Series: The Baskerville Affair #1
Published by Del Ray on September 24, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk
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Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London’s high society. But there’s a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse.
In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch, and sorcery the demon enemy of the empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?
But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.
I really enjoyed reading A Study in Silks, and I adored the clever blend of steampunk with magic. So often when the mash-up is tried it doesn’t mix seamlessly, but in this case it did. Evelina, as you will quickly learn when you start reading the novel, grew up in the circus and was taught how to make use of magic. However, magic is frowned upon, so when she left behind the circus to slip into high society, she hid that side of herself. Instead, she begins to tinker with clockwork and small mechanical toys. These mechanical toys play a surprisingly large role in the novel, of course, as they are mixed with Evelina’s magic in order to create something new.
Now, what I wasn’t too fond of is how everyone was hyper-aware. Whenever someone entered a new place everything was catalogued. It seems like Emma Jane Holloway used this as a device in order to describe the surroundings, unfortunately it didn’t work that well in my eyes. To me, this hyper-awareness is more of a Sherlock Holmes thing. It’s why he’s such a successful detective, after all. He is so aware and observant. I could understand (and truly enjoy!) Evelina being the same, but when every character is doing this it became too much.
For those looking for Evelina to be the one solving the mystery, you may have to hope for that in the next novel. While Evelina brings together some of the clues, it is Sherlock who puts it all together in order to solve the mystery. I hope that in the next novel it is Evelina who solves the case, as she is the character I am most interested in right now.
Evelina is torn between two men, Nick and Tobias, one was her childhood sweetheart while the other is the brother of her dearest friend. The love triangle could have been overdone, but it wasn’t. Evelina and Nick both know that they can never truly be together, and Tobias is only just starting to explore his very real feelings for Evelina. By the end of the novel it still isn’t clear who Evelina will end up with in the end, but we still have at least one more book in the series, so there is time for the relationships to develop some more.
The secondary characters were also fascinating, and they felt fleshed out, instead of being simple cardboard cutouts, which is always refreshing to read. I love reading about people, after all, and this was a fantastic example of how to include secondary characters well. A Study in Silks gets off to a slower start, and it felt almost plodding in places, but it picked up steam as it went and then it was full speed ahead into a glorious conclusion that made for a fantastic novel.