This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

28 September, 2012


Cover image: Steward Noack/Don Sipley
Cover design: Lauren Panepinto


ISBN: 978-0-356-50143-7
Pages: 342 +extras
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 5 July 2012

On the cover:


She’s the undead matriarch of a Britain where the Aristocracy is made up of werewolves and vampires, where goblins live underground and mothers know better than to let their children out after dark. A world where technology lives side by side with magic, where being nobility means being infected with the Plague (side-effects include undeath) and Hysteria is the popular affliction of the day.

Xandra Vardan is a member of the elite Royal Guard, and it’s her duty to protect the Aristocracy. But things get complicated when her sister goes missing. Xandra will not only realise she’s the prize in a dangerous power struggle – but she’ll also uncover a conspiracy that threatens to topple the empire itself.

   This novel stretches the usual Steampunk setting into the present day. But it is not the present day as we know it, but an Alternate History present day that is the home to the denizens we are with familiar seeing in Victorian times.
   The setting itself is pretty much what you would expect from a Steampunk novel that has the werewolves and vampires from modern Urban Fantasy, but that doesn't mean that this is a formulaic novel. There are lots of great ideas here, and Locke manages to take the elements that make up the novel and make a very entertaining story out of them.

   Locke puts a very nice twist on the origin of werewolves and vampires that I found very interesting. In fact he whole worldbuilding is very nicely done, there's much history too it, and it has many very interesting elements. There's actually quite a bit to take in here, and that is something I really appreciated. It shows that Locke can create a vivid world, and has the skill to make it come alive on the page.

   The characters are also done in a realistic fashion. Xandra comes especially alive, and we get a very good insight into her. That events take her to places that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable to her adds to both her depth and her strength. She's a strong female, who is both special, and for what she is, also feels realistic. Xandra is definitely a character who is worth spending some time with.
   Supporting Xandra are quite a few diverse characters, along with some historic persons who add to the realistic feel of the novel. All of these are well realised, and are interesting in their own right. They never feel like they exist just to be "scenery" for the main character.

   On to the story. Locke gives us a story that has action and mystery from the start. Central to it is a conspiracy that Xandra is thrown into. Along the way there are lots of twist and turns, the pace is fast and there is plenty of tension.
   Locke is very good at getting the balance been a fast pace and the building of tension. There is a sense of never quite being in the know that runs through the whole novel, and as we learn more we get dragged into the events. There's a real sense of the story developing before our eyes, and being taken along for the ride. And it is a thoroughly entertaining journey to go on.

    This is a very good example of the Steampunk/Urban Fantasy crossover genre done right. The setting is well developed enough to satisfy fans of Alternate History, and the werewolf/vampire elements will be great for fans of that type of Urban Fantasy.
   Locke has created a great world, and some great characters well worth spending time with. And I look forward to future installments in this series.

LINKS: Kate Locke  Orbit

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