Book Review, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction

A Study in Silks (The Baskerville Affair #1) by Emma Jane Holloway

London, April 4, 1888 ~ Evelina Cooper, niece of Sherlock Holmes, is ready for her first London Season – except for a murderer, missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse. In a Victorian era ruled by a ruthless steam baron council, mechanical power is the real monarch, and sorcery the demon enemy of the empire. Evelina has secretly mastered a coveted weapon – magic that can run machines. Should she trust the handsome, clever rake who speeds her breath, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything she would ask?

This has been on my to be read list for a long while. What attracted me to this book was the steampunk and magic mix along with the suspense and mystery. This book was slow at first, then picked up a little later. The pace felt right once the story hit its stride. I enjoyed this book and thought it was a decent set up book for the trilogy.

Evelina Cooper is a character with many layers. She is smart, persistent, and holds her background close to her chest. At a young age, Evelina was living with family from her father’s side in a traveling circus until her Granny Holmes finds out. Now she must learn to live a life caught between two worlds. In her circus life, she was free to use her magic. In her new world, she had to hide her gift.

This is what I like about Evelina. She was not the typical girl in high society London. She wants to go to a university instead of getting married. Instead, Evelina gets sponsored. When her debutante season starts, a murder in her friend’s home starts a chain reaction of events. Evelina does not hesitate to jump into the mysteries surrounding the murder. The author wrote her well and I am looking forward to seeing how well her character grows in the next two books.

There are so many other characters in this book. Each one has their own quirks. Imogen was a strong character in her own right and took it upon herself to help Evelina in her mystery solving events. Nick connects with Evelina through her circus background. He wants to protect her and carry his love for her further than a childhood crush. Bird and mouse are Evelina’s little spies. They are steampunk mechanic devices she had created and mixed her own magic into them to bring them to life. This attempt drew the attention of Dr Magnus.

Dr Magnus was a mysterious character and seemed to know more than he let on. He seemed to be everywhere, invited or not. Jasper Keating is one of the many steam barons readers are introduced to. Unlike the others, Keating plays a big part in this book. He wants to take control over London, one district at a time. Tobias is caught between his family and himself. He wants to make it through society without the help of his father, but not damage his family name because of his mother and sisters. The author wrote these characters well and had layers of their own. They were flushed out enough for their roles in the book, and I am excited to see how much some of them grow in the next books.

Victorian London, steampunk, and magic blended well, making the world feel natural. As a reader, I did not feel any overpowering the other. The way the society sees magic and steampunk are completely different reasons, magic was evil, and steam brought money, but only the steam barons could tinker with mechanics. Steam barons were the actual rulers of London. The author explained the societal thinking nicely in the book without the infamous info dumping.

I am not at all familiar with the Holmes world and was unnecessary to read this book. In fact, he was not in the story enough to make a difference. If you are looking for a story strictly in the Holmes world, I would not recommend this story. I recommend this book to anyone who loves to read about steampunk, magic, Victorian London, mystery and suspense.

I give this book a 3/5

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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