Title: The Red Plague Affair
Author: Lilith Saintcrow
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
Series: Bannon & Clare (Book 2)
Publication Date: May 21, 2013
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
ISBN-10: 0316183733 (Orbit)
ISBN-13: 978-0316183734 (Orbit)
Reviewed by: Kristie
The service of Britannia is not for the faint of heart–or conscience…
Emma Bannon, Sorceress Prime in service to Queen Victrix, has a mission: to find the doctor who has created a powerful new weapon. Her friend, the mentath Archibald Clare, is only too happy to help. It will distract him from pursuing his nemesis, and besides, Clare is not as young as he used to be. A spot of Miss Bannon’s excellent hospitality and her diverting company may be just what he needs.
Unfortunately, their quarry is a fanatic, and his poisonous discovery is just as dangerous to Britannia as to Her enemies. Now a single man has set Londinium ablaze, and Clare finds himself in the middle of distressing excitement, racing against time and theory to find a cure. Miss Bannon, of course, has troubles of her own, for the Queen’s Consort Alberich is ill, and Her Majesty unhappy with Bannon’s loyal service. And there is still no reliable way to find a hansom when one needs it most…
The game is afoot. And the Red Plague rises.
Quick & Dirty: A dark and tragic novel that takes a few chapters to set up the plot but once it starts it never stops.
Opening Sentence: I am too bloody old for this.
The Red Plague Affair once again takes us into a world of magic and mentaths. Set in the 1800s Victorian England, this novel has a touch of steampunk, although it is not heavily set up like in the first book in this series. Magic users such as Emma Bannon use aether that is given off at dusk and dawn to power jewelry and such that holds their magic. Emma is a Prime, the most powerful of her kind of magic, which just so happens to be Dark Magic. Archibald Clare is a mentath, a human that is extra intelligent, almost to the point of being an over-analytical supercomputer. If a mentath’s mind isn’t being challenged or put to some task they will easily go insane.
This novel takes place three years after The Iron Wyrm Affair. Emma Bannon and Archibald Clare are still working for Queen Victrix and have gotten quite used to each others company (just as friends nothing sexual between them). So when Clare is possibly dying from a heart attack Bannon uses her magic to heal him because they have a new assignment from the queen. (Plus, she is a little attached to the strange mentath). Unfortunately, Clare has been neglecting his duties and has been on the hunt for a mentath thief named Vance. Bannon quickly puts him back on track with the search for a missing physicker (just a mere genius not quite at the mentath level). Bannon and Clare have unwittingly been drawn into this search for a madman who releases a deadly plague. After its tragic release, Clare must do all he can to find a cure, even if he has to suffer the help of his mortal enemy, Vance.
Emma Bannon goes through a lot of emotions in this novel. She has really been put through the ringer of tragedy and she makes some rash decisions but she is still the character that I really liked from The Iron Wrym Affair. Archibald Clare is not as robotic, as seen with the many health issues that he faces in this novel and I really enjoyed his wit. It helped with adding some lightheartedness to this really dark novel. The chapters alternate between Bannon and Clare’s point of views.
The Red Plague Affair is not for the squeamish. There are some disgusting scenes especially when describing the plague and what some people are going through.
This novel is a little slow on the upstart – before it finally moves on to the mystery of finding the missing physicker and then the red plague. Even though it felt slow in the beginning, it ended up being a really fast read for me. The action and mystery kept me hooked and I couldn’t wait until the final resolution. I did feel that several plot points were left out in the end but overall the book had a satisfactory ending.
One note: This novel has an air of highborn supremacy. Emma speaks as if she was born from nobility. The language that is used is often overwhelming and because this is set in an alternate era – many of the names have been changed (people and places) such as Alexandrina Victrix for Queen Victoria, Prince Consort Alberich and the Mad King Georgeth. It may take some time to get used to the language used but it really sets the overall mood and atmosphere that this series has going for it.
In the end, I really did enjoy The Red Plague Affair. I wish some events hadn’t happened but I can’t wait to see how these events set up the next novel in the series, The Ripper Affair.
“Bastarde,” the Neapolitan whispered. “Move, or cast one of your filthy sorceries, I slit your throat.”
“I advise you to believe him.” Emma rose. Her skirts made a low sweet sound, and the curtains, fluttering, closed themselves without the benefit of hands. A Master Sorcerer was no match for a Prime, but still, caution was required. And the morning’s light should not shine on this work. The sudden gloom was a balm to her sensitised eyes. “Now, Timothy – may I address you as such? Thank you. Timothy, Mr Clare and I require you to be absolutely truthful. And if you are absolutely truthful, you will survive this encounter.”
It pained her to lie, but the man’s face had turned cheesy-pale. He would be of absolutely no use if he knew the likely outcome of the morning’s visit.
Britannia wished Morris taken alive, but she had said nothing about this man. And Emma was of the opinion that leaving behind anyone to be questioned was rather a bad idea at this juncture. It was necessary, she reminded herself, because she did not know if Kim Rudyard had left for his own part of the globe… or if he was still in Londinium, with a plan that hinged on some canisters and a certain physicker.
Clare glanced at her, but he did not, thank God, give voice to his plain certainty that she was being misleading.
“Mr Clare?” She kept her tone level. “Please question him thoroughly. I hope you don’t mind if I interject every so often? Oh, but before you begin, one small thing…”
Mikal’s fingers clenched. The crunch of cartilage collapsing was very loud in the hush. Emma’s low hummed note caught the sound, wrapping the flat in a smothering veil. It wouldn’t do to have the neighbours inconvenienced. The dark Shield suffocated, his heels drumming the floor, and Mikal glanced up. His gaze, yellow as the Ganges-dust of Indus, met hers.
Bannon & Clare:
3. The Ripper Affair (August 19, 2014)
FTC Advisory: Orbit provided me with a copy of The Red Plague Affair. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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