Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Tor Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy
Welcome to The Eterna Files, written by Leanna Renee Hieber, “the brightest new star in literature”(True-Blood.net)
London, 1882: Queen Victoria appoints Harold Spire of the Metropolitan Police to Special Branch Division Omega. Omega is to secretly investigate paranormal and supernatural events and persons. Spire, a skeptic driven to protect the helpless and see justice done, is the perfect man to lead the department, which employs scholars and scientists, assassins and con men, and a traveling circus. Spire's chief researcher is Rose Everhart, who believes fervently that there is more to the world than can be seen by mortal eyes. Their first mission: find the Eterna Compound, which grants immortality. Catastrophe destroyed the hidden laboratory in New York City where Eterna was developed, but the Queen is convinced someone escaped—and has a sample of Eterna.
Also searching for Eterna is an American, Clara Templeton, who helped start the project after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln nearly destroyed her nation. Haunted by the ghost of her beloved, she is determined that the Eterna Compound—and the immortality it will convey—will be controlled by the United States, not Great Britain.
Here's the thing. Some of my gracious bloggy friends have already reviewed ETERNA FILES, Leanna Renee Hieber's bi-coastal gas lamp fantasy, and have set my expectations. The good part about it is I've been forewarned by this novel's flaws and all so I had my expectations set low coming in. It might have spoiled my expectations but as I am most curious about LRHieber's latest release, it made reading ETERNA FILES somewhat easier, and though I found it enjoyable for the most part, I have to agree with previous observations with regards to the novel's opportunites for improvement. Let me start with the pro's.
I'm here to tell you that a great storm is coming. It will break across two continents; two great cities, the hearts of emptires. Your team is gone and storsm are coming. Weather them, find special souls and shielf them. Second-guess your enemy. Find te missing link between the lives you see. Do this for yourself. And for your country.
ETERNA FILES has a wonderful premise: find a cure for death. And the set-up of the story is like a Victorian cold war between England and America with both parties competing for the coveted elixir of life. Two teams are vying for it, playing paranormal spy games to one-up the other. What they don't realize is there is another player involved, hidden in the shadows, and this person or entity might just be the one responsible for the death of the Eterna's team of researchers. So the question is, what advances has Eterna made? How did those people die, leaving only a heap of ashes in their wake? Where does America and England fit in in the greater scheme of themes? Should they be allies or remain enemies?
LRHieber is a great writer! I love her prose, it's romantic, detail oriented, atmospheric, and very intelligent. Writing a story set in different continents is not only ambitious but challenging and I love the rivalry both countries feel. You have to remember, the war between the countries, though long over, is still fresh in each other's minds. England is still hurting from their loss and America is still defensive and protective of their freedom. So between these two emptires, there's a lot of miles getting the story from point A to point B, and the trip was very scenic thanks to her pretty words and fancy descriptions. Two things are happening simultaneously with the same game. It's entertaining to be shuttled back and forth across the pond, getting involved in the case and each of the characters' lives.
You can say that there are 4 lead characters here: Team America is led by Clara Templeton, founder of the Eterna Project, and her mentor, Senator Rupert Bishop; Team Britain is led by Harold Spire, a copper, and Rose Everhart, researcher. They're great heroes, each have distinct traits that makes this novel interesting. And because of the vast setting, there's also a slew of colorful side characters from ghosts to Queen Victoria herself.
I didn't mind the drawn out descriptions and narratives as much as my friends did. The fact that it was pretty to me, made reading the string of words pleasurable. My problem was the two ends LRHieber was pulling the same story from didn't converge enough to tie the two plotlines in. Majority of ETERNA FILES was one long build-up for a very tepid climax.
Next, because the story is HUGE involving an equally big cast of characters, there's not much character development. And because each player has limited facetime with us, it was hard to get invested in them. Sad because I liked a few of them like Rose Everhart; the spies, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson who had to fake their death so they can continue being spies; the debonaire and distinguished, Rupert Bishop, and Clara's assistant whose name I already forgot.
Also, my questions remained unanswered. What Clara's Eterna team has discovered regarding the "cure" for death remained vague. And they're far from cracking the mystery that killed the team too! This considering the ghost of one member is present which should've shed a LOT of light on what happened that night. Lastly, since the antagonist was already revealed, I wish he got more scenes. You know I do love my villains!
Despite its flaws, ETERNA FILES was still an interesting tale. Its better qualities are strong enough to keep this reader interested in the overarching arc. Now that the stage has been set, I'm hoping the next one (if there is, there's no series title yet or news of a sequel) will be faster paced and more character driven.
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