When I learned of this book, it was a ‘when’ not ‘if’ scenario that I would read it. I love so many of the elements that make up this book that I was more than eager to get to it. I have to say that I got significantly more than I anticipated.
This is what Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice might have looked like if it was set in the future after a chain of catastrophic events leave the world in a post-apocalyptic setting with technology and social culture being of the Steampunk variety. It doesn’t conform completely in the sense that every scene, ever character and every nuance is replicated, but the spirit of the P&P story is there married with the author’s own storytelling, characters, plot development and worldbuilding. Personally, I was impressed with the world she made along with what seemed like character blends, character role reversals, and even new characters. Some people want things just like the original. I am not one who needs that or necessarily wants that in a retelling so I was well pleased.
Another thing I noticed was the tone of this story. It offered so many facets. There is a lighter layer of humor at times, a darker and grittier layer when reality was brutal, and things that fall somewhere in the middle.
The villains in this piece are real and dangerous. The flawed characters which are most of them make mistakes that have consequences. Even the reality of the world they live in has left many as casualties. I mourned over the loss members of Seraphene’s family due to the all that happened to the world when it came to her dad and brother as well as what happened to her mother.
There is frequent reference to what came before the present day story, but not a lot of details and explanations. In a way I appreciated that because there is already so much to this story to take in. Was I curious? Sure. But it was described well enough that I wasn’t lost.
Some of the best parts of a Steampunk story are the gadgetry, steam and cogwork technology. I thought this story did a credible job balancing in this element. There are so many things that reflect that and also offered there were items that were more futuristic too. Medical advances have allowed for people to be enhanced and altered if they can afford it. Weaponry uses lasers. There are sky cities and bio domes over the land cities. But yet transportation is still steampowered as are the homes. Culture loosely follows a Neo-Victorian style.
The story itself begins when Darcy, head of a wealthy family and leading scientist for many projects, wants Seraphene to come to work for him on a secret project. He has to know he can trust her so he decides to test her and observe her by giving her a cover story including a family project, but first he has to persuade her to be in his employ. This is not easy because Seraphene smells a rat. He ends up having to strong arm her which sets her back up. He gets distracted by family matters, but always comes back to his need to have Seraphene on board to help him.
Seraphene has had to fight tooth and nail to achieve even a modicum of comfort in life for herself, her mind-shattered mother and her precocious teen sister. Her past is colorful with legal and illegal activities she did just to survive after the fall out from the war and slime rain that destroyed the world in the past. She is both awed and terrified when she steps into Darcy’s wealthy world. She will not let him bully her though. Too bad between her sister destroying her flyer and her job at MIT being pulled, she might have no choice, but to play nice with the wealthy powerful gentleman.
While Darcy and Sera engage in a private battle of personality and wits, others seek to press their own agendas. Darcy’s step-mother wants him to marry and have an heir, his incorrigible teenage step-sister doesn’t want to be sent to boarding school and secretly just wants to be recognized by him, his conniving greedy step-brother would take all the Darcy family wealth and power if he could and then there are Caro and Wickham with their schemes.
Misdirection, miscommunication and deliberate plotting lead things to a huge, exciting grand finale that some don’t walk away from and some are lucky to crawl away.
As to the story plot, true to form it mostly dealt with Darcy and Seraphene’s issues with each other that were colored by their pasts and preconceived notions. Darcy’s big secret project is the catalyst that puts many plans into motion, but it is a side issue to the romance. The romance is definitely an ‘enemies to lovers’ style and takes a long while with a few set-backs to get to the end. There is a little warmth, but it is essentially a sweet romance.
I have to say that many times I just wanted pop Darcy and Sera for their behavior and things they said when they let their emotions get the better of them, but I really wanted to hit them for the stuff they didn’t say that would have cleared the air. Darcy is Mr. Oblivious and Focused which gets him into trouble, but his heart is in the right place and he’s not as selfish as he appears at first glance. Sera is frustrating because she totally has that prejudice attitude down pat. She sees exactly what she wants to see and it caused no end of trouble in many ways. This attitude wasn’t just with Darcy just as his flaws affected more than just his relationship with Sera. Both of them managed to alienate family too which I thought was an interesting new twist. Because Sera is that way, she is blind to obvious clues in her path.
And if these two weren’t frustrating enough, Giana, Darcy’s sister was a huge petulant spoilt brat that I just wanted to reach into my e-reader and shake until her teeth came loose. Sera’s sister, Briar Rose, wasn’t much better. I’m rethinking the problem with paddling a teenager’s behind. Though in their defense, older siblings and parents mishandled things with them.
The end left me vaguely dissatisfied because I felt there is more to this story- that it felt unfinished. Darcy and Sera got an ending and some things were wrapped up, but I still felt there were a few things left unexplained that I won’t discuss for spoiler reasons. I’m not sure if there is a sequel in the works so I’ll take a wait and see approach and not clamor too much about the unfinished feeling.
All in all, it was a wonderful reading experience that I think intrepid Austenesque fans should not pass up and it would have appeal to a wider audience of Steampunk and Dystopian romance lovers.
My thanks to the author for providing a copy of her book in exchange for my honest review thoughts.
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