I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway
Series: The Baskerville Affair #1
Published by Del Ray on 24 September 2013
A Study in Silks is a fascinating blend of steampunk, magic and mystery. This is one adventure in the life of Sherlock Holmes’ niece, Evelina Cooper. Most young ladies would be obsessed with their first Season and being presented to the Queen – Eve on the other hand decides to investigate a maid’s murder in her best friend’s house. Murder, conspiracies, lost treasure and mayhem abound.
Eve is quite an unusual heroine. Her background means that she straddles two worlds, not quite belonging to either. One side of her family are circus folk, while the other are respectable and genteel. From the former she inherited her skill with magic, a talent she must conceal to avoid certain death, and from the skills to negotiate society. Eve is brave, loyal and at times foolhardy. She is fortunate to possess a healthy dose of luck otherwise she never would have escaped all the scrapes she has a habit of getting into. Blending her magic and skill with mechanics, Eve created a bird and a mouse that she uses as spies. They provide a touch of whimsy to her investigating.
Eve has two suitors – Niccolo the knife thrower from her former life at the circus and Tobias, the brother of her best friend. Each represents part of her personality as she has magic in common with Nick and a love of building things with Tobias. If she could somehow combine them into Tobick then I think she would have the perfect man. Both unfortunately keep secrets from her and don’t necessarily act in her best interests. All three of them are still quite young and lack purpose so I hope she doesn’t end up with either of them…yet.
Initially I was turned off by the five different points of view, especially when multiple characters described the same scene. The more I got into the novel though, the more I appreciated the skill it required to keep each voice distinct and layer nuance upon nuance. I often had to read a few lines before I worked out whose head I was inhabiting – a simple heading at the top of the chapter would have been welcome. The pace is quite slow but sticking with it is worthwhile, if for no other reason than the fascinating world. Steam barons rule Victorian England and all who oppose them are ‘removed’. The barons’ political machinations are distinctly Machiavellian and thoroughly entertaining.
There is a lot to like about this book but I suggest you leave it until you have some time to savour it properly. Like an onion (or ogre) it has lots of layers just waiting to be uncovered.