By R.A. McCandless
Publisher: Ellysian Press
Genre: Steampunk/ Fantasy/ Murder Mystery
Released: May 2019
Rating: 3 stars ⭐⭐⭐
Can I say first, what a gorgeous cover this is? It’s what first attracted me to this novel. And then the title and blurb were very intriguing, too:
Aubrey Hartman left the Imperial battlefields with a pocketful of medals, a fearsome reputation, and a clockwork leg. The Imperium diverts her trip home to investigate the murder of a young druid in a strange town. She is ordered to not only find the killer but prevent a full-scale war with the dreaded Fae. Meanwhile, the arrival of a sinister secret policeman threatens to dig up Aubrey’s own secrets – ones that could ruin her career. It soon becomes clear that Aubrey has powerful enemies with plans to stop her before she gets started. Determined to solve the mystery, Aubrey must survive centaurs, thugs, and a monster of pure destruction.
Sounds good, right? Fae in a steampunk world and a murder mystery. I haven’t read anything from R. A. McCandless before, so I don’t know how this compares to his other two novels, which are urban fantasy. All the ingredients are here, but they just didn’t add up to a tasty enough dish for me.
Aubrey is an engaging protagonist with an interesting backstory and solid detective skills. The clockwork leg is a stroke of genius. I think one of the problems is that I wanted more fantasy and science fiction wonder here. What I got felt more of a police procedural than anything else, despite the speculative elements. You could drop Aubrey into real world Victorian London, replace the druids with priests and the Centaurs with East End thugs and the first two thirds of the story would unfold in much the same way.
The final third begins with more supernatural happenings, but then devolves into so many pages of thinking and dialogue that it loses most of its momentum and tension. The ending wraps things up nicely, but again is too slow and extended.
I still think there are things here to enjoy, and I know that some readers have loved this novel, but it just scrapes in at three stars for me.
I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from #Netgalley, courtesy of Ellysian Press.