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It is 1880 in a mechanical and supernatural London. Agents of Prince Albert’s Secret Commission, their criminal pasts wiped from their memories, are resurrected to fight the eldritch evils that threaten England. Amidst this turmoil, Jim Dastard and his new partner Artifice must stop a re-animationist raising murderous dead children. As Art and Jim pursue their quarry, Art discovers clues about her past self, and through meeting various intriguing women—a journalist, a medium, a prostitute, and a mysterious woman in black—where her heart lies. Yet the question remains: What sort of criminal was she? A new beginning, a new identity, and new dangers await Art as she fights for the Secret Commission and for her second life.
It had the appeal of novelty; too rushed to be really gripping and fully satisfying, but overall entertaining.
“The Dark Victorian” is a paranormal mystery with a hint at an f/f romance that may be developed in the next installments. The world is Steampunk-like : England is protected from Evil by a super team of super but not secret agents, whose specificity is to have been resuscitated from a shameful death to serve Her Majesty and the country. Somewhere in the background, a secret super heroin fights Evil too and I guess that it’s only a matter of time – that is installments – before they meet. The setting is London, from its poorest to its coziest areas; it covers different kinds of misery and it brushes a solid decor.
I liked the idea of resuscitated agents, halfway between 19th century James Bonds and super heroes, but I found the world building too basic for my liking, especially since the initial idea held so many possibilities. I expected the usual icing on the Steampunk cake – incredible gadgets powered by inventiveness and a pinch of magic. I got equipment powered by the reader’s effort in suspending disbelief and being content with very little. Sometimes, magic is a convenient excuse rather than a pattern in an intricate work and I regret that this described the world building a little too often.
The story’s asset is its team, a pair made of a skull and a ghost. Jim is the skull, the veteran agent and the sharp tongue. Art is the ghost, the newbie and the gentle giant. She’s the Quaker Amazon who fights while Jim pulls the strings and gets to worry and fuss over her battered body. They are newly partnered when the story begins and I liked how their tandem is developing into something more than the obvious brain and muscles. Jim tries to put some cynicism and practical sense into Art, and Art only takes and does what she wants while putting some humanity back into Jim. Their exchanges are amusing and their friendship is cute – you know, in a skull-ghost kind of way. I’ll probably give a go to the second book in the series, just to see how they’re faring together.
I didn’t say anything about the mystery. Hmmm…I have not been wowed by its conclusion, but it was well put together and efficient. Two words to lure you in : reanimated corpses.
All in all, I had frustrations but they didn’t totally ruin my fun. The read was fast and easy; give it a try for its likable, unusual characters, the banter and the zombies.
RATING: 3 STARS
Title: The Dark Victorian : Risen (The Dark Victorian #1)
Author: Elizabeth Watasin
Publisher: Smashwords Edition
Pages: 136 pages
Release Date: January 28th 2013 (first published April 13th 2012)
Purchase links : Smashwords, Amazon