Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Dead Magic by Kara Jorgensen

dead-magicDead Magic (IMD #4) by Kara Jorgensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead Magic is the fourth novel in Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. Since many of you may not have read the complete series, I will keep this review vague to avoid spoilers. If you would like to read my reviews of the other books in the series, I’ve included links to them at the bottom of this post.

Continuing the pattern established in previous books, Dead Magic leaves behind Eilian and Hadley Sorrell to once again focus on the lives of Immanuel Winter and Emmeline Jardine. Dead Magic marks the series’ grand entrance into the world of (you guessed it) magic. Though hints of magic have occurred throughout the other books, this novel dives deep into the rules of magic and its practitioners. Both Immanuel and Emmeline must learn to harness the magic within themselves as well as prevent a darker magic from consuming them… and the rest of London.

As always, Jorgensen’s characters are complex and well-crafted. Though I’d already spent much time with Immanuel and Emmeline in previous novels, Jorgensen still manages to reveal more about them through the obstacles they face in Dead Magic. It was deeply gratifying to see Immanuel start to heal and watch his relationship with Adam Fenice grow. Likewise, I appreciated that Emmeline remained her headstrong self, even when her stubbornness lead her astray.

Despite being separated by Immanuel and Emmeline’s perspectives, the plot of Dead Magic masterfully weaves together. The story contains a perfect balance of physical action, magical action, romance, and introspection. While I can’t say any of the events were huge surprises, the story held my interest from the start, and I enjoyed every page. With each novel, Jorgensen’s deft skill with words deepens. She has a great ability to write in a way that is both clear and lyrical.

Overall, Dead Magic is a wonderful addition to the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. I feel like every time I read one of these novels, I pronounce the latest installation my favorite, but I have to do it again here — the series just keeps getting better and better! Highly recommended for readers who enjoy steampunk, Victorian era London, historical/dark fantasy and a dash of steamy romance.

Ingenious Mechanical Devices reviews: The Earl of Brass (IMD #1), The Winter Garden (IMD #2), The Earl and the Artificer (IMD #3)

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dead-magicIf you are interested in reading Dead Magic and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: The Earl and the Artificer by Kara Jorgensen

eata-final-coverThe Earl and the Artificer (IMD #3) by Kara Jorgensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free, electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SPOILER ALERT: While this review does not contain major spoilers for The Earl and the Artificer, it does contain spoilers for The Earl of Brass, the first novel in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series (you can read my review of The Earl of Brass HERE).

The Earl and the Artificer by Kara Jorgensen follows Eilian and Hadley Sorrell to Brasshurst Hall (Eilian’s family home) in Folkesbury following their marriage. Both characters are struggling with their newfound roles as Lord and Lady Dorset. Eilian fears that he will never live up to his noble role, nor be a proper husband for Hadley, and Hadley is concerned that she will never succeed as a proper society lady and always be viewed as an opportunistic upstart.

Jorgensen’s character development with Eilian and Hadley is logical and all-too-relatable. Their fears and concerns tap into the deeper fears of rejection and desire for acceptance that all humans feel in one realm or another. Yet, despite their insecurities and a few incompatibilities, they manage to stay supportive of and caring toward one another. Their relationship is not perfect, but through their dedication and devotion, it remains a relationship the reader will admire.

While at Brasshurst Hall, Eilian and Hadley do their best to fit in with the wider genteel society. Through these efforts, the reader is introduced to a new cast of characters. Most notably, Jorgensen provides us with a new antagonist, Randall Nash (Eilian’s second cousin) and a few new friends in Nadir Talbot (a romance author) and his cousin, Mrs. Rhodes.

What I liked most about these secondary characters is that they are exceedingly complex. Jorgensen explores their personalities from various perspectives, and the reader can find relatable and despicable qualities in each one. Personally, Nadir was my favorite. Through his character, Jorgensen commented on several social themes (including gender, race, and imperialism), and it delighted my inner sociologist.

Overall, the plot of the novel moved at a steady pace, though I did not find it quite as captivating as the story lines of The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden. To me, the other novels had higher stakes and more action throughout, which made them more gripping. However, The Earl and the Artificer has a nice elevation to it. The drama, and the danger, grows as the novel progresses, and moments that seemed insignificant before become key parts of the plot toward the end. While I saw some of the twists coming, there were a few that surprised and delighted me.

In sum, The Earl and the Artificer is a fitting addition to the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. Fans of Eilian and Hadley will enjoy watching their characters and relationship grow. Fans of the steampunk genre will be entranced by the ominous Brasshurst Hall, eccentric Nadir Talbot, and dangerous turn of events. Highly recommend for anyone with a love of steampunk, historical fiction, and mystery novels.

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You can find out more about Kara Jorgensen on her website, and you can read more about her inspiration for The Earl and the Artificer here.

eata-final-coverIf you are interested in reading The Earl and the Artificer and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: The Earl of Brass by Kara Jorgensen

kara book
The Earl of Brass (The Ingenious Mechanical Devices #1) by Kara Jorgensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I was given a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review may contain minor spoilers.

The Earl of Brass (The Ingenious Mechanical Devices #1) by Kara Jorgensen is a bold social commentary, an adventurous love story, and a gorgeous example of the steampunk genre. The novel follows Lord Eilian Sorrell, the heir to an earldom, who loses his arm in a dirigible accident, and Hadley Fenice, the fiery prosthesis maker, as they both battle the constricting roles placed on them by English society. To escape England, if only temporarily, they embark on an archaeological dig and find more than they bargained for in the desert, in more ways than one.

