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The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow REVIEW

BOOK REVIEW Big Smoke steampunk

Lilith Saintcrow’s Londinium is a very alternate version of London – Victrix, vessel for the spirit Britannia, sits on the throne, the Themis runs through the city, and slightly magically gifted labourers and mechanically Altered people (usually up to no good) people the streets.

Emma Bannon is a top-level sorceress; Archibald Clare a deregistered mentath, a logician above the level of genius (think Holmes and then some). Together they have to piece together who’s killing and mutilating the bodies of other mentaths, and why. They find themselves following a conspiracy that threatens the Queen herself.

At first some of the nearly-there spellings can grate, popping out from the page and disrupting your reading, but as you become used to them they quickly cease to be an annoyance. The plot is strong, with plenty of action, and Saintcrow wastes no time on pointless exposition. You can tell her characters have backstories and she’s thought out her settings thoroughly, but she doesn’t go into details unless they’re required by the story. It’s wonderful to read a book where the author doesn’t expect you to take time out from the narrative to admire their worldbuilding, nor treat you like the sort of fool who needs every little thing pointed out and explained.

There’s also a point to the mechanical devices in this book; unlike so much current pseudo-steampunk this isn’t just fantasy with cogs stuck on. A really good read.

Miriam McDonald

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