My Expectations I read a lot of Steampunk novels in the past years and based on that I have common expectations. Steampunk elements should be part of the story and no decorative parts. I like either a Victorian background or an alternate history setting. Romance is not really my cup of tea. Therefore I hoped that romance would not play an important and extended role.
The Delivery The 270 pages are divided into 20 consecutively numbered chapters. This is quite short compared to the books I normally read. I know that quantity does not say anything about quality.
When I read the words hounds and moor, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came immediately up in my mind. But beside hound and moor there are no further similarities. Hounds of Autumn is a unique story. The title of the book can be interpreted either as the shortest possible summary or as a synonym for Chloe and Ambrose Sullivan who both play important roles. In fact Chloe is the main character. She is young, at least 20 years younger as her husband. I will come back to that fact later. Chloe is an extraordinary person for her time. England in 1890 means Victorian England.
"When a Victorian man and woman married, the rights of the woman were legally given over to her spouse. Under the law the married couple became one entity where the husband would represent this entity, placing him in control of all property, earnings and money. In addition to losing money and material goods to their husbands, Victorian wives became property to their husbands," [Source]
One could say women have been the slaves of her husbands.
How did middle and upper class women spent their time?
"Women's leisure activities included in large part traditional pastimes such as reading, embroidery, music, and traditional handicrafts." [Source]
Author Heather Blackwood shows her talent in many ways. Her vivid presentation of the Victorian society is excellent and matches superb with the unique and fresh main characters in in form of Chloe and Ambrose Sullivan. Ambrose has been a good friend of Chloe's family and the marriage - including a contract - gave Chloe the opportunity to do something outrageous for a Victorian woman: to read what she wants and to invent and build mechanicals. Her latest invention is the mechanical cat name Giles which is always good for a surprise. Ambrose admires Chloe's intelligence, straightforwardness and endurance. He defends/saves her whenever necessary. Chloe enjoys a freedom which stands in conflict with society rules. They respect and also love each other which is shown in small gestures, something your recognise when you keep an eye on long term married couples who are still in love. Without this unorthodox marriage the story would miss a lot.
While reading this charming story - don't get me wrong, there are scenes where Heather Blackwood pulls no punches - I enjoyed the balanced delivery of information which always light your imagination and avoids information overload. I do not want to draw the curtain over the fact that humor, superstition, sense of responsibility and fog found their appropriate place within the book.
Finally I must admit that all my educated guesses to identify the murderer before the final revelation failed. I highly appreciated that the reader most of the time does not know more than Chloe.
It was exactly my cup of tea. An intelligent heroine, a most entertaining story with twist and turns, a mystical touch, an excellent description of Victorian society and a bittersweet end,
The writing style supports the story at all points. Within seconds I forgot my surroundings and followed Chloe and Ambrose Sullivan on her way to the story.
If you look for a good Steampunk book which - delivers suitable action beyond airship battles - denies the endless ostentation of Steampunk gadgets - present you an extraordinary woman her tries to hold her ground in Victorian society - ends bittersweet - bewitch with emotion and eerily-beautiful moments
then you should give Hounds of Autumn a try.
These are my totally subjective closing words For me Hounds of Autumn cries for a sequel starring the extraordinary and inimitable Chloe Sullivan written by the talented and convincing Heather Blackwood !!!
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