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I’m not going to rehash the plot, because the description given is accurate. Gaslamp fantasy noir pretty much sums up the mood of the story, too.
The problem I had while I was reading this novella is that I didn’t really feel connected to the main character, Alexander Drake. Granted, this is a novella, and the author doesn’t have a lot of room within the story for either world building or character development. I’ve read other novellas where I did get more invested in the characters, though, so I don’t think the length of the story is entirely the issue here. I think there was just too much happening (including a meeting with a crime lord who played no real role in the plot), and the characterization suffered.
Because I didn’t care all that much about Alexander, I had a harder time immersing myself in the action. There is a fair amount of that, including one lengthy chase scene involving a carriage that wouldn’t be out of place in an action movie. (I’m pretty sure the action described couldn’t actually happen, though. This may be a fantasy, but the laws of physics should probably still apply.)
It seemed like the author was setting up the character and the world in this novella, and there are likely to be more stories from her featuring both. I’ll give them a try, to see if Alexander grows on me as a character, but this novella was just an OK read for me.
An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Author – Willow Palecek
Star rating - ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 96
Cover – Stunning!
POV – 1st person, 1 character POV
Would I read it again – Yes.
Genre – Crime, Alternative History, Shifter
** COPY RECEIVED THROUGH NETGALLEY **
I really enjoyed this one. It's very “Hound of the Baskervilles”, which is one of my all time favourite novels.
So, normally I'm not a huge fan of 1st person, especially when the character talks to the reader, but somehow this one worked. It felt a little like a Penny Dreadful and had the definite mix of adventure, supernatural and crime that lent an air of Victoriana charm and Classic Crime elegance to the story.
I loved the way that Victorian England was seamlessly mixed into the supernatural world, with a complete alternative history of the War of the Wolves. Drake, as a main character, was a really interesting character to follow and the kind of rough, loveable rogue that we all love from Victorian crime stories. Someone who is of the people, for the people and yet is just a little reprehensible.
I could easily see the author digging this character back up for a few more novellas, especially continuing the story begun here. I would read them all, without a second of hesitation.
As, I noted, this is an alternate history. It is based on perhaps a smash-up of Scottish history and English history with the paranormal elements of magic and more tossed in for good measure. Alexander Drake fought for the loyalist cause and they lost. Now he is scraping a living as an investigator. He could work for the government as one of their detectives just as he could take cases involving the nobility which would both pay vastly more than the pittance he earns on uninteresting cases, but he's had bad experiences with both and wants to just live his life without the trouble that comes from tangling with his supposed betters.
But, unfortunately, if he wants room and board and to stay out of debtor's prison, he must take this latest case involving the death of an aristocrat and a missing will. As soon as he takes the case, someone would rather him not find out the truth. Drake has a time of it staying one step ahead of the government investigator and also the shadowy nemesis trying to stop him for good.
Alright, this was a novella so it clipped along pretty well. I was immediately taken with the main character, Alexander Drake. He's the underdog who is cynical and somewhat disillusioned, but he has a code of morality and he is loyal. He might take the short cut to get there, but he is honorable in his own way.
I enjoyed the introduction to Alexander's world. It is the British empire essentially- there is a monarchy, a government, a class system, and regional types that are familiar, but there is also the known use of magic, a little gadgetry, and another surprise element that I'll not mention by name so as not to spoil things.
The mystery was moderately challenging though I figured out quite a bit well before the end. That said, there were a few surprises and it was great following along with Alexander as he tracked down the trail of clues and did his 'voila' at the end. But that last jangling line of reveal at the end is what has me believing that there is oh so much more to come. I did have one niggle about the mystery in that I couldn't remember the story making clear why the victim chose to do what he did. Again, I wonder if that is part of what might come after this one. I knew who killed the victim and who was after Drake, but in the victim's case, the 'why' was murky.
So, whether this was the start of something more or it's own shorter story, I still had a pretty good time with an engaging main character, worldbuilding, and suspense plot. I would recommend it for those who like a blend of history, mystery, urban fantasy, and steampunk.
I received this book from Net Galley in exchange of an honest review.
Most recent customer reviews
This was a short very fast read.Read more
Hmmm. An interesting short and I believe a fun introduction to what could be a fantastic new series.Read more
CITY OF WOLVES is an enjoyable novella. I loved the main character, the sense of humor, and the world building, but I...Read more
Tight writing is part of this succinct novella that explores the realm of gaslight fantasy.
Intrigue and nobility, with werewolves and the death of a Lord.Read more