THE EARL OF BRASS is a charming novel that incorporates steampunk devices, fantasy elements, and romance in a story that examines the social expectations of Victorian society.
Lord Eilian Sorrell has always disappointed his parents, shunning his duties as eldest son of the Earl of Dorset to explore distant lands in search of archaeological artifacts. On the return voyage from his most recent adventure, his airship crashes in a catastrophic accident. Lord Sorrell suffers severe burns and injuries that result in the amputation of his right arm. Fearing that his days of research and excavations are at an end, he has a porcelain prosthetic built to fit his arm.
In London, toymaker Hadley Fenice struggles to continue her family’s prosthetic business after the death of her brother, the mastermind behind the company’s innovations. Lord Sorrell’s first prosthetic only serves to embarrass him before his family, and his search for a more suitable solution brings him to meet with Ms. Fenice. With the assistance of friends, Hadley builds a mechanized prosthetic to allow Lord Sorrell to regain his former ambition and independence.
The novel proceeds in a satisfying series of complications as Lord Sorrell and Ms. Fenice work together as archaeologists. The plot takes some unexpected turns and, while not overburdened with action, the events are well-paced and follow logical choices of the characters. The depictions of everyone, from London socialite to field laborer, showed distinct personalities which made THE EARL OF BRASS a humorous and delightful book to read.
At times, one of the messages of the book – to ignore society’s rules on class and a woman’s role – was too heavy-handed, but that did not detract from the rest of the experience. The book also touches on tolerance of different races, cultures, and sexual preferences, with some surprising discoveries. The author’s version of Victorian society is reasonably accurate, and even if the more progressive ideas in the book are unlikely to represent that time period, the fantasy elements give these subjects an opportunity to shine.
THE EARL OF BRASS is a fun and engaging novel and should appeal to anyone who enjoys steampunk or fantasy.
Reviewed by Clare L. Deming for IndieReader.