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.
I will preface my thoughts by making a confession: Sherlock Holmes is one of my all time favorite characters, along with Hercule Poirot and a few other remarkable characters like Hannibal Lecter and Gregory House. You’ll notice the puzzle-solving quality they all share and the remarkable genius (also their world views, which I’m guessing is very revealing, lol). So I won’t hide the fact that Holmes himself making an appearance in this story has undoubtedly made me love it more. His appearance comes in rather late though, so in all fairness out of the 500-ish pages if the latter pages only would have made me love the whole thing I’d imagine those pages to be impossibly seductive. My point here is, while it’s obvious I’m partial to puzzle/crime solving, deductions and some detective work, and I love Sherlock (in all his instances I’ve ever seen), I was well and truly in love with this novel by the time Sherlock came in with all his swoon-worthy smarts.
The world of A Study in Silks is a charming combination of historical London, steampunk and paranormal elements (devas, magic). I loved everything about the world of the novel and felt immersed in it as soon as the story started.
I’m calling this a New Adult because a few of the characters involved belong in that age group: Evelina (Holmes’s niece), Imogen, Tobias, Nick, even Bucky I think. There’s a lot of dealing with the budding adult’s condition in the world Emma Jane Holloway builds, and the prospects are presented for gentry and common folk, for young ladies and young gentlemen alike. We encounter characters coming from modest backgrounds and those coming from good families, ambitions, passions, fears and motivations of all kinds.
In that respect, I’ll admit I loved this novel in a way I rarely do ‘fresher’ fiction because it’s the kind of novel that gives insight into more than one or two souls. I’ll dare say it gives insight into all the souls of characters involved, and that’s one of the major benefits of the 3rd person narrative from multiple POVs. But it also makes for a bit more difficult reading perhaps, especially if omniscient isn’t something you’re very familiar with as a reader. I suspect it might make for difficult reading for some since there are multiple threads to follow as the plot progresses. To me, that’s a plus, I’ve done my fair share of classics reading (European classics mostly) and omniscient was the way to write, as you know. So it was something I’m well used to. To someone experiencing it the first time, it might be tougher to get used to.
All characters were very well built, solid and charismatic, and I do mean all of them. I hated Lord Bancroft and kind of disliked Dr. Magnus, but they were still charismatic, strong characters. You gotta love a novel that delivers so spectacularly on so many accounts.
Some might find Holmes’s appearance and involvement in the mystery solving as a way of stealing the stage from under Evelina’s feet, but I wouldn’t agree with the point. The budding investigative mind of Evelina cannot, in all honesty, replace the experience-trialed mind of a brilliant puzzle solver like her uncle – it would have ruined it for me if she’d been the too young and too inexperienced young gal pulling off what experienced detectives wouldn’t be able to, and all on her own. She figures out a good part of the mysteries, but also knows when she could use her uncle’s help and takes on more of an apprentice role, perhaps. There’s that kind of passing on the investigative talent inheritance going on, a vibe I really loved. The way Evelina does things, the way the novel is written, makes this a marvelously realistic read. I know some of you will disagree and it’s normal that you would, but to me, coming up with the brilliant young twenty-something that is the all-knowing, all-solving genius of complicated cases or situations is just too much wishful thinking. Give them a background in doing so and I might buy it, but then I doubt they could be pulling it off at 12 or something. So the experienced mentor is the best way to make the young investigative mind believable to me, and A Study in Silks was super realistic to me because of it.
The plot was very well developed and the storytelling very well delivered, I loved it to bits and enjoyed the romantic arcs, of course loved the mystery and had great fun with the action. I will however point out that the pace of the read is what you’d expect with a third person narrative from multiple POVs, which is to say it’s alert but not agitated. That, to me, is a plus not a minus.
The cover and blurb make a killer combo, though I’ll admit it had me instantly sold at the mention of Sherlock Holmes. I’m easy that way, haha.
All in all, this was a fantastic read, the old-school kind of magnificent in-depth writing with the charm of spunky characters and great plotting. I have the second one and plan to read it as soon as I can.
I highly recommend it if you’re a lover of well-rounded reads and it will cater to your appetite for mystery solving. If you love the spirit of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, you’ll have a great time with this.
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