Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway

The Basics:
A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway
Del Ray
Book Three in The Baskerville Affair trilogy
Steampunk, Romance, Fantasy
Published December 31, 2013

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



As part of her devil’s bargain with the industrial steam barons, Evelina Cooper is finally enrolled in the Ladies’ College of London. However, she’s attending as the Gold King’s pet magician, handcuffed and forbidden contact with even her closest relation, the detective Sherlock Holmes.

But Evelina’s problems are only part of a larger war. The Baskerville affair is finally coming to light, and the rebels are making their move to wrest power from the barons and restore it to Queen Victoria. Missing heirs and nightmare hounds are the order of the day—or at least that’s what Dr. Watson is telling the press.

But their plans are doomed unless Evelina escapes to unite her magic with the rebels’ machines—and even then her powers aren’t what they used to be. A sorcerer has awakened a dark hunger in Evelina’s soul, and only he can keep her from endangering them all. The only problem is . . . he’s dead.

Why I picked up this book:

I love Sherlock Holmes and I loved the cover of this book - the colour scheme, the gorgeous young woman who is *fully clothed*!

My thoughts:

Wow, wow, wow. Magic, machines, mystery, politics, revolution, romance - this is book is phenomenal. It's packed full of all this amazing stuff. There's complex social and political maneuverings that held me in thrall as I raced to find out the fate of the characters I loved, the steam barons and the cast of minor characters that made this world so lush.

I wish I'd read this about a month earlier so I could have bought the first two books in the series for a number of people on my Christmas shopping list.

I love Sherlock Holmes adaptations, and by the blurb, I expected this to be a sort of YA title involving his niece with Holmes cameos. It is so, so much more. There's a dozen or more characters who offer up perspectives as we race to the climax of the Baskerville Affair.

Evelina Cooper is our primary perspective, and at the heart of the tale. Holmes' niece, she's  of the Blood - able to tap into magic. Her training with the sorceror Magnus has left her distrustful of her own abilities, and afraid of the dark powers he taught her to manipulate.

I didn't read either of the first two books in the series - I will definitely pick up the trilogy as a set! Though clearly a *lot* had happened in those two books, this third book does an excellent job of getting the reader up to speed. I never felt like I was out of the loop because I'd skipped the first two books (again, I still want to read them, because this book was so good).

Everyone, most especially Evelina, is dealing with the consequences of actions in earlier books. Her interactions with the Gold King - one of the most powerful of the steam barons - have left her trapped in an agreement that made *me* feel claustrophobic for her. I loved the sense of continuity and that decisions made in earlier books were still haunting these characters, even while new decisions and actions constantly changed the dynamics of the story and the flow of events.

I was able to enjoy A Study of Ashes superficially for the action, adventure and romance, but also on a deeper level for the secrets, backstabbing and manipulation. I loved how everything fit together.

I was extremely satisfied with the end of the novel. There's lots of threads that the author can pull on to start a new trilogy if she so desires, but I still had that sense of resolution. I didn't feel cheated by any shortcuts to finish the book (a common problem for trilogies, I find) nor did I feel like any major questions related to the main thrust of this book were left unanswered.

Bottom line:
I laughed, I cried, I cheered. A Study of Ashes is an amazing book, easily making my top ten for 2013. Read this one.

5 stars
For fans of steampunk, magic and machines, mysteries, political maneuvering, revolution, good books!

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