Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Study in Silks (review)


A Study in Silks
by Emma Jane Holloway was a really fun read for me (although I warn you, it is a pretty long book.  I have long been a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' tales and this book starts a series that gives a different perspective on the great but quirky detective because the heroine is his niece.  This is the first in the series but it doesn't end in a cliffhanger even though there are plenty of threads that still need to play out.

My review:

A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway is the first volume in ‘The Baskerville Affair’ series and is the wonderfully complex tale of Evalina Cooper, a young girl living in a Victorian England that is held hostage to the machinations of a group of individuals known as the steam barons. The country is at the mercy of these manipulative people who possess the power to ‘Disconnect’ from sources of energy any who oppose them and there are serious repercussions for attempting to develop alternate sources.
Evalina has many remarkable resources at her command, despite being an orphan who has been torn between longing for the rigorous life in a circus where the spark of magic within her has been nurtured and the greatly desired life as a debutante participating in the social whirl of the Season. A shocking murder in the household that she is staying with propels Evalina into the world occupied by her famous uncle, the renowned Sherlock Holmes, and forces her to re-evaluate what she wants to do with her life. She must decide whether the magic within her is worth risking her life to nurture and who she wants to pursue her life with, her childhood companion who shares a mysterious heritage or the alluring and creative heir to the household that she is trying so hard to conform to. The decision may be taken out of her hands as other forces are brought to bear on her until her very existence may be threatened.

This blend of steampunk, mystery and historical romance is an intricately woven story that introduces a series that provides a remarkable glimpse of Victorian London as seen through the eyes of a young female. The impressive depth of detail that blends magic and science while incorporating elements of the considerable body of work that surrounds Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart companion Dr. Watson immerses the reader in an alternate society that is both frightening and fascinating. There are many mysteries presented beyond the obvious murder that propels Evalina to action and for every clue that is resolved, there are twice as many puzzles presented for the reader’s delectation.  

The combination of magic and technology provide a delicious facet to this enthralling tale, and it was quite entertaining to be introduced to characters such as Mouse and Bird who have their own significant roles to play even as one shivers at the various villains who prowl through the story. The most impressive aspect of this admittedly very weighty tome is the richness of development of many of the secondary characters who all have their role to play, if not necessarily significant in this volume, undoubtedly they will be pivotal in subsequent ones. Every character seems to have unexpected depths that send the story in a slightly different direction as it unfolds and the reader finds it difficult to know whether to be hopeful for that person’s success or failure. I confess to being disappointed at the developments surrounding one particular character and hope that there is ultimately some form of redemption but naturally, I am an optimist.

This is a beautifully crafted and imaginative tale that will undoubtedly provide hours of entertainment with the end result that one is temporarily satiated yet hungering for the next exciting episode in these characters’ lives. As Evalina tells one of the other characters, “If you really want to go, I won’t make you stay, but then you won’t get to find out how the case ends.” I can’t help but be curious how the overall case ends even as I admire how this particular episode was temporarily resolved.

A Study in Silks (Amazon buy link

© Night Owl Reviews

I received a copy of this title in return for an honest review. 


  1. "This blend of steampunk, mystery and historical romance" Now that's something I have never read. Sounds like a really interesting read.

    1. It is a wonderfully blended mixture of the genres and I look forward to hearing what you thought about the story. I am always fascinated by stories that blend magic and reality in a believable fashion (if that makes any sense, lol).