A steampunk tale of political intrigue, mystery, and inventiveness, The Iron Assassin (out the 9th of June) follows the story of Bentley Roper—now Bentley Steelforce—as outside forces attempt to use him and his newfound abilities to achieve their political or personal goals.
The novel is lightly based on the Sherlock Holmes adventures, but told through the lens of the future on “an Earth that is not our own,” where England is ruled by the Harminsters instead of the Hanovers, and is filled with “steam-driven clockwork” machines and the people who try to manipulate them for good—and nefarious—purposes.
The narration follows the points of view of multiple characters as they work to preserve the Empire or destroy it. The story did at times become difficult to follow, though the author provided an extensive “Dramatis Personae” as a reference for those who might become confused by a complicated plot with many moving pieces.
A strong cast of characters—including several indomitable women—leads the tale along. Lady Rose Harminster, one of the two strongest women in the novel, is first to become one of the prestigious Sworn Swords. In her new office, she is responsible for working against—among others—Lady Constance Roodcannon, former lover of the Prince Royal and now enemy of the Empire. This is not to discount the involvement of the inventive and brilliant Jack Straker (Lord Tempest) as he attempts to control his “reanimated clockwork corpse,” his intelligent creation with as much strength of will and independence as any living person. These three characters exist inside what seems a whirlwind of other people and events, all of which suck the reader in until the novel is over.
Though Bentley Steelforce—the Iron Assassin of the title—is no longer entirely human, he and the other characters of the novel serve the purpose of reminding the reader that, ultimately, no matter what the setting and no matter who the character, life is about recognition of and preservation of what makes us all “human.”
*I was assigned this book by Book of the Month. This review was first submitted to their Reader program.