Reading Level: Adult
Size: 373 pages
Release Date: September 7, 2010
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in Burton and Swinburne series
Source: Audiobook from Audible.com
Rating: 3/5 stars
This is the first book in the Burton and Swinbrune series by Hodder. There are two more books released in this series after this one: The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man and Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon. The fourth book in this series is scheduled to release in August of 2013.
I listened to this on audiobook and the audiobook was well done. The narrator did an excellent job of distinguishing between different character voices. The narrator’s voice was very English and did an excellent job of blending with the story setting.
Sir Richard Francis Burton is an explorer extraordinaire. His most recent expedition has left his reputation in tatters and his partner from the expedition is in grave condition. When he is given a chance to serve as the King’s agent in the case of Spring Heeled Jack, he is eager to prove his worth. At his side is Algernon Charles Swinburne, a failed poet who finds pain a most delightful pastime.
I enjoyed all the steampunk elements and the interesting world, but had a lot of trouble engaging with the characters. I also thought the plot was a bit scattered and wrapped up too conveniently.
Burton is a bit too perfect of a character, he pretty much excels at everything. He is portrayed as a noble and misunderstood hero of discovery. He excels at languages, fighting, scholarly pursuits, mesmerism, and pretty much everything he does. He is so perfect that I honestly had trouble liking him at all.
Swinburne is an odd character. He has no sense of fear and follows de Sade, meaning he finds pleasure in pain. He does a good job of balancing out Burton’s melodrama with his plucky personality. But I also found him kind of irritating and naive.
One of the most fascinating characters is Spring Heeled Jack. He has a very interesting back story and what starts out as a trip to change history a tiny bit ends up forcing Spring Heeled Jack into a descent into madness.
The plot is a bit scattered. There are a number of factions and groups of people that are seemingly involved in separate events. By the end of the book it all ties together but in a fairly convoluted way. It all worked out and made sense, but the process of getting there was scattered and at times a bit hard to follow. I got a bit weary of the time travel aspects to the plotline….time travel gets too complicated and convoluted.
The first part of the book is told primarily from Burton’s POV. The last third is told mainly from Spring Heeled Jack’s POV. This worked fairly well for the story.
It was an interesting read and very creative. It is well enough written. Things wrap up fairly well. The epilogue starts the next storyline.
Overall this was a decent steampunk read. I enjoyed the world, thought the plot was a bit scattered, and had some trouble engaging with the characters. Some of the story was intriguing but by the end I just wanted to be done with the book. I am unsure right now as to whether or not I will read the next book in this series.
I would tentatively recommend this book to steampunk fans who don’t mind quirky (and slightly annoying) characters. I would more strongly recommend A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz, Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series or Meljean Brooke’s Iron Seas series (which has more romance than the others but also an incredibly well done steampunk world).