Out of the London Mist

Lyssa Medana explores the perils of being an ethnic minority in steampunk London.

Out of the London Mist

One of the first things that struck me about this book is how apropos its title is: running through the entire novel is an all-consuming sense of dread brought out by what is best described as magical fog. It’s not hard to visualize the characters wrapped in clouds, appearing only in fading silhouettes as they walk through this darkened recreation of Victorian London.

Out of the London Mist, by Lyssa Medana, succeeds in its atmosphere, a steampunk London of the more fantastic variety. It’s a world where all things are permeated by an omnipresent aether, which powers airships. The aether can also be used to power other things, and it is one of those other things that drives the plot of the novel. The characters are an interesting assemblage of people from different parts of this version of London, including nobles and thieves, adventurers and mechanics.

The plot itself, as I interpret it, serves a broader purpose, and that is where I think this novel truly reaches its heights. A good chunk of the story takes place in a poorer part of London, where the less fortunate of its Jewish residents live, and from there it explores issues of social class (the British obsession) and majority-minority relations.

The plot kicks off with the murder of a nobleman who had been consorting with elements in that community. Some try to defend themselves from what they perceive as a brutally hostile environment (understandable, given Jewish history in a great many countries) and are going farther than what may be considered strictly necessary.

The characters straddle the line between rich and poor, Jew and gentile. There are small moments of negotiation as both sides of the community stand up to fight the main threat posed by the novel, and in doing so it shows the perils of being an ethnic minority.

The book doesn’t exploit its steampunk setting as much as it could, but that may well count as the sort of dissatisfaction that means the book was good. In any case, I would absolutely read a sequel. There is so much opportunity for adventure in the world she has created, and it would be a shame if there weren’t more.

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