Three words: Steampunk, Alchemy, Magic.
That was all I needed to read when I requested this book from NetGalley. Feuding, power-hungry Alchemists and secret Warlock orders abound in this intense steampunk thriller. Plot twists (some obvious, some a little sneakier), some steamy romance (pardon the pun), and flying dirigibles takes advantage of the booming Industrial age. Underneath the scientific and technological innovations of the time lies the shrinking Shadow realm, pressed back as more and more of the world is brought out into the "light" with science and industry.
Elle is a pilot, the daughter of a scientist, and a forward-thinking woman who doesn't give much thought to the Shadow world. Things change when she runs into an old friend, Patrice, and his guest, Mr. Marsh, who ask her to fly a package to Great Britain. A simple delivery turns into a fight for life and death against the power-hungry Alchemists, sky pirates, and desperate foes. Through all these obstacles, Elle is a likeable heroine: she maintains a rational edge, stays true to her convictions, and her witty dialogue sets the tone of the book.
It takes a little longer in the book to get to know Marsh, but it's worth the agonizing process of becoming familiar with him, as Elle uncovers the secrets and personalities surrounding her new "friend"...okay romantically-inclined partner. However, the age difference between them is a little daunting: Marsh is slow-aging immortal, Elle is seventeen? Only a couple hundred years difference between the two. I'm not a fan of huge age gaps, even if the guy looks like Robert Pattinson. I don't know why, but it's slightly creepy to me. That aside, their romance was perfect: they didn't fall in love at first sight, but developed as kinda-friends first, at least friends that were intensely attracted towards one another...It felt believable, relaxed at some parts, super steamy intense at others.
There was some things that I struggled with as the book went on. It was set up nicely from the start, and I thought the world building was pretty much complete, but Liesel Schwarz would occasionally throw in new details and explanations that probably belonged near the beginning of the book, not three quarters of the way through. It kind of came across like she was developing the world and the story as she was writing it, so while the plot was clear, the mechanisms were not.
Liesel Schwarz took a lot of great influence from Greek mythologies and added a whole new layer of meaning in this book, but again, it felt like something was lacking in that the magical element of the story wasn't developed early enough. The first half of the book was so focussed on the technological parts that it felt like the magic was just bypassed until it became convenient to throw something in there related to it. I didn't understand it enough, and when it really started to be detrimental to the plot it was too difficult to understand the rules of the Shadow world.
I really liked the connections Liesel Shwartz built between the Warlocks, Shadow creatures, monks, scientists, and Alchemists, but I wasn't sure exactly where some of the groups stood in terms of Light vs Shadow, especially the Alchemists. Maybe she mentioned it in the book and I forgot, but I'm still not sure if they fit in the Shadow category, in the Light, or somewhere inbetween? If you've read this, let me know!
My last thoughts: The setting was great (but not steampunk enough), the characters were awesome, and the plot was intense and well-paced. However, not enough of the magical elements were set up from the get-go to make me feel as familiar with them as Elle or Marsh probably did. Great climactic ending that sets your teeth on edge, even if the magical elements are a little confusing. If you're a fan of steampunk, historical fiction, and fantasy, read this!show more
by Janita Van Dyk