Book Review: Crown and Key

Okay, so … no, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth for most of the spring and summer. 🙂 Personal life was getting a bit too much to handle, so I had to let social media go in order to focus on my next book and my health. I am happy to report that I am now about 2/3 through the third draft of book 5 in the Elf Gate Series. Unfortunately, it still has a long way to go before it can be handed to my beta readers and then undergo its final transformations to make it suitable for publishing. More on this later.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to share some of the books I’ve been reading in my absence. Here’s one that I loved and highly recommend if you are into steampunk, Gothic horror, and adventure.

 

Crown and Key

 

Book: Crown and Key
Series: The Shadow Revolution, Book 1
Author: Clay and Susan Griffith
Genres: Steampunk, Horror, Adventure

Synopsis (from Amazon book page):

“A thrilling new Victorian-era urban fantasy for fans of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, the Showtime series Penny Dreadful, and the Sherlock Holmes movies featuring Robert Downey, Jr.
They are the realm’s last, best defense against supernatural evil. But they’re going to need a lot more silver.
As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.
After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.”

Notes of Interest:

I came across this book because I had read and reviewed (and LOVED) the Vampire Empire series by Clay and Susan Griffith. I was hoping it would be something similar in terms of mood, setting, character development, and flow of pace. I am happy to say I was not disappointed.

What could have made it better for me:

I can think of nothing that would have made it better for me. It was the right book at the right time. No grammar errors, plot holes, or character issues distracted me. Let’s just get to what I liked about it, shall we?

What I liked about it:

I was in the mood for a steampunk horror, something akin to the Victorian penny dreadfuls that felt classic, yet had new elements of magic and mayhem. This is something that story elements alone cannot create. It is much dependent on the author’s style. But that is exactly what this style delivered. So, its first impression on me was atmosphere. Check out this description of one character’s estate, which is at once both classic and distinct.

Originally it had been a modest Tudor-era country house, but Sir Roland Anstruther had enlarged it over his years of residence until that quaint old relic had long ago been subsumed by a sprawling grey stone structure partially hidden in scarlet-leafed ivy. It was a half-mad but magnificent structure inextricably mixed with the landscape by way of conservatories, loggias, pergolas, and large French windows. To some it might appear overwrought, but there was a chaotic charm to it. The large turrets gracing some of the corners made it appear as if it were a stalwart protector of its five-thousand-acre estate and could hold back any encroaching army.

The uniqueness of this book, in my opinion, is its handling of drudism and magic. Occult connections in steampunk and Gothic horror abound, but to turn a druid into a preserver of magic itself, in the form of tattoos and inscriptions, is something I haven’t seen handled this well in any other fantasy tale that relies on such mechanisms for magic.

As for the action, the story takes you through creepy asylums, into dark lairs, and across the night hunting experimental monstrosities, old secrets, and werewolves. Here are two passages that, for some reason, struck me as perfect examples of what this book has in store.

Spinning around and pulling out the sword, he stabbed the beast. He said a single word and the blade glowed. The werewolf suddenly went rigid, and its slobbering jaws snapped shut so hard it bit through its tongue. The werewolf convulsed and lay still. …

Simon and his companions found an entrance to the underground at Kennington. It was a black maw that reeked of the waste and the garbage that had fed into it over the many years. The subterranean world bade them enter, eager for more souls to get lost within its chambers and tunnels.

Meanwhile, the characters are alive enough, and flawed enough, to interest me. I’m always on the lookout for good female characters, and there are several of note here. It is a well-rounded cast, each with an individualized feel and contribution to the story.

Recommendation:

If you like the steampunk, horror, and adventure genres, this book is an easy, well-paced read that often made me want to read “just one more chapter” before turning out the light. It’s good for YA and adult audiences. I will definitely be buying (and hopefully reviewing) the other books in this series. I look forward to returning to this particular vision of the Victorian age with its druid scribes as the keepers of magic, wondrous and mystical machines, and classic and new monsters with just the right amount of creep factor, action, and Gothic elegance.

Advertisements