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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Compelling steampunk finale!

A Study in Ashes (The Baskerville Affair #3) by Emma Jane Holloway

Evelina starts this episode with a bang. Blowing up the University of Camelin chemistry lab no less. Her world had narrowed to the university precincts bound as she is by the Gold King, Jasper Keating. Her price for allowing Nick to escape. All to no avail as he is dead.  Hauled before the University authorities she is for the moment confined to her quarters in the College of London. Who escorts her back to the College? None other than James Moriaty, the Blue King's man of business. We recognize the name for other reasons. Evelina is trapped by Keating, monitored by bracelets that create excruciating pain if she steps beyond her confines.
Imogen has been unconscious for a year. Her twin dead sister Anna is involved. A realization that's nightmarish in its unfolding. Her sister Poppy engages Sherlock Holmes to look into Imogen's illness.
And those dreadful Steam Barons. War lords run amok. The Scarlet Baron is plotting war, others are hedging their bets. Greedy and despicable, corporate plunderers, malignant growths spreading their rapacious tentacles across the country, destroying the country for their own gain. How I detest them. As the Schoolmaster (coordinator/leader of the Baskerville Movement) says, 'I want order with at least a teaspoon of social conscience...What the Steam Council offers is the amoral governance of greed.'                    
Riots are happening around London. Water is no longer free. Outbreaks of cholera are occurring. Men and women are plucked from the streets and forced into servitude and slavery.
Keating sets Tobias to monitor Evelina, a twisted psychological torture for them both.
There are some great to hue-in-cheek lines. Such as the school master to Evelina's would be rescuer, 'Before you rush off to rescue the fair maid, might suggest a nap? And maybe a bath?'
Minor characters I enjoyed: Striker, rough and dangerous but there's something about him.
Gwilliam, Leader of the ash rooks, Bucky, Poppy...really so many.
Plots are entangled within plots. The monarchy is threatened almost to extinction. The dead reappear. A new perspective is cast on Sherlock and the Baskerville legend.
Some of the touches, occasions and characters (literary or otherwise) that the reader knows about, and that Holloway refers to, are very much AhHa! moments. There's a sweet quasi-dark humour in their inclusion. When you meet them you find yourself saying, Oh Yes! Of course!
However, The Black Kingdom is the puzzling one in this part of the story. As Keating tells us, 'No one knew who ran it and no one really wanted to know.' The disturbing part is that Magnus had been there and has brought some dark kingdom (as Evelina calls them) spirits back. Ok and there was a couple of fairly disgusting moments but I guess that goes with the territory of Black Sorcery.
A grand and sweeping dystopian adventure in an alternative Victorian England! 
I loved it!

A NetGalley ARC

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