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A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway – review
As part of her devil’s bargain with the industrial steam barons, Evelina Cooper is finally enrolled in the Ladies’ College of London. However, she’s attending as the Gold King’s pet magician, in handcuffs and forbidden contact with even her closest relation, the detective Sherlock Holmes.
Not even Niccolo, the dashing pirate captain, and his sentient airship can save her. But Evelina’s problems are only part of a larger war. The Baskerville Affair is finally coming to light, and the rebels are making their move to wrest power from the barons and restore it to Queen Victoria. Missing heirs and nightmare hounds are the order of the day—or at least that’s what Dr. Watson is telling the press.
But their plans are doomed unless Evelina escapes to unite her magic with the rebels’ machines—and even then her powers aren’t what they used to be. A sorcerer has awakened a dark hunger in Evelina’s soul, and only he can keep her from endangering them all. The only problem is…he’s dead.
What I expected: Since this is the third in a series, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect – mystery, magic, Sherlock Holmes, Steam Baron politics, gadgets, and a touch of romance.
What I got: I got exactly what I expected in the form of an entertaining story.
What I liked: As with the first two, I enjoyed that Evelina is smart and clever but not all-seeing or all-knowing and therefore makes mistakes and has normal doubts and fears. I enjoyed the steampunk aspects as much as the magic, and, of course, the mysteries keep the narrative moving along. I was also glad that the romance aspects were settled – there was no triangle of drama to muck up the works.
What I did not: For the most part there was not anything that really annoyed me or I felt was done poorly except for one thing. The starting scene, in my opinion, was not only out of character for the main but unnecessary to the overall plot; there were other easy ways to accomplish that goal.
Cover talk: It is pretty, it fits the theme, and is branded well with the first two. Full marks on this one.
Recommendation? Definitely read this if you’ve read the first two, and if you haven’t and magical steampunk London with cameos by Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson sounds interesting to you, definitely pick up that first book.