I am going to assume you have heard of this thing called steampunk. Fantasy with a decided technological edge to it and settings ranging from just slightly off historical to full blown space opera style. I have seen the costumes at GenCon and the comic con I recently attended and was very impressed with the details that I saw. I have only dabbled in the fictional end of this pool through picking up the wonderful series by Gail Carriger and Devon Monk’s decidedly western spin on the genre. I had the good fortune to hear that Lilith Saintcrow was trying her hand at steampunk with a definite tip of the bonnet to Holmes and Watson. I quickly added the Iron Wyrm Affair to my Goodreads list to be picked up the next time I was at a book store. It was about a week later before I had a chance to pick up the book and a week or so more before I had time to finally get to this book. It was an excellent purchase.
The Iron Wyrm Affair is the first adventure of Emma Bannon, Sorceress Prime and Archibald Clare, Mentath. The opening scene of the book clearly displays the connection to Holmes and Watson. Ms. Bannon interrupts a frazzled Bannon as he is working with his Viola to determine the musical chords that would control the actions of tiny creatures. We are treated to Clare’s inner dialogue as he determines whether this interruption will lead to more than a days worth of distraction. Saintcrow plays on this connection to Holmes and Watson to create the expectation that Clare will be the dominant character of this story and then quickly turns the tables on the reader. It is Bannon who is already in the service to Queen and Country and has to come protect one of the few remaining mentaths in Londinium.
The story is an entertaining blend of fantasy, espionage, steampunk , and victoriana. Each of these are well represented within the characters of Bannon and Clare. Ms. Bannon is a Lady of some means in this Victorian-esque society. She has to deal with the propriety of her looks and actions while out in public and face the sometimes blatant discrimination heaped upon women, sorcerers, and practitioners of her form of magic within this milieu. She faces all this while being one of the personal agents of the Queen and taking care of problems that others are unable to deal with due to these self-same traditions. Clare is a man at wits end as his deductive capability makes it difficult for him to fit in to this hierarchical society where appearances are sometimes more important than truth.
I really enjoyed the descriptions of magic that are littered throughout the book. It is described in such a way that I can see the script that makes up the magic covering Britannia. The cyclical nature of the flow of magic is also very interesting as is the fashion in which this power is stored and used by the various practitioners that we are introduced to throughout the book. Another interesting piece of setting is the idea of a Shield. A Shield is a person trained to be both a defender of a sorcerer and a boon to them as the perils of magic take their toll. Any sorcerer of power is tended to by a cadre of Shields and yet Emma Bannon has only one. Throughout the book we learn of many reasons behind this but the most important being the thread of romance.
As I mentioned earlier, I was glad I picked up this book. I enjoyed the characters of Bannon and Clare. They are explored well enough that I am happy to know them but want to know more. The story moved along quickly and alternated well between these two protagonists. The magic and steampunk elements are done well. They complement the story without overshadowing it. It is an excellent blend of action-adventure, mystery, and romance which should keep you entertained for a few hours and leave you waiting for the duos next adventure.