Interesting new series which is probably more Urban Fantasy meets Historical Romance than Steampunk. I would also put this as a crossover from Young adult to adult. Small amount of sex, a lot of English swearing and violence.
I could not help but find similarities to Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate but it is not any where near as amusing and is far more gritty and most of the humour comes from anachronistic paraphernalia and altered history lines. There were no World Wars, Hitler was a failed artist, tampons, rotaries, bloomers and corsets are every day regalia and Sid Vicious and Queen Victoria Co-exist. The humour is more wry. Queen Victoria, a Vampire is not deceased and still rules with a Fang of Iron. This is a new world that we have not been privy too before.
The author is Canadian from the East Coast and is a big anglophile. Although a lot of the terms and speech in the book is truly English you can tell in places it has been adopted for the NA market, this does not detract from the mainly authentic feeling of a modern day Victorian London. The narrator does a good job. She keeps the story moving at the fast pace it deserves and gives Xandra a feisty edge that makes her believable and eminently likable even though she is a little unhinged at times. She is rather spoiled and tunnel visioned believeing all she is told but is staunchly loyal and protective For the UK listeners: I did find the narrator's accent a little odd as most times she spoke with a middle to upper class accent but on occasion used the harder As used in the Northern part of the country.
The reason I do not find this novel to be truly Steampunk is that there are not inventions before their time and very little science jargon and the usual suspects of Steampunk and not a single derigible in sight. The science seems to be more genetic and torture related being of a most disturbing nature. Again like the Parasol Protectorate there is a lot of dialogue about the types of food consumed, relationships with family and work and the outcast protagonist having an alpha boyfriend. Although women seem to not be under the Rule Of Thumb and have a say.
After the Plague during Victoria's reign the virus slowly turned the aristocrats into vampires and some of them (especially the Scottish contingent) into werewolves. Humans still existed and another breed emerged, a cross of the strongest humans with the Aristos has produced another group called Halvies who are used to protect the Aristos. Our protagonist is one of these and they are distinguishable mainly by their unnaturally coloured hair, speed adn strength.. Last and not least there are the Goblins living under the City.... There is a vague harry Potter feel at times but there is no magic. It is all genetic.
In the present time, London operates as usual, only the aristocrats and Queen Victoria are still ruling. The vampires have some sort of celebrity status, while normal people live no different apart from donating a pint of their blood occasionally and keeping a record of their DNA with state's hospitals so they can be monitored for the virus development. Also they always keep their children in after dark knowing a seedy adn brutal underworld exists adn they are not safe..
There is much unrest and attempts of revolution which will give people more rights and diminish the rule of aristocracy. Bedlam, the infamous mental institution still exists and many Halvies end up behind it's formidable walls. There is also a strange destructive drug that allows people to borrow the supernatural strength of those affected by The Plague however. humans will not last long on this.
Xandra Vardan is quite content with her life as a special guard, living with her half sister and brother, until her younger sister, Dee Dee, goes missing and a body burned beyond recognition is identified as Dee Dee. Then the plot takes off and were are lead into the underworld and lots of truths are revealed and twists and turns occur that shake the foundations of Xandra's belief system. Forcing her to see the truth of those around her and herself. As everything falls away she does not know who to trust.
One of the things I was not so keen on was that there waas an invented words for this verse, a bit like in A Clockwork Orange, that got very overused which again made me feel it was aimed at a younger audience.
I loved Kate Locke's non nonsense style with likable characters, action and a good deal of punching, Xandra is straightforward and likable and I think there will be great times ahead in the rest of the series.
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