Book Review: The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan

Title: The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter

Author: Rod Duncan

Publisher: Angry Robot, New York NY, 2014, paperback, 373 pgs.

Copy Source: purchased at Barnes & Noble

Rod Duncan writes good Steampunk.  Character and story are foremost, with this first-person narrative.  Elizabeth Barnabus, raised in a circus in the Kingdom of England & Southern Wales, was forced to flee to the Anglo-Scottish Republic at the age of fourteen.  Disguised as her twin brother, she leads a double life.  A male intelligence gatherer by night, the devoted sister who tutors a young lady, Julia Swain, in law at night.

As the story opens, Elizabeth receives a commission to find the missing brother of a Kingdom aristocrat.  Soon, she not only has to contend with being pursued by agents of the all-powerful Patent Office, but the members of a traveling circus as well.

The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter is a mystery, an adventure, and the tale of an orphaned young woman who must find her way in a world were women have less rights than men, and the law is not above corruption.  And there are plenty of Steampunk machines and technology in use, legal and otherwise.

Without story, your illusion is but trickery and hoax.  With story

it is transmuted into magic.  That is the greatest risk of all.

                                                      -The Bullet-Catcher’s Handbook*

Rod Duncan does seem to mix up a bit of magic here.  Each chapter, but one, begins with a tantalizing quote from The Bullet-Catcher’s Handbook.  Elizabeth, as she witnesses or performs an illusion, clues us in to a bit of the trickster’s art.  At the very start of the story, even the reader may be unsure of what is real and what illusion.  And even those steeped in the art since birth may be fooled, or charmed into looking aside.

5 out of 5 stars.  Definitely recommended for those who enjoy Steampunk, alternate histories (I was surprised and tickled by a reference to Alice’s looking glass), circus tales, mystery, and adventure.  I am greatly looking forward to the second book in The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series, Unseemly Science, which I was lucky enough to receive an ebook review copy of from NetGalley.

Oh, and the cover, I almost forgot to mention the cover.  I’m not a fan of bullets, usually, but that is perhaps one of the coolest covers I have on my shelves. If I ever run across a like-new hardcover at a reasonable price, I just might replace my trade paperback copy so I can shelve a larger version of this cover, face-out.

*Duncan, The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, pg. 209


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