Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
32
3.9 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 19 October 2016
Good fun, good characters - Clare is basically Sherlock Holmes but none the worse for that. Great villains. A well-realised alternative steampunk London with some original touches. Beautifully written though a tendency to over-write in places. Made me want to read the next in the series.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 September 2012
I haven't really read any steampunk prior to this (save for some steampunk touches in Toby Frost's Chronicles of Isambard Smith - and prety much every literary genre ever written can be found in there, including some not yet invented) and, according to the Author Notes at the back of the book, I still haven't: she does not see the story as steampunk, but rather a combination of alt-history and urban fantasy. Well then, I thought, I guess I would call it a fantasy adventure-mystery in a steampunk setting. But that does seem an awful mouthful.

Anyway, this is the first volume of "Bannon & Clare", a crime-fighting duo of illogical magic and unmagical logic. Emma Bannon is a sorceress, and Archibald Clare a "mentath" (or "mentale" as the Italians say). A mentath is a sort of savant in matters logical, or requiring logical deduction, and ... well... kind of an idiot in some other ways (like interpersonal relationships). The book is told in alternating point of view chapters, from Bannon to Clare and back again. For all both characters get equal billing, Emma Bannon is clearly the favourite. Its interesting though to see how she thinks of herself as "Emma" while Archibald Clare thinks of himself as "Clare" (and you chuckle at the deliberate authorial choice of giving him a girl's name).

We get thrown in the deep end here, relying on our real world knowledge of Victorian London, which is then revealed step by step to be wrong. At first it seems all so very-Sherlock Holmes, for all that Clare is an "unregistered" mentath and that Emma Bannon is a Prime Sorceress, but with each succeding chapter we get more and more fantasy/steampunk/sci-fi elements introduced, so that by the end of the story we are definitely not in Kansas anymore. Throw in some amusing interplay between the characters - as well as Emma and Clare, we get a sausage-loving Prussian genius, a poxy Italian Prince turned assassin, a bodyguard to Emma who is definitely more than he seems (and is left somewhat mysterious) and a whole lot else.

I've said very little to nothing about the plot, so as not to give it away. Much of the joy of this book is just enjoying the high-speed rollercoaster ride. At the end of the book, with about ten chapters in a row all ending in cliffhangers, you just shake your head in admiration at the author's sheer gall: but she pulls it off really well.

If you like fantasy adventure-mystery in a steampunk setting, or think you might, then this is the book for you. For myself, I am looking forward to volume 2, The Red Plague Affair, in 2013.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 November 2012
New stempunkish/alt history novel. The setting is intriguing. Good quick descriptions that penned more in depth could really make you 'feel' the environment surrounding the two sleuths.Unfortunately said environment is just lightly sketched. The prose is ok; maybe a few more commas here and there to give the reading a better pace. The chapters are way too short. Very annoying. When you finally start to get into the flow of the action this suddenly changes abruptly to another scene. I found I was zapping through the book more that savouring it. Ok, I know. This is just a YA novel, so I shouldn't expect more than a relaxing read. Nevertheless,I wished the author had put in a bit more effort. Maybe my lack of enthusiasm derives from the fact that I tend to compare steampunkish books to Gail Carriger? Probably. In this genre she should be taken as an example. Stay away from it if you are expecting a bagful of nice characters/plot/imagination. They're not here. Rather bland.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 6 March 2014
I came to this book with high hopes...then I didn't like it! How many times can I read satorial choices and their implications upon the plot?

I take it all back, Steampunk requires Victoriana, including the ridiculous female fashions of the time.

The author claims there could never have been a relationship between Bannon and Clare and the lack of a fifth star relects the fact that she could have made her female lead stronger. There are spoilers as to why I feel she didn't do Bannon justice. That said, poor Clare could have done better as well, and I'm not talking in an interpersonal way either! He seems both bothered by his sexuality and unable to act on it at the same time.

Dear author, make your mind up...Let Bannon be herself or not and let Clare not be...it will make a more beautiful relationship.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 November 2012
Emma Bannon is a powerful sorceress, in fact she is a Prime; magic doesn't come more powerful than hers. Archibald Clare is a Mentath, someone with incredible observational and deductive powers. Emma is in the service of Victrix, the young queen of England and vessel of the god-spirit Britannia. When Mentaths all over Londinium are being killed, Emma is send to Clare in order to keep him safe and recruit him to her quest to find out exactly what is going on. Combining their powers of deduction and sorcery soon brings them to the conclusion that it is the queen herself as well as her whole empire that are under threat. The ensuing battle will take everything Bannon and Clare have and take them beyond what they thought possible. They and their allies are few against many and powerful enemies. And failure is not an option.

Set in an alternate London where illogical magic has changed the course of the industrial revolution, this is a world filled with mechanical marvels and mysterious forces. Magic, in this world, is quite common and widely used, which is a bit of a problem for our hero Mentath who finds his logical mind can't cope with the illogical craft and its consequences. This is a London with clock-work horses, altered humans, dragon spirits and areas where the "normal" rules of nature don't apply.

