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on 18 September 2017
I see from GoodReads that I'm one of the few who actually really enjoyed this book?! I read a previous series by the author and it's very different from this so I was curious when I was sent this steampunk offering! I do love a bit of steampunk as you all know and I found this to be brilliantly written, and original.

I was intrigued from the start of the book, and the book clips along at a fast pace. There's plenty of action to go with the intrigue and never a dull moment. I loved the world of the book, it's so easy to slip in to and to visualise the settings. The world is rich and fascinating and has the history to match it. I'm so curious about the history to the world and I need to know more! It's such an original and unique world, with plenty of quirks on the London we all know and...kind of love. Sometimes. When it's not rush hour. Among other things.

I really enjoyed our cast of characters, I thought they had depth and where fascinating. I loved Emma, she doesn't take anyone's crap. She's strong and she's very proper and she's kinda badass. She's a Prime Sorceress as she's quite fond of pointing out over and over again. Her particular distinction is towards the...darker death side of magic. Emma's in charge and she very much knows what she's doing and what she's capable of, which made a nice change from the usual female MC's I've come across in books. I felt like we didn't get to know her quite so much as Archibald, but then I think Emma's supposed to be a bit of a mystery. I'm assuming some of her past is going to come out in a future book when they face off with the past.

As for Archibald Clare, we got to know him quite well. He's a mentath and he's veeerrryyy Sherlock Holmes. He deduces a lot, and so Clare throws his thoughts out left right and centre, something Emma doesn't do so much. So we get a better grasp on Clare and his character and what he's like and so on. He's quite the opposite of Emma so I enjoyed watching them work together. He's very much like the Sherlock from the Robert Downey Jr movies and I wasn't surprised that was the authors inspiration. I loved that Clare wasn't afraid to get stuck in and get his hands dirty. Clare's point of view and his deductions, I found, gave us some additional insight in to Emma and her past and why she acts the way she does and so on, which I thought was an interesting way to let us get to know Emma rather than through her narrative. Like we get to know her, but not to the extent we get to know Clare.

While we only switch between Emma and Archibalds POV's, there's a third main-ish character I want to mention. Mikal. He's Emma's only shield and they have a little something something going on, it became clear. They also have quite the history by the sounds of it. I am so curious about Mikal and his past, but then I'm curious about all the characters pasts, not just our main three, but some of the secondary characters too. I did like Mikal, he's protective of Emma, a little bit dangerous and very strong and silent.

I totally ship Emma and Mikal but I was really surprised by the relationship between the two of them. I kind of assumed that any romance/relationship would be between Emma and Archibald, but nope. I'm quite intrigued to see Emma and Mikal's relationship grow over the course of the next books because Emma's trying to fight any feelings she might have and Mikal may not even be aware of his. Plus there's their past. There's not any romance as such, I should point out, but rather it's pretty obvious Emma and Mikal like each other, and there's a little moment out of scene.

I felt like the writing was authentic and rich, at points I did have to re-read because I'd lost something. Emma's point of view provides all the sorcery, and Clare as a mentath provides most of the steampunk aspects. He also talks everything out which was useful throughout the narrative. I enjoyed the switching between the two point of views because they each have a different personality and they each have different elements to their parts. The descriptions for the steampunk elements among other things where fantastic, the writing was vivid and imaginative. As I said the world is rich and the history is fascinating. The plot kept me engaged and intrigued, and it kept me guessing until the end with plenty of twists and turns.

My one little gripe with this book is that I'm still so curious about the characters and their pasts. The book is fast paced and full of action, and I love that. But at some points as I was reading, past events particularly concerning Emma and Mikal, kept being mentioned and brought up. I'm not sure if I missed something completely, but I did feel at a point or two that I felt like I was reading a second book purely on that front. Because it was so obviously a first book, I was a bit confused. There where just so many allusions to past events that weren't fully explained unless I missed something, it was a bit frustrating at one point. I have a feeling we'll eventually find out as I'm sure there'll be a book that focuses on it. I just felt like it was a tad annoying as the book went on.

All in all, I found this enjoyable and imaginative, and very original. I'm excited to see what adventure Emma and Archibald go on next, and I'm excited to see Emma and Mikal's relationship develop!
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VINE VOICEon 3 November 2012
This is a steampunk tale with magic and logic (although the latter is really a form of anti-magic), set in an alternate history England. As promised in the other reviews, the conclusions of the main characters aren't spelled out to the reader, which is a pleasant change from many similar books and adds a little spark.

