Author: Rod Duncan
Series: The Fall of the Gaslit Empire #1
Published: August 2014 by Angry Robot
Length: 364 pages
Summary : Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life—as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus. But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…
Review: The United Kingdom has been split in to two, the Kingdom and The Republic. In the Republic, Elizabeth Barnaby lives as herself by day, and as her brother Edwin at night, who works as a detective to pay her debts. One case she picks up is to find a missing aristocrat. This leads her on yet another adventure
I wanted to read this because steampunk and cross dressing detective women makes a good combination.
The alternate history was developed through implications from the narration and flashbacks. I like the way the division of the country (halfway north, halfway south) meant both parts evolved into different places with different attitudes to things, and the world building was generally good. The glossary at the back would have been helpful to clarify things as I was reading (I dind’t know it existed until I got to the end).
I loved Elizabeth. She was smart and quick and handled things well and I enjoyed reading about her. My favourite character was Julia, who also took the initiative, and then she started to fall for Edwin, and [Spoiler alert! Highlight for details] I was seriously hoping she’d find out the secret and still be into Elizabeth, because I love my queer girls. Alas :( [end spoiler]. The Patent Office made a good adversary, though I didn’t like the guy from it.
The plot took a little time to start, but once it did, it developed continuously. Twists and turns kept coming throughout the novels. Travels happen on airships around the country, and you also visit a circus, both parts of the split country, and other steampunky tropes turn up which work well in this novel. However, I felt the end was a bit of an anticlimax and the middle part dragged a little.
I really liked the extracts from the Bullet Catcher's Handbook at the start of each chapter.
Overall: Strength 3.5 tea, more a 3, to a good steampunk story. I’ll read the next one because, judging by the series title, something hugescale’s going to happen and that will hopefully be awesome.