Read: April 23 – May 1
Agents Braun and Books are back in action — this time in the U.S. of A. Teamed up with a pair of agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, they set out to investigate a rash of missing ships (of both the air and sea varieties) along the Eastern Seaboard. While full enough of the requisite peril and adventure, this particular investigation is wrapped up quickly — but in doing so, the four agents uncover a plot that’s far more hazardous to both nations. The Pinkertons, the House of Usher, the British Royal Family, and a couple of notable scientists/inventors from the era soon are involved in twist-filled machination to wreak havoc.
This leads the agents chasing their suspects across the continent — with stops in Detroit, Flagstaff, and San Francisco. As fun as it is to see Ballantine and Morris show us around a Steampunk Victorian England, a tour of the States is a nice change (also, nice to see a Steampunk U. S. not filled with Priest’s Rotters). Books latest invention (not to mention the toys that the team at the Ministry give them) are perfect — just the kind of things secret agents need (and could even use today), “science”-y in a suspended disbelief manner, and outlandish enough to have to be fictional.
There are two storylines that only relate to the main plot at the end of the book — one involving the House of Usher attempting to kidnap a Ministry agent, and one involving the assassin Sophia del Morte and the Prince of Wales. I could’ve easily taken another fifty pages or more with both of these. Hope to see all these characters again soon. Speaking of characters to see again soon — the scientists/inventors I mentioned earlier? Yeah, we need more of them.
Of course, the Ministry’s missions (even those not actually condoned by the Ministry) are only part of what makes these books page turners. There’s the whole Will They or Won’t They thing with Books and Braun — scratch that. There’s never been a Won’t They, just a When Will They? That’s been obvious from the get-go, honestly. It’s merely a question of what obstacles will be in the way. This time, the obstacles are the American agents — clearly set-up to be stumbling blocks on their road to romance, the fetching librarian and the gun-slinger each with enough common ground and personality to match our heroes. It was a little too heavy-handed for me, and as much as I liked the Americans as characters, I really disliked them in their role as hindrances. Sure, our authors make those storylines pay off nicely — but I didn’t enjoy the ride.
Nothing against the book, it was a fun read with a couple of characters that I enjoy spending time with, but it wasn’t as good (on the whole) as the previous two (see above paragraph) — but the last two chapters, as they revealed exactly what stakes are involved, earned it the extra half star. A fun read, but mostly one that moved pieces into place for the next book or so while tying up a couple of loose ends from the previous books. I’m really looking forward to what’s next. It’ll be great.