Steam punk is one of those genres, I thoroughly enjoy but so rarely indulge in. I had the pleasure of reading The Earl of Brass recently and absolutely fell in love with the genre all over again. I’m going to try and keep this review concise, because I want to gush about everything all at once. Let me start by saying, I adored the main characters Hadley and Eilian. Two very different characters, who broke the mold on gender sterotypes in a classically rigid time period. Hadley is everything I look for in a female lead, strong indipendent and out to change the world. Hadley is a mechanical genuis who learned about autotomics from her older, when her older brother dies from a disease, she is determined to keep her business afloat, even if it means impersonating a man. The secret feminist in me, gets a little giddy when women in the Victorian era are going against the patriarchy. And Hadley definitely fights the good fight.
While Eilian, is not classically masculine, he is the right mix of intelligent, insightful and with perhaps a dash of awkward, but that might be my imagination since that’s my weakness. He has a serious case of wander lust, and rejects the antiquated notions of earldom, which he is destined to inherit. After a derigible accident (which is tragic but also awesome, come on a derigible crash!) he loses his arms from the burns. In comes Hadley. She and her brother make prostethesis and after a humiliating dinner party, Eilian agrees to be the guinea pig for a new experimental prostetic arm, which will move and function like a real arm, but made of metal (this is freaking amazing, I cannot tell you how much I fangirled over this one concept).
I have to talk about the arm, because I can tell Jorgenson spent a lot of time researhcing biology and mechanics. But if any of you are a fan of the Manga/Anime Full Metal Alchemist, you’ll remember Edward Elrich had a metal arm, and Eilian’s puts it to shame. It was a forgone conclusion from there that I was going to love this book after that.
I wont spoil what happens from there, but lets say there’s a bit of gender bending, some interesting philosophical questions posed, bad guys with guns and the pressures of gentry. This is an absolute must read! But if you still need convincing here’s some of the book details:
When Eilian Sorrell, a promising archaeologist and the eldest son of the Earl of Dorset, loses his arm in a dirigible crash, he fears he will face a bleak future among London’s aristocracy. On a quest for normalcy, Lord Sorrell commissions a prosthetic arm but finds the craftsman is not what he seems.
After the death of her brother, Hadley Fenice takes over his prosthesis business but knows it will be an uphill battle as women are discouraged from doing man’s work. In return for building Lord Sorrell an automaton arm, he offers her a chance at freedom by following him to the Negev Desert under the guise of a man.
But what lies beneath the desert is more precious than potshards or bones. As they venture deeper, they discover a society where the path of life is not governed by gain but by passion. When imperialistic invaders come in search of a new colony to pillage, Eilian and Hadley are forced to defend their fleeting glimpse of paradise.
More about Kara Jorgensen:
Kara Jorgensen is an author and professional student from New Jersey who will probably die slumped over a Victorian novel. An anachronistic oddball from birth, she has always had an obsession with the Victorian era, especially the 1890s. Midway through a dissection in a college anatomy class, Kara realized her true passion was writing and decided to marry her love of literature and science through science fiction or, more specifically, steampunk. When she is not writing, she is watching period dramas, going to museums, or babying her beloved dogs.