Burton & Swinburne: Book 2 ~ The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man

Author: Mark Hodder
Summary: It is 1862, though not the 1862 it should be … Time has been altered, and Sir Richard Francis Burton, the king’s agent, is one of the few people who know that the world is now careening along a very different course from that which Destiny intended. When a clockwork-powered man of brass is found abandoned in Trafalgar Square, Burton and his assistant, the wayward poet Algernon Swinburne, find themselves on the trail of the stolen Garnier Collection—black diamonds rumored to be fragments of the Lemurian Eye of Naga, a meteorite that fell to Earth in prehistoric times. His investigation leads to involvement with the media sensation of the age: the Tichborne Claimant, a man who insists that he’s the long lost heir to the cursed Tichborne estate. Monstrous, bloated, and monosyllabic, he’s not the aristocratic Sir Roger Tichborne known to everyone, yet the working classes come out in force to support him. They are soon rioting through the streets of London, as mysterious steam wraiths incite all-out class warfare. From a haunted mansion to the Bedlam madhouse, from South America to Australia, from seances to a secret labyrinth, Burton struggles with shadowy opponents and his own inner demons, meeting along the way the philosopher Herbert Spencer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Florence Nightingale, and Charles Doyle (father of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). Can the king’s agent expose a plot that threatens to rip the British Empire apart, leading to an international conflict the like of which the world has never seen? And what part does the clockwork man have to play? Burton and Swinburne’s second adventure— The Clockwork Man Of Trafalgar Square —is filled with eccentric steam-driven technology, grotesque characters, and a deepening mystery that pushes forward the three-volume story arc begun in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack .
My Review: I actually really did like this book much more than its predecessor, which is usually a rarity with sequels for me. The imaginative plot, the vivid description, the thought provoking writing style, the engaging characters. I just really enjoyed this series, more so than I thought I would have at first. I think it’s gotten me into the steampunk genre, and I now have a few more I hope to pick up this summer.

Characters: I like how the historical figures are brought into the plot, and bent into these fictitious characters in an alternative Victorian era. It’s like you’re getting just a tad bit of actual fact mixed in with the fantasy that makes it that much more engaging. I really like how Hodder’s characters stick true to their own personalities and you do follow along loyally, hoping all turns out well in the end. He also makes it perfectly easily to loathe the simply nasty characters and find the humorous ones all the more amusing.
Plot: The plot was just as imaginative, enticing, and amusing as the first, with laughs in all the right places and suspenseful build up in the characters many various excursions and adventures. While perhaps sometimes one might feel the chapters dragging on, I personally did enjoy the wonderful narration and description. It’s just one of those books you have to give some time for to appreciate it all the more.
Disclaimers: It’s still got that edge to it, so definitely not recommended for younger readers. While maybe the sensuality wasn’t as bad as the first book, the graphic violence turned it up a notch, and the language was about the same. I think it came to that point where the details were just a little too gory for my taste. I still enjoyed, but it’s one of those “ew…” moments, e.g. missing limbs, decapitation, zombies, etc. There is the mention of prostitutes again, but nothing explicit ever happens, and anything nasty is usually coated over with humor.
Favorite Character: Swinburne
Favorite Quote: N/A
Recommended: Adult
Over-all Rating: ★★★★☆
~ Darkitty

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