- Series: Gideon Smith (Book 3)
- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (October 13, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765334267
- ISBN-13: 978-0765334268
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,827,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper Paperback – October 13, 2015
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The legend of Jack the Ripper is something Barnett has been teasing since the first book, so it's nice to finally come back to it and find out what it's all about. It's not the identity of the Ripper that's most intriguing however, but how he fits into the lives of Gideon, Maria, Aloysius, Rowena, and the rest. There are layers upon layers of mystery here, with each revelation casting larger shadows on the others, and the final reveal a legitimately shocking twist.
Overall, this is a very different story than the first two books, almost more laid back and traditional - if any story featuring Jack the Ripper, an clockwork girl, and a T-rex in the sewers can be considered traditional. It's not nearly as over-the-top, doesn't add anything to the steampunk aspect, and remains firmly rooted in the streets of London. Having said all that, it's an incredibly tense tale, one that has Gideon Smith missing, Rowena Fanshawe on trial for murder, and Inspector Lestrade dealing with a prostitute strike on top of the Ripper's murders.
What we do get here is a great deal of character development, most of it revolving around questions of identity. Maria's search for humanity is a driving force of the story, fueled by her love for Gideon, and given surprising direction by Inspector Lestrade's secret love, who has identity issues of her own. Gideon's amnesia, of course, offers up another search for identity, both as a man and as Hero of the Empire, while the situation with Jack the Ripper forces Aloysius Bent to confront some aspects of his own identity. Most importantly, though, her arrest, trial, and resulting revelations about her past cause Rowena Fanshawe to completely redefine her identity, even if that's not necessarily good news for the empire.
As intriguing and mysterious as either of the first two adventures, what Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper lacks in adventurous fun, it makes up for in its character development. We don't get a true cliffhanger this time around, but a wide open ending that leaves a lot of possibilities for Barnett to explore in future volumes.
But the main drawback is the ennui that the book exudes. "Everyone is evil, and we are the worst of the lot." seems to be the meme. But the quote from the book that went something like, "Men, the source of all of womens problems since the beginning of time" just kind of made me think that the author was looking for points from the feminists in the crowd, and in a cheap sort of manner.
It just seems sophomoric and not in a penny dreadful sort of way. When Bent comes across as the most human character in the book you have a problem.
Thus you have to know how thrilled I was when this latest volume arrived in the mail. I couldn’t wait to open it to the first chapter and learn what new perils would befall the stalwart Gideon, his sweetheart automaton, Maria, the daring Belle of the Airways, Rowena Fanshawe and the humorous, tubby journalist, Mr. Aloysius Bent. And to my utter delight, writer Barnett waste not a single paragraph in launching this new tale in which our heroes must deal with a bizarre version of Jack the Ripper, Rowena framed for murder and put on trial while Gideon has his memory stolen by an evil hypnotist who is hunting Maria for nefarious ends.
Whereas I’d love to urge all of you to go out and buy this entertaining book, honesty compels me to dissuade those of you who have yet to read the first two volumes. Of course Barnett does provide background exposition on what has gone before as he pulls as along this new adventure. But the truth remains that he has invented way too many wonderful characters to believe these brief glimpses into their individual histories will suffice to clarify what is going on here. That is a fallacy as “Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper” is a continuation of what has gone before and the evolution of each principle character as each of them face life altering threats to their lives and to those they have come to love and protect.
The prime example in this deft evolution is Maria the Mechanical Girl. At this juncture of her story, we see her come to grips with being able to accept her solitary uniqueness and what it will mean to her relationship with Gideon. Can an automaton love and be loved, in all its aspects, both spiritually and physically? Whereas Rowena Fanshawe finds her own life tossed about on the vagaries of soulless political interests willing to sacrifice her rather then expose the government’s own sins. Heady stuff for a steampunk thriller, but just another complex element that weaves through a dazzling fun adventure I couldn’t put down. It is perhaps the best book in the series thus far and ends on dramatic finale that suggests possible future plot avenues.
Now comes the hard part; waiting for that next installment.