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The Dark Victorian: Risen Kindle Edition
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I had fun re-reading this novella this past weekend. When I originally read it I wasn't writing reviews and, of course, hadn't read the entire series yet nor was I familiar at all with the fabulous writer Elizabeth Watasin. So, I'm adding some extra notes to give it its proper due.
First off, this is a novella that really is the setup and teaser to a much larger story. On my first read through, I was disappointed that it ended so quickly but I didn't understand at the time it wasn't a full novel so that's on me.
Also, this story is a bit like stepping off a cliff. The combination of Victorian London with paranormal elements with an injection of steampunk, large cast, strange language, and a dark mystery had my head spinning. I haven't read anything like it before or since and there's an adjustment period to take in the new world that Watasin creates.
The story is mainly told through the point of view of Artifice, a woman brought back to life to become a new agent in the Secret Commission, a branch of law-enforcement that deals with paranormal crime.
The book contains mysteries on numerous levels, one of which is Artifice herself. For, you see, the agents of the Secret Commission were all previously criminals in their former lives who met their end at the gallows. When the agents are risen, they do not recall any of their history, and the fact that we soon come to realize that Artifice is a kind-hearted, pacifist Quaker who is now a crime-fighting ghost gives her and us a big question of why and how she came to be.
Add that Art's seasoned partner agent is a talking skull in a top hat who speaks in strange lingo, welcome to bizarro world of the best kind.
The main feel of the book is a paranormal mystery and Artifice is basically a Victorian super-hero. In this caper, she and Jim Dastard (the skull) are on the trail of zombie-like children viciously murdering people in the streets of London.
This is not a romance but the lesfic element comes in from Artifice being a woman loving woman sapphic lead...and she's not the lone one in the story.
What I also love about Watasin's work, in addition to the crazy imagination, is the breadth of amazingly strong and interesting female characters she writes. Though Artifice is the lead, by no means is she the only powerful and intriguing character. It's truly a lovely cast.
If this sounds like something up your alley, take a read and definitely get book two (Dark Victorian: Bones) as, again, this first novella is really just a taste of greater things to come.
3.5 stars. I felt like the story was too short but it was really imaginative. Another reviewer said it took a little while to get into the groove of how Art spoke, in particular, and I agree with that. It's worth sticking with, though. I liked the character of Art a lot and the supporting cast. I felt the 2nd book in the series was much better but this is a good book to read to get a feel for Art and the world she lives in. Recommend reading.
How could you anyone resist a premise like that?
The Dark Victorian, Risen by Elizabeth Watasin tells a wonderfully gothic, gritty, and intriguing story, full of real-world Victorian values, thrilling dangers, deep mysteries, and otherworldly adventure.
Artifice the ghost, and Jim Dastard the skull, are agents of the mysterious "Prince Albert's Secret Commission." Both of our heroes were executed for the crimes of their previous life. Now they have both been brought back to half-life and put into the service of the state. But while they have no conscious memory of their previous incarnation, some things of Artifice's past are seeping out of the shadows now to haunt her... Meanwhile, there's a necromancer running around, raising dead children and sending them out to kill their parents.
Mysteries abound in the shadows of these cold, fogy, London streets. If you're in the mood for something chilling, thrilling, and unique, then give this brilliant novella a try! You can even read a sample of it on Goodreads, right now!
Interestingly, without having read any of Watasin's previous work as a graphic novelist, for me this book felt as if it were conceived as a graphic novel and then translated into prose. There's something about it that lends itself well to the imagining of illustrated panels, as opposed to imagining 3D action. I don't know if it's the dialogue coupled with the uneven descriptions, or what.
Things were finally getting more interesting when the narrative shifted to the Skycourt sisters, and then POOF! Book over. I'm not sure whether I'll continue the series. I liked this alright, but didn't love it. In any case, it's an ambitious series starter with lots of potential and will definitely please many fans of steampunk -- especially queer steampunk, of which there is not enough in the world!