Review: A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway

A-Study-in-AshesThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“As part of her devil’s bargain with the industrial steam barons, Evelina Cooper is finally enrolled in the Ladies’ College of London. However, she’s attending as the Gold King’s pet magician, handcuffed and forbidden contact with even her closest relation, the detective Sherlock Holmes.

But Evelina’s problems are only part of a larger war. The Baskerville affair is finally coming to light, and the rebels are making their move to wrest power from the barons and restore it to Queen Victoria. Missing heirs and nightmare hounds are the order of the day—or at least that’s what Dr. Watson is telling the press.

But their plans are doomed unless Evelina escapes to unite her magic with the rebels’ machines—and even then her powers aren’t what they used to be. A sorcerer has awakened a dark hunger in Evelina’s soul, and only he can keep her from endangering them all. The only problem is . . . he’s dead.”

If I had to pick one theme to characterize this book, I’d say it’s a novel about consequences: dealing with the consequences of your actions; accepting the consequences of other people’s actions; and weighing if consequences are worth the cost.  And this makes the novel as much about Tobias as it does about Evelina.  Tobias is not only married to the Gold King’s daughter, he’s the Gold King’s maker, and Keating wants war machines.  Obviously, someone wanting weapons means to use them, and Tobias is left to decide what he will do about the tasks that he’s been set.

Evelina does get equal time in this regard, though.  Her desire to learn more about magic put her in the power of Magnus the sorcerer, and his lessons awakened a dark power in her.  She deals not only with the fact that she went to him to begin with, but with the fact that she doesn’t think she can control the new powers that she’s developed.

All of these ideas meet with a bang (quite literally) when the rebels finally go to battle against the Steam Barons to free the monarchy from their stranglehold.  In the process, readers get to find out the fates of Magnus and Nick—last seen falling to their deaths—as well as finding out the identity of the Schoolmaster, what lies at the heart of the mysterious Black Kingdom, what went on at the Royal Laboratories, and whether or not Imogen can free herself from her ensorcelled sleep.  Yes, that’s a lot of plotlines running loose through this novel, but the author has obviously given this a great deal of thought, because they all come together neatly.  And the fact that both magic and steampunk have equal time in the action helps to make the plot feel balanced.

I was excited to finally see the story The Hound of the Baskervilles come into play, as I’ve been expecting it to be included since the first book.  The “hound” arrives about a third of the way through and doesn’t play a huge part, but the way the tale get to the folk of London gave me a snicker.  The nods to real life literature were well-integrated into the novel.

I was hoping for more books about these characters, but alas, it appears to be just a trilogy.  It certainly ended on a high note, providing lots of explosive action and enough bombshells to level most of London.  A Study in Ashes is a great conclusion to a wildly inventive literary mash-up.