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Customer reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars

TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 June 2013
The essential problem with the book is that it lacks a suitable villain: a plague bacillus simply will not do, and Dr Vance - while presented as Clare's nemesis - is as much a friend as a foe, here. But I get ahead of myself.

Book One of the Bannon & Clare series was a steampunk Victorian romp from start to finish, gradually building up the "alt-history" component so that what began as the standard foggy London of Sherlock Holmes (or at least, just a few years before that) had by the end of the book morphed into a fantastic world of polished brass clockwork, deadly magic, and science that never was. Building on that would have been a challenge indeed, and I cannot but feel that the author just squibbed it.

Emma Bannon is a Sorceress Prime, and Archibald Clare a Mentath: each is a unique individual, for all that Ms Bannon is the hero and Mr Clare the sidekick. Their relationship is slowly developing, set as it is a few years after Vol 1, but the book could have been set mere days later for all the change that really appears to have gone on. Our team is still great fun to read about, constantly sparring with each other, mostly verbally, but the adventure they get this around, as I said, lacks a villain. Instead, the book appears to merely be setting up Ms Bannon's eventual disillusionment with the Crown she has sworn herself to serve, with the entire plot of the book supporting this need.

I mean, really, yet another twist of the hero questioning their motives and whether or not they have wasted their life? And even worse, an entire book just to set it up? Its not quite as bad as Naomi Novik's Tongues of Serpents for very little really happening, but it seems this is very much a middle book in an open-ended series. It's a shame: Iron Wyrm was great fun from start to finish, whereas this is largely scene setting, for all there are a few evocative moments here and there.
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on 27 May 2013
The Red Plague Affair is a slightly weaker book in my opinion, than The Iron Wyrm Affair which I managed to read last year.

The weakness lies in an oversaturation of the details and much less effort spent on character development. The world-building is beautifully done, and I do like Archibald Clare - the mentath working with the sorceress Emma Bannon.

The problem is, despite the presumed attraction and sympathy for each other, they do not really fit together as a couple, and there is no attempt to develop their relationship in some kind of romance.

Emma is an overpowering, harsh and pretty violent, self-sacrificing, bitter and cold woman, although on the inside she does get hurt a lot. There are no sparks of humour to soften her character and otherwise very dry, tense dialogues, and the reader really struggles to feel for her, because she doesn't let us do it.

Despite my misgivings about Emma, I can't fault the plot. It's a very intriguing puzzle and a race against time, while The Red Plague sweeps through Londinium and spreads through the rest of the world.

Emma has to make very radical moves, gain an enemy in Britannia - an ancient force ruling the country, and lose few dear to her people, just to stop the deadly illness. Her relationships with Mikal becomes very strange as well, as a part of his nature comes into the light while she is falling to the illness herself.

Overall, this is a very interesting read, but not one of Lily's best. That's all I can say.
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on 11 September 2017
Bannon & Clare battle an outbreak of supernatural plague. I enjoyed reading it but sometimes the writing style makes it hard work. I feel that these books could be excellent, if only the author got to the point a little quicker.
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on 5 July 2013
It was nice to return to the alternative world of Bannon and Clare. However, I did struggle somewhat to get to grips with how much time had passed since the first story. I think that this was because I found it difficult to reconcile the amount Clare seemed to have aged in just a couple of years, given that he was only in his mid 30s.

I did not enjoy this quite as much as the first book. While I can comprehend another reviewer's comments about a plague not making a very good "baddie", this was not the real problem for me, perhaps because I recall a Doctor Who series in the 60s when the threat the Doctor faced was a fungus in the London Underground! There are also synergies with Edgar Allan Poe's "Masque of the Red Death".

What I missed was the depth of characterisation of the four lead characters, who just did not seem so rich in this book. For me, this was regrettable because I was looking forward to getting to know them better. On the other hand, I did enjoy learning some more about the sorcerers of this world. Nevertheless, I would happily read another Bannon and Clare tale if one becomes available.
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on 23 May 2013
I received my copy from Orbit through Nudge

Archibald Clare is a Mentath, a genius detective with exceptional powers of observation and deduction. Emma Bannon is his opposite in every way. She is a Prime sorceress who has only gotten more powerful after the events in The Iron Wyrm Affair. According to established wisdom these two polar opposites shouldn't be able to work together, after all magic and logic are opposing forces. In practice though Bannon and Clare form a talented and successful team when it comes to investigating crimes against the Empire.

When Queen Victrix instructs Emma to find and return a missing doctor in possession of a deadly new weapon, she turns to Clare for assistance. And it isn't long before they discover that this new weapon is powerful enough to bring death and destruction not just to Londinium but to the whole world. And with no known cure, not even our heroes are immune to the poison that is about to be released. Because once the red plague has been unleashed upon the capital, nobody, regardless of their rank or position will be able to escape its deadly power.

