This book is a little of everything, but not a little of everything in the way you would expect it.
First of all, there is a murder mystery. Who killed Professor Richards and what exactly is going on with some of his experiments?
Yes, this does mean there is weird science involved.
And there is romance. When Benjamin Maker, a man from nobel birth, and Amethyst Forester receive the joint inheritance of the professor’s home, things really start to get interesting.
To top it off, we glance at history, but not in the traditional future-past-that-never-was that we know from steampunk.
While I am all for murder and mystery, I’m generally picky when it comes to romance. This book is different. It’s more of a view on society, and how the Victorians looked at high society and the place of women in it, from a certain angle.
Amethyst is a young girl from a modest background, yet her inheritance suddenly makes her a woman of substance. Meaning that, thanks to her money, she matters. Which, of course, opens a whole different can of worms.
I feel that Gail B. Williams does a splendid job in weaving that particular part of Victorian society into a tale of science and mystery and make that mix work.
That said, I would have liked it better if not nearly every character that befriended or got acquainted with Amethyst made advances at her or fell in love with her. I will say I was pretty fed up with that by the end of the book, but everything else I thoroughly enjoyed.
Amethyst is a strong heroine, but also a very human one with insecuritites we can all relate to. As far as female role-models go, she certainly is one.
The other characters, male and female, are also interesting and contribute to the story well. I look forward to read how their relationships and personalities evolve in the next books.
The plot is pretty excellent. The author has really succeeded in making the genre her own, and making her setting different from so many other science, mystery and romance steampunk novels.
If you are not absolutely averse to romance, even though this is approached from an interesting historical and sociological point of view, and you like weird science and mystery, I would absolutely recommend this book.
I look forward to its sequel: Echoes of Aether.
For the parents among our readers: this book is perfectly safe to hand to your children as long as they are fluent in English.
Order from Williams’ official website.