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Selkie Cove (The Ingenious Mechanical Devices Book 5) Kindle Edition
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As a super-fan of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series from the start, I was in eager anticipation of the latest volume. I found this one to not be a disappointment, and to remain in author Kara Jorgensen's literary style of modern thought and angst set in the colder, more rigid structure of late Victorian England. Some might find steampunk novels set in England to be a tad wearisome. At times, so do I. But with Miss Jorgensen you get a fresh stamp on the era, and on steampunk, for she staked her ground back in Book One. IMD would be daring adventure and gaslamp fantasy, but it would tackle head on the social prejudices of the times.
We return to the escapades of Immanuel Winter (my favorite) and his partner Adam Fenice. I loathe spoilers, even small ones, but let's say their union is a big part of their struggle as a team, and in society. It makes for an intense struggle as they are caught up in another mystery from the dark corners of the world. Mind you, they are still coming to grips with the tortures and woes from earlier volumes, put together very well in Selkie Cove. I chewed up this book in one evening, feeling as if I were imbibing an Agatha Christie novel welded with the fantasies of C.S Lewis. These young protagonists go off on an adventure, and it was nice to see them choose it a opposed to it being forced on them. Jorgensen takes us to a new setting by the sea, introduces us to some new characters (A hint, a pinch, of Lovecraft shows through in this region) and our protagonists quickly get caught up in strange creatures (not a spoiler. It's in the title) and small town secrecy. I loved every bit and every word.
Some people who read novels nowadays are enraged by the level of personal tragedy in protagonists. Some want our heroes to be fearless, soulless, indomitable. I'm in the middle. I see the benefit of both. In Selkie Cove, we get a fine, even sense of each character's individual strengths and weaknesses, as well as a very interesting explanation of how and why Immanuel and Adam are stronger together.
Now, I am not a fan of mysticism or magic, for I long ago tired of the Tolkien clones, but IMD gives me enough of a slant on the fantasy genre to hook me. I find the powers of Immanuel a great twist, especially with broader uses for earlier contraptions such as the vivalabe, the explanation of the selkies, and the shadowy organization which investigates these matters. Adding to that, if the previous books were more akin to the dark, murky middle, as in a movie trilogy, then Selkie Cove comes off more like a fine finale, as much brightness as there is murky uncertainty. Immanuel finds his footing in this one, becomes a man as it were, and Adam himself struggles to cope with his own life and past. These are brilliantly displayed, and one would think Jorgensen was made up of worlds of pain herself, or a good recorder of it, to put such deep sufferings into the printed word. But by the end, heroes are forged, intrepid adventurers with a defined place in this strange steampunk landscape. I say well done again. If you need a series, need thrills, action, drama, the weird, read IMD. Take the train and the ferry to Selkie Cove. Bring a heavy blanket, a vivalabe, and high spirits.
Like always, Jorgensen paints a vivid narrative that makes the readers feel as if they are visiting Seolh-wiga Island themselves. The island acts almost as a character, working against Immanuel and Adam with its unpredictable weather and mysterious features. The setting made for an interesting break from smoggy London.
Another strong element is how Jorgensen marries science, magic, and folkore. Though one would expect these components to contradict, Jorgensen uses them all to propel the plot, without bogging down the readers with complicated or unnecessary explanations.
As for Immanuel and Adam, both characters tackle important inner conflicts. While Immanuel has taken the spotlight in previous books, in Selkie Cove, the readers receive Adam's perspective as well. I enjoyed this deeper look into Adam and empathized with his internal struggles with his homosexuality, societal expectations, and his career. I also appreciated Adam taking a more active role in the plot.
While I liked Selkie Cove, I think it might be my least favorite of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series (though, that's like a chocolate lover picking their least favorite chocolate from the box). At times, the plot seemed a little slow, and I guessed most of the twists before they happened. Likewise, I preferred the more dramatic perspective shifts of the other books, and often had to re-read scenes when vague pronouns made it difficult to know which of our protagonists was acting or speaking.
Subjectivity aside, Selkie Cove is a beautifully detailed, imaginative novel that perfectly marries elements of steampunk, magic, and folklore. Seolh-wiga Island makes a compelling and gorgeously gloomy backdrop for the murder mystery, as well as Immanuel and Adam's inner conflicts. Highly recommended for fans of steampunk, gaslamp fantasy, and historical fantasy.
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