And so we find ourselves back in what is the steampunk version of Victorian England. Imaginative and well developed this world is both very recognisable and completely alien. Lilith Saintcrow makes clever use of historical facts and figures, both fictional and real, although she changes them enough to ensure that the reader never forgets that they are inhabiting an alternate universe.

Archibald Clare is strongly based on Sherlock Holmes, something which is emphasized with sentences such as:

"It is elementary, sir."

And when a character named Kim Finchwilliam Rudyard is introduced it shouldn't surprise anyone when he states:

"The female of her species is deadly."

In many ways the author has taken events and people to fantastical new heights. Archibald Clare is not just an exceptionally clever man he is a member of an exclusive and specially trained group of talented people, born with extreme mental powers. The Queen, Victrix, is the chosen vessel of Britannia, the ever continuing spirit ruling the Empire and as such two different creatures; one human and vulnerable the other ruthless and indestructible. And the same is true for the various districts of Londinium. With names close enough to those we are familiar with, they resemble their real world counterparts while at the same time being something more; darker, more sinister or brighter. In fact, the author has given the reader the opportunity to engage in two mysteries. There is the disaster our two heroes have to try to divert and then there is the quest to trace characters and places back to their Victorian original.

Bannon and Clare are fully-fleshed and fascinating characters to read about. Observing how they work together, despite their differences, watching them develop ever increasing respect for the others' exceptional powers and witnessing them dealing with the feelings they may or may not have about each other is a pure delight.

While it isn't absolutely necessary to read "The Iron Wyrm Affair" before starting this book I would advice readers to do so. This alternate Victorian world is well established and explained in the first book and some events from the first story are referred to in a manner that relies on the reader being aware of what happened in the first book.

This is not a light or a fast read. Fascinating and thrilling as it is, it pays to take your time while reading this book. The characters, the world they move in and the mysteries they're up against all are multi-facetted. It is easy to miss hints and clues if you allow yourself to get caught up in the heat of the chase and start turning the pages too fast. This is a good thing though since it gives the book an added depth. The language used in this book is also slightly different from what we are used to. While this certainly helps to keep the reader rooted in the alternate world, it also means that real attention needs to be paid to what is actually being said.

This is more than just another intriguing mystery set in an alternate Victorian England; this is a well thought out tale in a fully realised world with characters that are as intriguing as they are relatable. In short, this is a fascinating story and imaginative book.
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on 19 October 2016
I would agree with others here who have given this four stars. Emma Bannon is essentially unlikeable, despite her courage, and the relationship between her and Clare is never fully realised. Emma seems to be a woman surrounded by adoring men who are prepared to lay down their lives for her, and she seems quite willing to sacrifice others (and herself) - a few other interesting female characters would help. Queen Victoria and Emma's maids aren't really enough - other female characters in the series tend to be hideous villains. Emma's back story is developed further in this novel, and there are some good plot elements though I would agree that it does seem to be setting things up for the third novel. I just find Emma unconvincing as a character.

Also, though I think Lilith Saintcrow has real writing ability, sometimes she gets a bit carried away by the purple prose. This isn't to say that I thought the book was bad - I gave it four stars! But it's not as good as The Iron Wyrm. Some characters in the ensemble are underused, there is some confusion in the plotting (or at least I found some bits confusing), and there were moments when I felt opportunities were missed to do interesting things. But overall it is a good read.
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on 9 June 2013
Second book in the Bannon and Clare series. Even if it is a light entertainment read it had really nothing worth reading. I sort of like the author's original prose when there are not too many ellipses.The plot is slow and twisted. Characters are devoid of any personality when in my opinion a second book should develop them and unfold secrets. They are utterly apathetic. Little happens and when it does the pace is really really slow. There is also a bit of confusion with a couple of foreign words that made me cringe: in Italian the masculine adjective bastard ends with an 'O' not with an 'E', and if Ludo comes from Naples he is a Campano not a Calabrese. I lightly enjoyed the first book for what it was; this one is just a big question mark. There is much better around for fans of SP/alt-hist and the like (by authors with less cheesy names too!).
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on 28 October 2013
while the first book flows better than this one , it is still much better than many books around and I would highly recommend it.
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on 15 July 2013
I enjoyed the second book in the Bannon and Claire series. It did not have the same 'mechanical' content as book one, but a good tale well told.
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VINE VOICEon 26 July 2013
The latest book by Lili and one that continues to build upon the success of the first of her Bannon and Clare series bringing the delights of Victoriana Steampunk head on with Urban Fantasy as magicks vie against the brains of Victrix' investigators. Its well thought out, the characters are a sheer delight to be around and when backed with delightful dialogue, some fiendish twists alongside bringing some added light with characters of the time period all round makes this a book that is a sheer delight.

Throw into the mix an author who loves to spin a cracking yarn that when populated with emotional conflict throughout all round gives the reader something very special to enjoy. Great stuff.
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