Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Iron Wyrm Affair

The Iron Wyrm Affair (Bannon & Clare, #1)85. I started this book expecting to love it--after all, alternative history/steampunk fantasy set in Victorian England? Some of my favorite things.

And there is a lot to like about it: the alternating viewpoint characters, Emma Bannon and Archibald Clair are interesting in their own right, though Emma is a much stronger character. Emma is a sorcerous Prime at the top of her game, with a troubled history and difficulty trusting others. Clair is drawn into Emma's orbit when she's ordered to protect him, after an inexplicable string of mentath (super-genius) deaths in the city. Not coincidentally, Clair is a mentath (if unregistered) and his greatest fear is boredom. He is, as other reviewers have noticed, a thinly-veiled nod to Sherlock Holmes, though somewhat less interesting.

The writing is decent, too,-the author knows how to pace things, how to set a visually intricate scene, and her magic system is interesting and complex. I also liked the alternative vision of London (here, Londinium), and Victoria as Victrix, the current incarnation of Britannia (an ageless spirit of the realm who inhabits each reigning monarch in turn). Some reviewers have complained that there's not enough explanation or context for the  magic in the world, but I actually liked that. I'd rather puzzle out what something is than be slapped in the face with the explanation.

Despite all these good things, I didn't love the book and I've been trying to puzzle out why. I think it's may be this: in some scenes, there's almost too much description--some of it is lovely and lavish, but occasionally it obscures the action. Some parts are distinctly purple. Second, the plot proceeds at such a break-neck pace that there aren't a lot of quiet moments where I felt I got into the characters' heads. I think I wanted more bonding time with the characters, more time to love them, not just admire their bravery.

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