Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway (review) (and a reminder about Brenda Novak's fundraiser)

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who celebrate...whether you are mom to humans or fur-persons or feathery people!



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.

A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway is the exciting conclusion to ‘The Baskerville Affair’ trilogy which is a wonderfully textured and multi-layered steampunk series. The remarkable Evelina Cooper lives up to the reputation of her famous uncles, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes as she applies the deductive techniques and adaptability that they have bequeathed to her even as she struggles to harness the arcane and ofttimes dark aspects of her power. The puppet-masters, including the manipulative Gold King who has entrapped not only Evelina but her former love, Tobias Roth, brother of her best friend, Imogen, continue to pull strings but those are becoming frighteningly tangled. The events that are depicted in the second book of this series, “A Study in Darkness” have provided Evelina with the opportunity to attend college but the cost has been much too high and the world around her is in major upheaval, forcing her to decide what she truly values in life. The rebellion continues to gain momentum but it is possible that there will be no kingdom to rule once all of the factions come into play.
This intricately woven tale continues to enthrall with its depiction of a remarkable society where progress in mechanical and chemical sciences intersect with manipulations using magic and arcane elements. The delightful utilization of key elements from the Sherlock Holmes tales are very entertaining as the unique twists only possible in this particular version of the universe are applied, including the appearances of the inimical Moriarty and the infamous Hound of the Baskervilles. The various threads that have been dangled, including the struggle for possession of Imogen’s body, the fate of the charismatic Captain Niccolo and his beloved deva Athena, the machinations of Lord Bancroft, Tobias’ ethical and personal challenges, Evelina’s thirst for knowledge and fear of her powers and the overall fight for control of England itself are all (relatively) neatly tied off with quite a few unexpected developments.  

I think that I particularly enjoyed the glimpses of the Holmes brothers as Sherlock revels in irritating his brother Mycroft, sets out to teach and confound the faithful Watson, and reluctantly faces his attachment to his talented niece. The various romantic relationships present throughout the series have all definitely had their rough phases and I am reminded that this is not a romance with a guaranteed happily ever after ending. The fantastical inventions are memorable (although a few are a bit stomach-churning) and do a wonderful job of bringing the story full circle as the inventive mind that helped create the infamous mechanical squid brings yet another creature to life. 

This story is a delicious masterpiece of vivid imagery and breathtaking adventure, reminiscent of the old matinee adventures, and a highly entertaining and thought-provoking tale. The various players have to make very difficult choices and face harsh introspection as a result of those choices, with sometimes very unpalatable results, just like real life. It is very strongly advised that one start with the first book in the series to best savor this story but be forewarned that all are weighty tomes (but well worth reading). An excellent tale from an author with a wondrously fertile imagination, I can’t wait to find out what else has been percolating in her mind!  

(If you can't tell, I really enjoyed this series and got a little carried away with my review(s) review of the first in the series, A Study in Silks is at this link and my review of the second A Study in Darkness is at this link (or you could just scroll back to yesterday's post, lol). 


Have your cake and eat it too–your purchase of A Sweet Life Boxed Set
(at only $2.99)
helps fight against diabetes! Not only does all proceeds from the sale of A Sweet Life Boxed Set get donated to the Diabetes Research Institute via Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research, but the online auction is also celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year! Almost everything will start at just $3–and all the proceeds will go to benefit the Diabetes Research Institute. To date, the auction has raised over $2 million dollars! Register today and join the fun!

A Note From Brenda Novak:
Dear Reader:
I can’t tell you how excited I am to bring you this boxed set. I have long admired so many of the authors who are partnering with me on this project, and have been excited to get to know those who are new to me. Every one of them was so generous when I emailed to see if they’d be willing to take part. They all got back to me almost immediately with an enthusiastic YES!
I’m grateful to you, too, for purchasing this set because it is enabling me to raise even more money for diabetes research. For those of you who might not be aware, my youngest son has this disease. He was diagnosed when he was just five years old. Shortly after that, I started Brenda Novak’s Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research, which is running now at So far, thanks to the support of both my shoppers and my donors, I’ve been able to raise more than $2 million–and this is our big 10-year anniversary, so we are hoping to raise those totals a lot higher. You are now part of that endeavor! If you would like to be more involved, please register for the auction and jump into the fun. We have nearly 2,000 fabulous items up for grabs (all starting at just $3).  Those who support the auction are a community of warm, giving people who are dedicated to making the world a better place, and we’d love to have you join us. “Many hands make light work,” as the saying goes….
I’d like to give a special shout out to Lauren Hawkeye, who also has a book in this collection. She helped me with the auction for many years before her own son was diagnosed, at just two years old. For obvious reasons, this is a cause near and dear to both our hearts. I’d also like to extend a special thank you to my publisher, Harlequin Enterprises, who generously licensed three works to me in order to make this collection become a reality (the book by me and the novellas by Susan Wiggs and Susan Mallery).
I recently heard a frightening statistic–that one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050. That’s crazy, right? I hope the Diabetes Research Institute, which is the recipient of the money we raise, will be able to find a cure soon. I think they are well on their way and pray that what we are doing will help them a great deal.
Here’s to making a difference!

Brenda Novak

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