Unseemly Science by Rod Duncan (review)

It’s 2009, almost 200 years after The British Revolutionary War, also called The Second English Civil War or The Luddite Revolution.  Steam power along with Victorian values and dress are still the norm, medical sciences have not greatly advanced, and the Patent Office is all powerful in the Gas-Lit Empire.

Title: Unseemly Science

Author: Rod Duncan

Publisher: Angry Robot Books, New York NY, 2015

Source Copy: free ebook courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley

This second entry in The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series is well worth the read.  Elizabeth Barnabus, intelligence gatherer and fugitive from justice, returns as the narrator and main character.  Also returning are various characters including Julia Swain, now more friend than pupil and proving herself to be a worthy partner in intrigue for Elizabeth.

Unseemly Science picks up some few months after the end of The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, with Elizabeth again dressed as her twin brother on her way to see a hanging.  Death is an even more prevalent theme this time, and Elizabeth’s peril seems even greater as political machinations threaten to send her back to the Kingdom and into the clutches of the Duke of Northampton.

Entanglements ensue with avaricious solicitors, too good to be true do-gooders, ice farmers, doctors and various ruffians, as well as a certain officer of the Patent Office.  The art of disguise again figures largely in Elizabeth’s plans and schemes, with climactic scenes even more dramatic, brutal and tense than the first.  And while the various storylines are well written and nicely tied up at the end, room is left in Elizabeth’s situation and relationships for a further sequel (or two, or three…).

5 out of 5 stars with a high recommendation to anyone who has read the first book of the series.  If not, I would definitely recommend they be read in order.  Great for fans of Steampunk, character and plot-driven stories, alternate history, mystery, or a well-written adventure tale.

Oh, and again with the cover… If viewed large enough, you will notice that the background is a wall of ice.  In the foreground are two men in top-hats, which immediately reminded me of a scene in book one where two Patent Office agents appear wearing the same hats.  It was only in viewing the cover as a thumbnail that I spotted how the various components were placed together, not just reflecting the symmetry between the Republic and the Kingdom, but also forming a skull.

This review refers to a free ebook copy read courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.


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