Title: All Men of Genius
Author: Lev AC Rosen
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 462 Pages
ISBN-10: 0765327945 (Macmillan/Tor)
ISBN-13: 978-0765327949 (Macmillan/Tor)
Reviewed by: Sheila
Inspired by two of the most beloved works by literary masters, “All Men of Genius “takes place in an alternate Steampunk Victorian London, where science makes the impossible possible.
Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a widely renowned school for the most brilliant up-and-coming scientific minds, founded by the late Duke Illyria, the greatest scientist of the Victorian Age. The school is run by his son, Ernest, who has held to his father’s policy that the small, exclusive college remain male-only. Violet sees her opportunity when her father departs for America. She disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, and gains entry.
But keeping the secret of her sex won’t be easy, not with her friend Jack’s constant habit of pulling pranks, and especially not when the duke’s young ward, Cecily, starts to develop feelings for Violet’s alter ego, “Ashton.” Not to mention blackmail, mysterious killer automata, and the way Violet’s pulse quickens whenever the young duke, Ernest (who has a secret past of his own), speaks to her. She soon realizes that it’s not just keeping her secret until the end of the year faire she has to worry about: it’s surviving that long.
Quick & Dirty: Beautifully written prose filled with women’s rights, love, and geniuses creating the impossible.
Opening Sentence: Violet and Ashton’s father was leaving for America to help decide where time should begin.
Steampunk is a mixture of history and the fantastical imaginings of machines at the time of The Industrial Age. It’s a world where steam power is the dominant form of fuel and Victorian sensibilities prevail. Combine this idea with the timelessly inspirational stories of William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde and you have a novel that will no doubt inspire each of us in a whole new way.
All Men of Genius tells the story of one woman’s struggle against the stigmata of her gender and her journey to prove her true worth to those around her. Violet Adams is a genius, but her brilliance has gone unnoticed by the society at large. Her dreams are filled with machines and inventions, not the desire for a suitable husband and comfortable lifestyle fit for a lady of her station. In order to see her dreams come true, she develops a plan to prove that her worth is more than her breeding: She will enter the esteemed all-male Illyria College, renowned for its innovative thinking, she joins in disguise as her twin brother, Ashton. After proving her genius to her peers, she will reveal the true nature of her gender at the end of the year science fair. Good plan, right? Of course, if she is found out, she will be executed and her family’s honor will be forever shamed. Is it worth the risk?
And if I didn’t know any better, I would say that this book was written by a woman. (No offense, Mr. Rosen!) The frustrations of the limitations of women in this time come through quite clearly. Each female character displays a unique perspective on the issue of woman’s rights, both intellectual and sexual. Both Violet and Cecily want to be judged by the size of their I.Q. and not the size of their breasts. Even Miriam’s independent nature reflects the struggles of feminine suppression. Though this is a dominant theme within the book, it does not overshadow the storyline itself. While the women in this book strive for something more, they are still open to love and sharing their lives with the very men they are rallying against. I guess that line in Mary Poppins is correct-that though we love men individually, as a group, they’re rather stupid.
The men in All Men of Genius are just as intriguing as the women. Duke Ernest Illyria, the current headmaster of Illyria College, believes himself a forward-thinking man. Even though he upholds his father’s dictate of only male students, Ernest believes that women can be just as smart as men. When he meets Violet, he is immediately intrigued by, not only her body, but also her conversation. When he next meets her, she is presented as Ashton, her twin brother. Ernest, uncomfortably, finds himself drawn to Ashton as well. And though he eventually discovers the truth, he knows in his heart the person he loves, without the outer dressings.
Though this book concentrates on Violet’s journey, it does touch on her brother’s, Ashton’s, struggle. As a gay man, he too is stifled within society’s narrow parameters. I believe that Violet’s fight becomes sort of a call to put the accepted status-quo into question.
While all of this complicated byplay is going on, the group of friends at Illyria also find themselves drawn in a fight against an unknown saboteur that is intent on taking over the college. While most students and faculty concentrate their inventions for the betterment of mankind, there are those out there that seek the betterment of weaponization. Can our loveable group of genius’s figure out a way to stop the college from being consumed by greed and war mongering? Can a lonely girl fight for what she believes in, even at the detriment of her and her family’s future?
I loved this book to no end. There is something about seeing the little man beat out against “the man” that gets me every time. If you enjoy reading about such epic struggles, this is the book for you. I would not be surprised to find it declared a new “classic” that my boys will be forced to read in high school along with other great books like 1984 and The Giver. I can’t imagine anyone reading this book and not being moved by it.
“So,” Ashton said, eating a cucumber sandwich, “You’ve been chased by murderous automata?”
“Yeah,” Jack said, “during our initiation, and then again when we got knackered and decided to explore the basement to see if Volio’s secret lab was behind the mysterious door.”
“Volio,” Violet continued, “is a horrid second-year student whose brother was nearly expelled for producing weapons, and who is now blackmailing Miriam because he knows that she goes out with us at night.”
“Cecily’s governess,” Jack said, and sighed, thinking of Cecily.
“He’s in love with Cecily,” Violet said, buttering a muffin. “Cecily is the duke’s cousin and ward.”
“This is very complicated,” Ashton said. “Why don’t you just tell me about your week, from first day to last.”
“Very well,” Violet said, and she did.
A few hours later, Ashton was also a bit paler with dark circles under his eyes. “This is needlessly complex,” he said.
“And that’s just the first week,” Violet said.
The All Men of Genius Series:
FTC Advisory: Macmillan/Tor Books provided me with a copy of All Men of Genius. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. The only payment received came in the form of hugs and kisses from my little boys.
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