Series: The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #1
Published by Angry Robot Books on August 26, 2014
Genres: Adult SFF, Alternate History, Urban Fantasy
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My Reviews in this series: Unseemly Science
*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.
Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life—as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus. But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…
Extremely enjoyable, The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter was everything I expected and yet wasn’t – but in the best way possible of course. What I expected was a Victorian steampunk fantasy. It felt like that’s what it was but it didn’t have steampunk elements nor any fantasy elements. Instead it was more of a Victorian alternate history. But I am not even sure if it was set during Victorian times because I just finished reading the second book Unseemly Science and in one scene it has the main character Elizabeth asking to see reference books in the library from 1996 to 2001. So now I think the book is set during present day but as if technology, ideals, mentality and such are all Victorian in timeframe. What made it feel like fantasy was the atmosphere created by the split kingdoms and the main character Elizabeth’s double life. She was living as both herself and as her fake brother. Add to that the mystique of the traveling show and people and a mysterious invention that is supposed to be able to transmute lead into gold and we’ve got ourselves a winner. It helps that Elizabeth was such a fun character to read.
Pulling off a modern personality but with a Victorian feel
Rod Duncan did a great job of maintaining a Victorian novel but giving it a modern feel because the Kingdom had a very forward thinking populace and customs in many ways (tho not all of course). Due to the way Elizabeth grew up she had a strong personality versus a more subdued one. This likely comes from her not only originally being from the Kingdom but also having been raised in a traveling show. I loved the way we learned not only about the customs of the Kingdom where she was originally from but also those of the Republic where she is living now. I especially loved the section at the back of the book that gives nifty fictional historical details regarding both so you can see where it split off from actual history perhaps? I wouldn’t know tho since I am not a history buff at all.
*waves hand in front of you* I am not the girl you are looking for
I absolutely loved the way Elizabeth would employ her disguise as a man and how her other persona, that of her fictional brother Edwin, was such a key part of her life such that she wouldn’t be able to maintain the lifestyle she has now without him. She has been playing the part of her brother for so many years of her life and that disguise was a key part of her escaping the Kingdom and indentured servitude five years ago. She has a lot of moxy and these days works as a freelance intelligence gatherer in the guise of her brother.
I highly recommend The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter for readers that enjoy alternate histories or Victorian fantasies (even tho this might not be a fantasy necessarily).
Things you can expect
– A fair amount of action and intrigue!
– disguises, hiding out in bushes and bathrooms…
– a missing persons case
– a dirty dealing landlord
– a traveling show and circus acts
– an intense card game with bloomers at stake
– a mysterious invention
– an inspector with an agenda that Elizabeth can’t figure out
– and confused affections