The characters and styling of The Earl of Brass are the crowning jewels of the novel. From the first time the reader encounters Eilian, Hadley, and even the supporting characters, s/he is given a strong sense of their personalities, a tangible reason to empathize with them, and a vivid visual description to complete the package. Each character is well-crafted with realistic motives and dialogue. Admittedly, one of the minor characters, the main villain, is a bit two-dimensional. However, the rest are complex and intriguing. The reader is rooting for Eilian and Hadley from the moment they meet and will enjoy their fun, heartfelt, and satisfying romantic journey.

The steampunk styling of The Earl of Brass is spot on. Jorgensen has clearly done her research, and she infuses the text with both large and minute details that bring a steampunk world to life. My only criticism of the novel’s styling is that sometimes it can be a bit too heavy-handed. While Jorgensen’s broad vocabulary and descriptive language is impressive, at times, it would serve her better to have more discretion with her images. Three great adjectives together muddle up a description, but one perfect adjective creates a precise image.

Overall, The Earl of Brass has an engaging plot that follows a natural arch. The over-arching story has a satisfying build and conclusion, peppered with just the right amount of action and drama to keep things interesting. I must admit, the discovery that Eilian and Hadley make in the desert briefly broke my suspension of disbelief. While it was plausible, it seemed a bit too science fiction in the context of the rest of the novel. However, once I took a breath and trusted the author, I appreciated the discovery and its purpose in the novel. That being said, if you should be a bit surprised at this same point, just go with it. It works in the end.

Along the same lines, the discovery plays well into Eilian and Hadley’s frustrations with English society. Without spoiling anything, the discovery is set up as an antithesis to England. This contrast definitely works, but at times, it felt like a bit too much. The social commentary offered by the discovery, in combination with the ones offered by Eilian and Hadley can seem overbearing. Jorgensen themes of gender and social equality are important historically, and relevant to modern society, but the delivery comes on a little strong. In the future, I would advise her to trust her reader to discern her themes through subtler mechanisms.

While the descriptive language and thematic material may be a bit too strong, overall, The Earl of Brass by Kara Jorgensen is an exceptional novel – especially for a debut novel. The story is fun and engaging, the characters are lively and relatable, and the steampunk styling is beautiful and realistic. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves historical romance, steampunk, and/or novels with a social conscious.

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You can find out more about Kara Jorgensen on her website, and you can read an interview with her on The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour here. You can pick up the sequel to The Earl of Brass, entitled The Winter Garden, here.

kara bookIf you are interested in reading The Earl of Brass and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Feedback Friday, Review: A Man Above Reproach

A Man Above Reproach
A Man Above Reproach by Evelyn Pryce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I intended to begin this review with the disclaimer that I am not a regular romance reader. However, a quick glance at my bookshelves, which contain the complete works of Jane Austen, every Nicholas Sparks novel, and two paranormal romance series has informed me otherwise. Therefore, consider this review to be from the perspective of a casual, not exclusive, reader of romance.

In her debut novel, A Man Above ReproachEvelyn Pryce tells the tale of two headstrong individuals, the Duke of Lennox, Elias Addison, and Josephine Grant, who fall in love despite their differing social circumstances. The romance element is fun and appropriately steamy. Elias and Josephine have fantastic chemistry, as illustrated by their witty and playful banter, and the romantic scenes are tasteful, as the “historical” aspect dictates, but still spicy enough to satiate modern readers.

Beyond the main characters’ relationship, the reader can clearly tell that Pryce is an avid student of human nature. Each character has a unique and believable dynamic with every other character in the story, which makes the novel feel like a real snapshot into the lives of a social group. To put it plainly: the reader can easily believe that these people are friends, family, lovers, and enemies, because the dialogue and interactions are so well written.

As for the historical element of the novel, Pryce has clearly done her homework. The details of the world, including clothing, transportation, and politics, are all true to the time period. Likewise, the dialect and slang used by the characters nicely illustrate the time period and their social standings within it. However, Pryce shines most in her allusions to social/political events and persons within the time period. These are often “throw-away” lines that are written casually and could be overlooked, but are true gems when one realizes the historical meaning behind them.

While the dynamics of the characters and the historical details may be “above reproach,” I do take issue with the pacing of the novel. The novel moves quite quickly, which I do not mind in a romance novel. However, what I did not like is how problems would arise and then be solved incredibly quickly. Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment, but I enjoy when a problem is highly complex and takes a good portion of a novel to solve. For instance, I wish that Pryce would have taken more time to develop what was happening to the girls at The Sleeping Dove, perhaps even showing the reader a more direct view into the situation instead of just describing it through Josephine’s hints. I suppose it just felt a bit jumpy to me, to bounce from one problem to another with each ending before it truly became a huge obstacle for the characters.

In the vein of problems being solved easily, I also found the minor characters’ reactions to the protagonists’ follies to be a bit too convenient. Without giving spoilers, it seemed as if every time Elias or Josephine committed an action that would deserve reproach in this society, a minor character would surprise him/her (and the reader) by accepting and/or supporting the action. This particularly surprised me, given that the minor characters felt so well-developed and had such strong personalities of their own. In short, the minor characters seemed to just go along with the protagonists without fuss, which was brilliant for facilitating a happy ending, but did not feel authentic, given the time period and social environment.

In the end, I feel that easily-resolved problems and agreeable minor characters are forgivable. Why? Because they facilitate a happy ending, and as a reader, I want to be satisfied — and was. A Man Above Reproach is a fun read. I smiled, I laughed, I blushed, and I just plain enjoyed reading it.

I highly recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys history, romance, feminism, and comedy.

For a historian’s perspective on A Man Above Reproach, you can check out Daniel N. Gullotta’s review of the novel.

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If you are interested in reading A Man Above Reproach and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Thank you!