A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway – review

By on September 23, 2013


Publisher’s Description:

Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London’s high society. But there’s a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse.
In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch, and sorcery the demon enemy of the empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?

But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.

What I expected:  I expected a steampunk mystery with a bit of magic and maybe a little romance.  I really think these was my only expectations.  I enjoy steampunk, magic, mysteries, and anything historical, so that was all I needed to be interested in reading this one.

What I got:  I got everything I expected with portion changes.  I expected the magic to be much more prevalent – I mean, a talking mouse! – and for the ruthless steam barons to be much more background than they were.  I got a very enjoyable historical mystery with touches of magic, steampunk, and romance.

What I liked:  I liked that the main character desperately did not know what she wanted.  She wanted to be her own person, learn and grow as herself and gain knowledge.  But, she also truly enjoyed the trappings of a society that frowns upon such – this made her seem more real to me.  Us crazy humans tend to always have conflicting desires, and in general we run around trying to assuage them all and generally not succeeding.  I liked the mystery itself; I thought it was well carried out, for the most part.

What I did not:  Love triangles.  Bleah.  They are a waste of paper, time, and energy.  I have no idea why they seem to proliferate in genre fiction like happy little rabbit babies, but I do not enjoy them at all.  I’m on Team Story, thank you very much. Very thankfully, the love triangle in this story was not angsty and full of drama, and as such I was able to basically ignore it as part of the story.  The only other thing that I have cause to complain about is that there was not enough of the magic and technology for my personal tastes and that I felt the onscreen presence of Sherlock Holmes to be unnecessary to the story and more of a crutch than a boon.  I also disagreed with the choice to go with more than one POV.  In this instance, I think the story would have been stronger had Evelina been the only POV.

Cover Talk:  I don’t love the cover – it feels too much like a Victorian version of the urban fantasy leather clad femme fatale for my taste.  But it does give the reader a good idea of what to expect within the covers, and it is not ugly by any means.  It does the job.

Recommendation:  Fans of Sherlock Holmes, historical mysteries, steampunk, and most especially the mix of magic and technology will most likely enjoy this one.  The only caveat here is that there is a bit of a love triangle; I know that many people disdain romantic subplots and love triangles especially, but as I despise love triangles myself, let me assure you that this one is very mild and without an overabundance of angst and drama.  The mystery itself takes center stage with the fascinating bits of steampunkery, and the mild romance is all just background music.

About amberdrake


I'm interested in "A Study in Silks" since I discovered Emma Jane Holloway's site. 

I read your review with great interest and must say you did a great job because your review is really helpful.

I read a lot of books related to the Victorian era, Steampunk, Sherlock Holmes and so on. But I always hesitate when romance comes into play. It seems we have similar opinon when it comes to romance which let me hope that I will enjoy the book as much as you did.

Thank you.