Apart from Bannon and Clare there are a few other and very interesting characters. Mikal is a Shield, one whose sole purpose is to protect their Prime. And while Bannon is close to her solitary shield, she is not quite sure she can trust him. There is also an Italian mercenary, hired to protect Clare and a German inventor who seems to get really angry only when he's forced to miss his breakfast.
In fact there is an awful lot going on in this book. The reader is introduced to new characters operating in a freshly created and fantastical setting, surrounded by powers (both magical and logistical) that don't exist in our everyday world either. And all these novelties form the centre of a mystery and adventure that takes off on the very first page and rarely stops to catch a breath. The reader constantly finds themselves caught between the urge to speed along in order to find out what happens next and the need to go slowly so that they can take in all the details and form a good picture of the fictional world in all its fantastical detail. And this is a balance that the author almost finds in this book. I did find myself a bit overwhelmed by the amount of new information I had to absorb occasionally. There were times when my need to understand the setting took me right out of the story. Having said that, as the story continued and the world became better established it became ever easier to stay caught up in the adventure and stay there.

This story is told from both Bannon and Clare's perspective in alternating chapters and this means that more often than not the reader finds themselves leaving one character at a cliff-hanger moment only to follow the other until they reach their own. I don't always enjoy this way of telling a story but I found it worked quite well in this book, especially since the author never pictures the same scene twice but from different perspectives.

Both Bannon and Clare are fascinating main characters. Clare is obviously strongly based on Sherlock Holmes (up to and including his steepled hands resting against his chin when he is thinking and his use of certain stimulants), although you won't find Dr. Watson's twin on these pages. Emma Bannon is, as far as I know, an original creation by this author. And as such she is a triumph; very strong and independent she is also insecure when it comes to certain matters. Operating in a field that forces her to face evil, violence and destruction she still manages to come across as a true woman. It is going to be interesting to see how these characters, and their side-kicks, develop in future books.

Although the first part of this book did feel a bit like hard work at times I really enjoyed my introduction to this magical world and Bannon and Clare. And I can't help feeling that I would probably enjoy any sequel to this book even more. Without having to introduce the reader to a whole new world, the author will be able to concentrate more on the adventure and characters in any subsequent books, and that should turn them into true page-turners.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 8 November 2012
I liked this book very much, because it is a cross of my two favorite genres, fantasy and mystery. It is set in an alternate victorian-era London and is best described as steampunk meets Sherlock Holmes. It is well written, the world-building is superb and the plot enthralling. It is the first of a series,so we are not told all the answers to the puzzle or all the characters' secrets, but it stands very well alone.

The balance between sorcery and deduction is not as perfect as the summary would make one think; magic does tend to overrun this world, being so much more impressive and powerfull than logic, and Bannon, the sorceress, is very much in the forefront. She is more fleshed out, has more power, authority and knowledge and generally dominates the story in comparison to her supposed partner, Clare. He is less engaging and interesting and appeares to be in many ways her tool; not quite a sidecick, but very much a junior partner. I wouldn't call this a defect of the book exactly, but, since I was eagerly anticipating the "detective" part of the story, I was a bit disappointed. Also, I would have to agree with a previous reviewer: the changes in names were completely unnecessary and got mildly annoying. The only serious problem I had with the book was with the "love-interest". Beware, mild spoilers ahead!

SPOILERS

Sorcerers of Emma Bannon's class have Shields, human bodyguards who are pledged to their service and protection, among whose duties appear to be sexual services to their sorcerer. Bannon has a kind of relationship with her Shield, decidedly unhealthy, because there is such an unequal distribution of power between them. Yes, he seems to want her, even be somewhat obsessed with her, but the fact remains that she has all the power in their relationship: he has to obey her in all things and, if he leaves her service, he will be killed. And there is a very disturbing scene, in which she appears to inflict some kind of physical punishment to him by means of her magic. I found this whole subplot distasteful, but it really is a very minor part of the book.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 June 2014
This book is surfing the steampunk bandwagon and has all the usual cliches but without any of the historical research. The mix of magic and technology doesn't work well for me and the borderline plagarism (the genius term 'mentath' for Saintcrow is clearly derived from Herbert's 'mentats' - no h - in the far superior classic 'Dune') annoys. The muddled attempts to develop characters via flashbacks to previous events doesn't work either, making me feel like I would have preferred to just read the events in question and have this book as number 2 of a series. Feels like very amateur writing and in need of a decent editor to pull it into shape.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 November 2014
I never, ever read a book twice - the books in this series are my only exception. It's not often that we get heroines as iron-willed or as complex as Bannon. Ms Saintcrow captures the poignancy of words left unsaid brilliantly, adding to the complexity of the personalities and the relationships in the book. I highly recommend this book, particularly if you enjoy heroines who can be letal while remaining perfectly polite.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 5 July 2013
I haven't read much steampunk, but have enjoyed this author's work before, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I have a reasonable familiarity with the Victorian period, so was quite easily able to adapt to this alternative history version. However, I did find that I had to put more than normal effort into getting to grips with the fantasy aspects of Bannon and Clare's world. In the end, this was not a serious problem, but it did mean that it took me longer to become confident of my understanding of situations and I am certain I missed some subtleties, especially in the early chapters.

I like this world. It has interesting basic concepts and challenging characters. Both present lots of opportunities for further development.

This story offers a nice mix of mystery, intrigue, loyalty and treachery; all interwoven with magic and Frankenstein-esque science. I enjoyed it.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 16 November 2013
Only the 2nd steampunk I've read - the first wasn't much of a leap from the Victorian London of our past - but this is a far bigger step wtih sorcery (including a whole structure of grades of magic workers), also plenty of name adjustments to help you remember that you're in a different world. Even an interesting take on Kings & Queens.

Very nearly 5 stars, but was missing something I can't quite put my finger on, But having said that I'll definitely be getting the others in the series
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse