Title: A Study in Silks
Author: Emma Jane Holloway
Genre: Historical/Science Fiction/Mystery/Fantasy
Opening lines: …Evelina froze, a breath half taken catching in her throat, nerves tingling down every limb…
Blurb: Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London Society. But there’s a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse. In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch and sorcery the demon enemy of the Empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out? But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock Holmes’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.
My Thoughts: A STUDY IN SILKS is a debut book and the first in the ‘Baskerville Affair’ trilogy; the following two books will be released over the next two months. The story is set in an alternative steampunk version of Victorian England where the political power lies squarely in the hands of a group of steam barons who are not likely to relinquish that power any time soon. England runs on steam power and without access to steam England will fall; the population, Parliament and the Queen are all hostages of the barons to a certain extent. If someone crosses a steam baron their home and business is disconnected.
“…Can you imagine what would happen if Parliament challenged them and the Steam Council stopped supplying coal and gas?”…“There would be riots in the streets. If it went on long enough, the government would fall.”…"Steam may be the engine that drives the Empire, but the steam barons are the knife at its throat…”
This steampunk world coexists with a magical one. Magic is very real – but it is a crime to carry out magic – it is the steam barons who push for magic to be extinguished, they figure that if people use magic to power things instead of using steam then they will lose their grip on England. Death by execution is the fate of those arrested for magic. There are plots afoot to take away the power of the steam barons, to come up with alternative power sources to break the monopoly.It is against this background of power struggles that the story of A STUDY IN SILKS takes place.
Author Emma Jane Holloway’s world is intriguing; her descriptions of it are rich and detailed. Very detailed; pages and pages of detailed. Which is a shame because the main plot is a good one; the characters come alive on the pages and there are some interesting twists. Where the book let me down was its sheer size, just over 500 pages, I am sure some of the descriptive paragraphs could have been cut back without any loss to the richness of the various scenes. The size may have had a lot to do with the fact that Holloway was building her world and introducing the main players ready for the subsequent books, because they are each much smaller in length being almost 200 pages less than this first one. Another problem for me was the number of characters that told the story – at least six of them. I have problems keeping track of characters at the best of times and often found myself wondering who was telling the story and jolted out of the flow momentarily. But other than those slight criticisms I loved this story and all the people I met in it, I found myself thinking about the book long after I closed the last page ( Oh, and I have to confess I kept seeing Benedict Cumberbatch whenever Uncle Sherlock was in a scene) I can’t wait to get started on the second book in the series ‘A Study in Darkness’ which I have ready to go in my hot little e-reader.
Rating: C – Above average. Was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.
For more about the author – Click Here
With thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Del Rey Spectra and the author via Netgalley.