Friday, 27 March 2015

Who was the master of the shadows - we have yet to find out

In a land riven with plague, in the infamous Walled City, two families vie for control - the Medicis with their genius inventor Leonardo; and the Lorraines with Galileo, the most brilliant alchemist of his generation.

And when two star-crossed lovers, one from either house, threaten the status quo, a third, shadowy power - one that forever seems a step ahead of all of the familial warring - plots and schemes, and bides its time, ready for the moment to attack ....

I am not really sure what to say about this novel even after pondering on it for quite a while.  I wanted to like it so much but there are just some things that troubled me.  (I won’t be going into the plot as I want this review to guide you but not influence you and doing that does not include repeating parts of the novel or revealing the plot.)

This is a steampunk version of Romeo and Juliet, with a little bit of Macbeth thrown in, set in an alternative Italy.  The story made wonderful use of ancient and modern machinery, and magic which would have occurred hand in hand during the period within which the story was set.

The main characters, ie the Romeo and Juliet roles are just part of an ensemble cast of main characters. I can understand the use of real historical characters but whey these particular characters who were never contemporaries of each other?  I found this confusing, and distracted me from the story proper – call me a traditionalist but I like things in their place and not messed with.  That said take an historic story or element as a base and add modern characters to it then you are golden,

Maybe it was because of their age but I didn’t really identify with either of these two characters who did not live up to expectations and unfortunately came across as 2-dimensional characters.  I wasn’t totally convinced of their love story either. I did love the Shadow master though.  He was an intriguing mysterious character just as the author wrote him.

There was a certain wit and humour in this novel that was often obscured and therefore not easily identified as fully.  The narrative was choppy in places and the whole story seemed to be bogged down by the superfluous characters that had little or no back story and added very little to the storyline.  Another element that slowed the whole story down were the numerous subplots and the additional levels of intrigue, treachery, deceit, power, and ambition especially in the second half of the book.

The beginning of the novel had real promise yet the second half appeared to have no idea where it wanted to go.  It seemed to me that the author was trying to throw so much of everything into this part of the book and made it a confusing muddle.  Although people have said that they liked the ending as it was a reflection of the authors humour; and that the author left some elements for the reader’s interpretation.  This particular reader found the ending was rather rushed, a bit confusing, and not really an ending at all but instead a nice set up for a sequel. That said the book held my interest enough so that I did finish it.

I am not sure whether I enjoyed this book but if steampunk, sci fi and alternative universes then this could well be the book for you.  Give it a try and find out for yourself.

I would like to add that I was given an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review but something happened and my kindle deleted it and the author was kind enough to send me a second copy.  So kudos to the author for that; and I am sorry my review could not be more flattering.

Full Disclosure: ARC received from Netgalley for an honest review

I rated this 4 stars on Netgalley and 'I liked it' on Amazon (4 stars) and Goodreads (3 stars).

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