- File Size: 1025 KB
- Print Length: 314 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (February 16, 2015)
- Publication Date: February 16, 2015
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00TEPZAMU
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #737,383 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Digital List Price:||$6.99|
|Print List Price:||$17.99|
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The Gilded Scarab (Lancaster's Luck Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 314 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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The aged Queen Victoria still lives, and rules a vast Imperium Britannicum without benefit of Parliament. Instead, her aristocracy is divided into corporate “houses” bound by blood and money, each of them somewhere between the family houses of the “Dune” novels and the mafia clans of “The Godfather” books. While the houses rule the empire largely through business and financial manipulation, there is rather more assassination going on than is strictly comforting. Londinium is still mostly recognizable, but for the fact that horses and other pre-technological notions have been replaced by cold fusion, phlogiston and aether as power sources. A nod to H.G. Wells reminds us of the setting and the author’s mindfulness of precisely what she is doing.
The central character, through whose damaged eyes we see Butler’s fantasy world, is Rafe Lancaster, black sheep of a cadet branch of a minor house. Bereft of the aerofighter career that had made his name in the Queen’s army, Lancaster quietly returns to Londinium (indeed the original Roman name for that city) and tries to build a new life for himself. Soon after his return, he spends one night with a beautiful man in an elegant Covent Garden molly house – a discreet place for men seeking male companionship – and then finds a haven in a run-down coffee house by the Museum Britannicum. The action of the book is surprisingly small in focus, and all of it derives from these two moments in Lancaster’s rebuilt life.
Butler is as careful with language as she is with seemingly minor details. The names of the various houses smack of pre-modern England, suggesting their antiquity and their sources in the mists of history post-1066. This is a world where everyone speaks English, but in which street signs still use Latin. Butler gets the feel of the place and the time, right down to a visit to Garrard’s, the royal jewelers. This is not grandstanding; it roots the narrative in a kind of authenticity that makes the steampunk fantasy flow logically into the historical framework. There are times when the dialogue veers into more modern idiom, but the author is careful to maintain the tone of Sherlock Holmes (who does NOT appear anywhere here, because, after all, he was fictional) so as not to break the spell of her skillful world-building.
In the end, this is a romance. It is about Rafe Lancaster’s discovery of love in a way he never anticipated, in a world he is trying to re-learn. There is a very Victorian approach to love here, very old-fashioned and genteel – even in the context of molly houses and illegal homosexuality. And yet, through it all, Anna Butler gives her readers a very modern vision: a world where love will find a way and change a man’s life.
I really enjoyed the blend of romance, mystery, and steampunk/science fiction that The Gilded Scarab brought to the table. Rafe is a service pilot that can no longer fly due to wounds to his eyes and he's left floundering trying to discover what the next stage of life will be. When he discovers a coffeehouse on one of his jaunts, he didn't expect it change his life but that's what it does. I have to admit that even though I loved the blend of romance and mystery set in the alternate history that Anna Butler has created, I would liked to have seen a bit more time spent on the steampunk factor throughout the story. Having said that, I loved the character study of Rafe, watching him evolve from pilot to citizen to coffeehouse owner and yet he never lost sight of his values, even when he had to accept financial help from his House, which was the last thing he wanted to do. This is the first Anna Butler story I've read but I can honestly say it won't be the last.