Series: #1 Crown and Key
Genres: Steampunk Romance
Published by Del Rey
Released on June 2, 2015
The cover caught my eye and then I read the blurb and then I grabbed this one up eagerly. Steampunk paranormal, historicals with paranormal elements, historical urban fantasies are where it’s at with me. This was the start of a new series by new to be authors so I eagerly dove into this dark, gritty tale that both sets up the trilogy and offers an intriguing story that in the end has a ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ vibe going on. It offers elements of Steampunk and Urban Fantasy with a hint of romance though the focus is on the group as a whole and their mission to stop a dangerous plot.
The story revolves around ‘rake about town’ and secret magic user, Simon Archer. Simon is going about, business as usual, when he encounters a woman from his past. She asks for his help, but then is killed by a werewolf before his very eyes. A werewolf hunter, Malcolm McFarlane, appearing at the right time is the only thing that kept him and his fellow magic user alive. This is a wake up call for Simon. He has gotten lazy in pursuing his magic education and in his purpose. He was already concentrating on hunting down the whispers about something powerful and dark stirring in the underbelly of London. Now he has something more immediate on his mind. Revenge.
Kate Anstruther, daughter of the famous world explorer and alchemist researcher, is at wit’s end when it comes to her sister and the cad trying to court her. Talking sense into her sister does nothing so therefore, she’ll have to get this shady Colonel out of their lives. At a society evening affair while in pursuit of her sister’s unwelcome admirer, she crosses paths with Simon Archer and discovers there is quite a bit to the world that she hadn’t know of up to this point when she helps slay a werewolf and sees Simon and his friend use magic to do it. She hopes to forget the whole thing and pretend it didn’t happen particularly with a man with a reputation involved, but soon after, her sister disappears to be with the Colonel and Kate’s only recourse is to get Simon’s help.
From there, they discover that her sister is part of a great plot and it takes, Kate, Simon, Malcolm, and a small band of others to fight against the danger and keep her sister safe. They are all more than they seem and it takes them working as a team to defeat a formidable opponent. And in the end one makes the ultimate sacrifice.
This story jumped in and paced forward fast and steady with exciting, breathtaking moments in between. This is very much an action-driven piece, but the characters are not neglected. Each has a backstory and a chance to grow. Simon and Kate are the main players, but others like Malcolm, Nick and the inventor gal (whom I can’t recall her name) have large secondary roles. The focus of the story is on Simon as he comes into his own as a magic wielder, a leader, and a man who can be respected. There is a whiff of romance, but just that as this story didn’t lean that way though I can see it developing especially after that big scene of sacrifice near the end. Things get brutal in parts and there is a total mad-scientist laboratory part that was horrific though thankfully it wasn’t so much gory description as my own imagination filling things in.
The mystery element was captivating. I enjoyed following along as they tried to track down who was behind things and why. There is foreshadowing to an even bigger intrigue building beyond their view. I love that feeling that there is more coming.
The steampunk is a noticeable element, but doesn’t hold a place in the forefront. There are gadgets and alchemy involved and it was fun that it was the ladies who were the scientists and inventors on team Simon. Okay, well, one of the villains, but he doesn’t count since he was team bad guy.
The more noticeable blended element was the paranormal. This is an interesting paranormal world and I get the distinct impression that there are more reveals to come on that score as things progress. At the moment, magic-wielders and werewolves are involved. Simon is known as a ‘Scribe’ and possibly the last of his kind of magic user. He powers his spells by writing runes on any surface and he has permanent rune spells tattooed into his skin that are like quick spells. I appreciated that magic has a cost and has to be treated with respect in this world. The users grow fatigued and some magic, like what Nick wields, can take something out of a person.
So, all in all, this was a great start to the trilogy and I look forward to more of this group particularly Simon. As to recommendations, Historical Paranormal Romance and Steampunk lovers might want to give this one a go.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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