The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I listened to this book on audio, and it was definitely a distinctive read. I have to say that while I enjoyed it, it was challenging to listen to. I found it hard to visualize some concepts. I honestly have no brain for mechanical concepts, so listening to descriptions of the mecha devices was difficult for me. I decided to stop analyzing and go with it. Not worry about trying to get a crystal clear image of those parts of the story, but just enjoy what I could understand. The ideas were interesting, but I was a bit clueless about what exactly made Clare what he was, and the exact interplay between his physiology and his abilities. At the end, I determined that he was heavily depending on the continual processing of information for his well-being, but he could think too much and end up in trouble. Perhaps he also has some enhanced sensory abilities which also make him susceptible to different environments.
While the magic system was very intriguing, it took me a long time to understand it or get a handle on it. I absolutely loved some parts. They were darkly beautiful. They inspired a deep sense of unease with the arcane natures of the magical acts and the beings perpetuating them, but also a sense of awe. While I have no real life interest in magic whatsoever, I do love reading about magic in this kind of fictional setting. And I thoroughly enjoyed the fact magic is so intrinsic to the fabric of Great Britain in this novel. It was very cool that the present monarch is a host for the spirit of Britannia. I haven't encountered that concept before.
As far as characters, Emma really came to life for me. She's such a complex person. She's a mix of good and bad, and her manner of interacting with others can inspire winces as often as wows. I loved how vigilant and fierce she was. She took her role as a Prime sorcerer very seriously, and her vow to protect Britain. And it often cost her personally. The scene near the end brought shivers down my spine. I also loved Mikhail. He was luscious. The way the moderator spoke his parts was utterly appealing. Especially the way he spoke to Emma and called her Prima. It sounded like a verbal caress. I was surprised at the direction that the author took with Emma's relationship with Mikhail. It added to the complexity of her character. I wish I had more answers about what Mikhail is. I have to be honest that he is a big draw for me right now, although I also find Emma very appealing as a heroine, although not always laudable in the way she acted towards some characters. Clare was interesting. I enjoyed his deductive reasoning and analysis of the very strange situations he encountered after being recruited by Emma as the sole surviving unregistered mentath. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't always 'get' what he was doing and how it affected him. I hope that will change with later books. I also liked Valetinelli. I have a fondness for roguish characters who are insanely good at being lethal. That's definitely him. The moderator made his voice very fun. He spoke with a blatant Italian accent that was lyrical and appealing.
I think the major reason why I didn't give this a higher rating was that I had a hard time getting a grasp on the story to the extent that I desired. I had a lot of questions. As far as the writing having an appeal and impact on me, that was very well done. Saintcrow has a way of bringing magical and arcane elements to vibrant life that stays with me. That imagery was very well depicted. As a visual reader, I could feel and experience the powerful magics that the characters employed, although some parts were just plain weird and my brain didn't know what to make of those. I also give this book points on having such a distinctive heroine. Not always pure in her motives, but underneath, driven to do what is right. That's a hard thing to conceptualize in a novel without polarizing your audience.
I have to give this 3.5 stars because it was flawed in some ways, but in others a very good book. I will continue this series with the hopes I will be enlightened on some of the world-building particulars and to explore more of Emma, Clare, and Mikhail, and not to mention, Supernatural Victorian Great Britain.
Recommended with reservations.
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