The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow
Steampunk is in its prime, and there’s no shortage of books to satisfy whatever steampunk flavor you crave. From werewolves to vampires to flying dirigibles and the undead… it’s all out there for the savvy reader.
However, The Iron Wyrm Affair takes steam in a new direction, combining detailed mystical elements with the familiar, yet still impressive, logic-propelled machines that color most steampunk novels.
The premise of The Iron Wyrm Affair is this: Emma Bannon, forensic sorceress to the Queen, has been tasked with protecting unregistered mentath Archibald Clare, all the while trying to deduce who is out to control or destroy Britannia’s reign. Aided by her shield Mikal – who may or may not be trying to kill her – Bannon must battle unsavory sorcerers, magnificent mecha, wyrms and flesh-feeding gryphons. And if she can avoid destroying another expensive gown in the process – all the better!
What sets this book apart from so many others that litter the steampunk genre is its exquisite attention to detail and the lovingly-crafted world which pays homage to Holmes’ London. Oftentimes, steam authors gloss over world building in order to focus on character development or to drive the pace of the storyline. But not Saintcrow. Her Londinium is a labor of love, each section of the city expertly detailed and given life as Bannon and Company wind their way through its streets, tracking down another piece of the mystery.
Saintcrow fully develops the magic mythos that plays an integral role in her story, and by doing so, creates a storyline that is not only compelling, but also believable. Magic isn’t an afterthought in this story. It is a major propellant, and as such, the reader must focus and absorb the magical foundation as it’s carefully laid. It’s refreshing to read a story in which the author not only encourages, but requires, critical thinking from their reader.
While many steampunk stories feature leads who inevitably fall in love with one another, the lack of romance between Bannon and Clare is a welcome change. With no sexual tension between Bannon and Clare, the reader observes a true respect and mutual admiration develop between these two without any underlying motive.
All in all, the story adopts a steady pace that never once feels sluggish or rushed, and by the end, solid relationships have formed between the cast of characters and an excellent adventure comes to a close.
I look forward to reading the next adventure of Bannon and Clare, and I suggest you move their first case to the top of your reading list.