again, and although the plot here is a little thin, there is a real sense of their Victorian world becoming murkier and more sinister than it ever has been before. Dark forces gather in the background, and it is they more than the Executioner of the title that apply pressures that make this a breathless and often claustrophobic turn.
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on 3 May 2016
This book immediately plunges us into a tension-filled scene where we witness a terrible event overtaking one of the main protagonists – and then the narrative timeline jumps backwards to the events leading up to it… We regularly see this device in the CSI franchise, but it occurs less often in books. It certainly works here. The character in questions happens to be my favourite, so I was gripped by the need to discover exactly what went on and ensure that this major character emerges from her terrible experience unscathed.

I also liked the fact that we were taken into the world of this shadowy assailant, learning of her tragic past and how she turned into this merciless, brutal killer. It is always a bonus when the main antagonist has a convincing backstory which gives us an insight as to how she becomes a heartless murderer.

Alongside this ongoing investigation, is the ongoing tension from the overarching narrative arc and the continuing shockwaves from the shocking denouement from the previous book, The Immorality Engine. All series deserve to be read in the correct order, and while you could crash into the middle of this one (for once, something I didn’t do…) because of the characters’ journey and development, it really pays to read these in sequence.

I enjoy this world – steampunk at its best can be great fun, and Mann has Queen Victoria hooked up to a steam-powered life support machine, growing ever more paranoid and lethal. As those tasked with keeping law and order in her capital city, Newbury and Hobbes are unavoidably caught up in her machinations. But the newly emerging Secret Service is also causing concern – are they a nest of traitors, colluding with the German agents plotting for the Kaiser to overthrow Victoria? She certainly thinks so.

This could all collapse into a real mess if not handled with skill. It doesn’t. The climax is every bit as shocking as the explosive finish to The Immorality Engine and leaves the book on something of a cliffhanger. I’m not going to say more, but I’m certainly looking forward to the next instalment The Revenant Express, due out next year.
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on 16 January 2015
For Newbury and Hobbes read Blackwood and Harrington ( by Alan K Baker). This is a steam punk yarn featuring an aristocratic detective and his attractive female assistant, who he obviously lusts after, but never touches - in the best Victorian manner. In this case they pursue a serial killer with a mechanical heart which has rendered her heartless (sic.) The plot is fairly predictable, but is none the less well written and makes for a relaxing read.
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on 12 November 2014
Within the small genre of Victorian/Edwardian steampunk detective fiction, this is an excellent book.
The plot, although outrageous, is coherent and well-structured, and the story never loses its momentum.
The characterisation is first-rate: Newbury - eccentric but resourceful and courageous; Miss Hobbes - a modern woman in an old-fashioned world, with spirit and determination aplenty; Bainbridge - commanding, loyal, duty-orientated but no jobsworth, and as competent as the other two. One of the tests of good character-delineation is whether the dialogue succeeds in individuating the characters, and this novel passes the test.
Some of the writing is superb, for instance the drawing of the character of the remarkable Aldous Renwick, and several of the action scenes featuring fights to the death which genuinely have you on the edge of your seat.
Once you develop an inkling of what steampunk is all about (if you're a novice like me), you can't help but enjoy this gripping tale.
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on 22 January 2014
Better than the privious one. Really liekd the character of the executioner and how Newbury is being developd and portrayed. Excellent descriptive parts as in the Crystal Palace exhibition which really give you the right feel of a Steampunk story. Looking forward to the fifth.
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on 19 June 2013
After pre-ordering this what seems like a lifetime ago it wasnt a disappointment. I loved the rest of the series with its suitably dark steam-punk stories, well written characters and creepy bad guys (and an even creepier queen-empress). This starts us off in the aftermath of the lasts book raid on the facility holding Veronica Hobbs sister with Newbury wallowing in opiates and doing his best to ignore her majesties summons, and then leads us through a rip-roaring investigation into a series of brutal (i was going to say heartless!) murders. George Manns really strong point is his baddies, this ones excellent with just enough menace- and yet a tragic backstory to make them a more rounded character.
Theres a hint of things to come at the end, I think the next book may be the best yet!
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on 12 April 2015
Another great Newbury and Hobbes story. Gripping, fast paced and exciting. Well written like all the other novels with a cliffhanger of an ending.
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on 2 November 2015
This is clever, with some unexpected turns leaving you on a bit of a cliff hanger as with all the others beautifully written
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