Emma ("I am not a lady") is a rather overpowered magic user, and appears to be highly placed. It seems that she could do anything she wished, including solving the plot that this novel is based around, with a click of her fingers. I feel that she tells me rather more about the author than I need to know. Clare (male, surname) is a poor copy of Sherlock Holmes; the abilities without the character. The other principal characters are rather flat - Ludo, the Italian assassin who switches accents at the drop of a hat, and the rather forgettable "Bavarian genius".

The world has a history, as do the main characters, none of which is fully spelled out. This is probably a good thing, as we are given enough to drive the main parts of the plot. The main annoyance was that the story is largely set in a London that corresponds very closely to our own, with similar, but different for absolutely no reason, place names; the setting is a steampunk Victorian era. The history of this world obviously diverged a long time ago (I would guess pre-Roman), in the "Age of Fire" before the "Age of Bronze", and yet we are expected to accept the setting. The changes to names (St Jemes Park, or Victrix for Victoria, etc) are unnecessary given that we accept the setting, and so manage to annoy.

Unless you enjoy this authors other works, one to skip. Extra star for world building and background; two each deducted for annoying spelling and flat characters.
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on 28 August 2012
Leave it to Lili to venture into steampunk and make her first book the most steampunkish I've read this year. She just doesn't do anything by halves.

Unbelievable, meticulous attention to detail. Clockwork horses and altered mechanically, seedy criminals of the underworld, reincarnated Britannia in each queen of England, here be dragons, griffins... and rise and fall of sorcerous forces each dawn and dusk.

The trademark of Miss Saintcrow's writing is still here, - extremely strong main heroine, Emma Bannon, a sorceress and Prime of the most dangerous of magic, Death magic, serving the Queen herself and trying to protect her by any means possible.

Emma crushes and subjugates everything and everyone in her way, she is destructive force of nature, paranoid and afraid that her own warrior-protector, her magical Shield, Mikal, is ready to kill her and works beside her back.

Archibald Clare is an entirely different matter. He is not an equal partner to Emma and there is certainly no romantic spark between them. He is a mentath, a person whose brain has to find logical connections in everything, even the most minuscule parts. He is like Sherlock Holmes on crack, he will go mad if his brain is not occupied by a complicated task.

But someone is killing mentaths one by one and taking their body parts, so Emma's task is to protect Archibald and at the same time work with him on uncovering a multi-layered conspiracy which threatens the foundations of British Empire.

It's a fantastic adventure, but it took few chapters for me to get used to the overabundance of detail and pretty rigid main heroine. However, once you warm up to this book, it really gets to you. There is sly humour and well-rounded characters, - Mikal, desperate to gain his sorceress's trust, Clare, curious and analytical about everything, Ludovico, a grubby assassin, who is tasked with Clare's protection and Emma herself, whose true nature shows through her actions towards those she protects, not through her cold and ruthless talk.

I am extremely excited to know more about the world Lili created and looking forward to Emma and Archibald's further adventures. Recommended to all fans of steampunk, especially Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook, and Miss Saintcrow's writing style in general.
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on 22 August 2012
Lillith Saintcrow's take on SteamPunk, which she says is unintended, has produced a fascinating world in which the spirit of Britannia, the Queen, is reincarnated in a child when the old Queen dies. Clockhorses, a blend of flesh and mechanicals, pull the hackney carriages (when you can find one) through a strange city as the blended Flashboys serve crime lords, and the Sorceress Prime Emma Bannon rescues the Mentath Archibald Clare from boredom as she investigates to the death the conspiracy against Her Majesty... There's never a dull moment in this action-packed novel, as Bannon blasts her way from Londinium to Wales and back. The love interest is provided by Mikal, Bannon's Shield, and the characters are well-drawn with their own secrets, even the logical and emotionless Clare.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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on 4 August 2013
I am quite new to "steam punk". I was not sure I would enjoy this genre overly much, but I was pleasantly surprised. This series is fast moving, action packed fun. With interesting alternative reality. The characterisations are quite sympathetic and I found myself intrigued with the heroine and her shield. Also the Mentath shows Holmesian promise. I look forward to reading the next book and finding out what scrapes this trio and their sidekicks can get into.
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on 1 June 2013
Bought this as it looked quite interesting (alternate Victorian London style saga, etc...), however found it really hard to get into mainly as the main male character keeps being referred to as Clare (his surname) yet it is written in a way that I kept thinking it was the main female character!

Once past the half way mark it picks up and is very enjoyable - so stick with it and you may be pleasantly surprised.
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