The Year is 2012—and Queen Victoria still rules with an immortal fist.
She's the undead matriarch of a Britain, where the Aristocracy is made up of werewolves and vampires, where goblins live underground, and mothers know better than to let their children out after dark. A world where technology lives side by side with magic, where being nobility means being infected with the Plague (side-effects include undeath) and Hysteria is the popular affliction of the day.
Xandra Vardan is a member of the elite Royal Guard, and it's her duty to protect the Aristocracy. But things get complicated when her sister goes missing. Xandra will not only realise she's the prize in a dangerous power struggle—but she'll also uncover a conspiracy that threatens to topple the empire itself.
Something most people don't know about me is that I love Steampunk. So a story purely about a Steampunk alternate history, I was bound to adore. And I did but the details was a lot to take in. For example, the aristocracy was mostly made up of vampires, but there were also werewolves, goblins (who were deformed aristocracy) plagued humans, who carried the gene for... god, something. See? It was all a bit complicated but very interesting. The other thing with the alternate history was how the world had evolved with modern gadgets. For the most part, they hadn't. As one might assume from the immortal reign of the Victorians, they were a bit reluctant to rid themselves of traditions, which is why the Season was still in the summer even though the nights were shorter.
We followed Alexandra, or as she liked to be called Xanrda, as she hunts down her supposedly dead sister. I really liked Xandra, with her spunky attitude and toughness but she wasn't that complex. Which was fine, fun actually, as with everything else going on, I didn't need a complicated and troubled heroine on top of that. And the relationship she had with her half-siblings was really sweet although the whole thing with bastard children of the aristocracy took a while to get my head around. You know normally, bastard children are looked down upon (think Jon Snow of Game of Thrones) but in this, they were sort of special, because of the extra strength and thus were tasked with protecting the aristocracy.
So, while on the hunt, Xandra discovers something horrifying about the world she lives in. Everything she holds dear about the aristocracy appears to be wrong and I couldn't really blame her for being in denial about it all. But, to me at least, this sort of made sense. Of course the aristocracy wouldn't want to give up control to half-breed bastard children, or not have secrets about any so-called research they might be doing about the plagued genes.
All in all, an enjoyable read but took longer to read than I expected and was surprisingly complicated. The basic story line and the characters were very likeable but there were too many things to get your head around, which for me ruined the overall feel of the book at times.
Published 5th July 2012 by Orbit.