In an alternate-universe Victorian London, sorcery is common (though frowned upon), and incredible geniuses known as mentaths are capable of being literally bored to death. Archibald Clare, an unregistered mentath, is in this precarious state when he suddenly learns that his life may be in danger: someone has been killing and mutilating mentaths throughout the city. To investigate, Archibald teams up with Emma Bannon, a powerful sorceress with a dangerous gift and a mysterious past. Their mission takes them throughout the dirty streets of Londinium, where they tangle with foreign assassins, murderous automatons, and very black magic.
Since I enjoy Victorian-era steampunk, I was excited to win this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. It certainly delivers a fast-paced plot packed with action; it was easy to keep turning the pages, and I never felt like the book dragged. There were also enough steampunk elements to please fans of the genre, including mechanical limbs and giant, spider-like automatons. However, the world-building in general didn’t work for me. Saintcrow avoids lengthy exposition, which is a good thing, except that as a result I constantly felt like I was missing something. For example, we learn that Archibald is an unregistered mentath, but we don’t know why he’s unregistered, or even what being unregistered actually means. Similarly, we know that Emma is a sorceress, but we never learn the basic rules of the magical system; Emma can seemingly do whatever she wants with a few simple chants. I found it difficult to become invested in the story because I kept getting distracted by the underdeveloped world of the novel.
This is book one in a projected series, so presumably everything will start to make more sense in future installments. However, I don’t think I’m invested enough in the characters to continue with this series.