Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Should You Read It: Yes
Orphan Christopher Buckley, a well-mannered and mild young man, must take a job as an assistant to a private detective (called a Deathsniffer) in order to support and protect his magically-talented younger sister. The Deathsniffer is Olivia Faraday, an extremely odd persona in the vein of Sherlock Holmes. Together they must solve the murder of a prominent upper-class man in a world where elemental beings from another plane are used to power a Victorian city slowly turning to chaos.
- Incredible Worldbuilding. Extremely dangerous “elementals” are used to power everything from toilets to lamps. The world is revealed naturally, and I want to see so much more, especially since this elementally-powered system is falling into decline (and it’s starting to get people killed). Also, all of this world’s people have some innate magical talent, which is categorized at age nineteen and used to place them in society.
- Unique Genre. This book is what would happen if you took the multiple worlds depicted within the His Dark Materials trilogy (e.g. The Golden Compass) and made them into a single place, and then threw in Sherlock Holmes. Victorian England mysteries mix with superhuman abilities mix with magical beasts.
- An Underlying Storyline. There is more going on underneath this world than the murder being solved, and I look forward to future books in the series. The Buckley’s personal tale is closely tied with several murders and a heightened political atmosphere.
- Compelling Characters. All of the characters see development in this first book, and I enjoy their company despite a few cliché bits here and there.
- Unnecessary Prologue. Starting a book off with up-in-the-air dialogue rather than solid images is ill-advised, and the scene itself adds nothing to the story. If you read samples before buying books, I would suggest starting with the first chapter to get an accurate idea of the book’s value.
- Line Editing Needed. This book has so many errors, all ones that are easy to see and to fix. I am disappointed that McIntyre herself couldn’t find most of them. It stops being distracting, however, very early on (and trust me, I’m a stickler; so if I’m not distracted, you won’t be either).
- Inept and Unexplained Detective Character. I get the feeling the author doesn’t really know how real investigations work. The assistant Christopher accidentally and conveniently supplies all of the leads while the Deathsniffer herself neglects to thoroughly question the people closest to the case until it is too late. Also, Olivia’s innate magic ability, called “truthsniffing,” is never explained; I can’t tell if she really has magic like most people do, or if she’s just a regular old-fashioned detective.
THE LAST WORD
If the author hired an editor which could help her cut the word count, typos, and detective plot-holes, this book would be an easy 5/5… but as it stands, my expectations for a boutique-press book were wildly exceeded, and despite my high standards, I could not put it down.