McMaster takes fairly standard romance, mixes in a little steampunk, a little paranormal and creates really great story. I was gripped by this novel from the first few pages and doing anything else went out of the window until I had finished. I think one of the reasons why I was so drawn into the story was that it was set in Whitechapel where I lived for almost 5 years. I enjoyed seeing how McMaster infused steampunk into this historic part of London.
The story starts with the Honoria Todd walking through the streets of Whitechapel on her way home. She is hiding from the Duke of Vickers in the rookeries and has been struggling to support her sister and her ill, younger brother since the death of her father months before. She is summoned to meet the man in charge, Blade who makes an offer that she is unable to refuse. The dangerous and rough talking Blade offers her his protection in exchange for spending three evenings a week giving him elocution and etiquette lessons. This seemed to the reader to being a ridiculously unfair trade but we soon find out Blade has an ulterior motive. He knows that Vickers is searching for Honoria and wants his revenge on the man that infected him with the craving sickness and will do anything to keep her out of the Duke’s hands.
McMaster takes the class structure of Victorian England and overlays with the paranormal including both vampires and werewolves (referred to as verwulfen). She uses the ‘infection’ theory of vampirism as the base for the story both in explaining the history but also, as a reference to recent events. Honoria’s father was researching an immunity to the craving virus but was brutally murdered before this could happen. This is the start of the ruin of the Todd family as Honoria flees her privileged life in the Echelon to hide in the slums of London and live in poverty.
McMaster teases the readers by hinting but not fully explaining the world in which Blade and Honoria live. She keeps the reader engaged in the story by not giving too much away until midway through the book. I was instantly drawn into McMaster’s steampunk version of London and its society. Drip feeding the background and description of the society kept me reading to try to figure out what was going on. McMaster sets the story in more of a Victorian era with just hints of steampunk and paranormal and this is evident in the dialogue and romance scenes. I will admit that I had a little, immature giggle every time I read the words ‘mons’ and ‘quim’ but that was all part of the charm of the story.
McMaster’s kicks up the suspense and intrigue with a vampire on the loose in Whitechapel horrifically killing Honoria’s neighbours all while her brother gets sicker and Vicker gets closer to discovering where she is. All of this happens as Blade and Honoria become closer and more attracted to each other. There is of course, secrets exposed, truths uncovered and the inevitable confrontation with the evil Vickers but I don’t want to give away the whole plot. My one criticism was that the plot was quite predictable and I guessed quite early on what was going to happen next. I think this is where it leaned a bit more towards being more PNR than pure steampunk. I don’t normally get so absorbed in books that are so heavy on romance but I really enjoyed the world in which McMaster created for this story.
If you are a PNR fan and fancy a bit of steampunk then this is the book for you. McMaster creates a fantastic world in which to base her story and characters that you really root for the entire whole through. I was hooked from the first few pages and found it almost impossible to put down. Looking forward to seeing if McMaster can keep my attention in the rest of the series.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Kiss of Steel
- Heart of Iron
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