July 17, 2016

Steampunk Sundays w/Shelley: The Transference Engine by Julia Verne St. John

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Galley, 320 pages
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: DAW
Source: Publisher
Genre: Steampunk | Alternate History

Madame Magdala has reinvented herself many times, trying to escape Lord Byron’s revenge. She destroyed the Transference Engine Byron hoped to use to transfer his soul into a more perfect body and perpetuate his life eternally. A fanatical cult of necromancers continues Byron’s mission to force Magdala and Byron’s only legitimate child–Ada Lovelace–to rebuild the machine and bring Byron back.

Magdala now bills herself as the bastard daughter of a Gypsy King. She runs a fashionable London coffee salon and reading room while living a flamboyant lifestyle at the edge of polite society. Behind the scenes, she and Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, use the massive library stored at the Bookview Cafe to track political and mercantile activity around the world. They watch to make certain the cult of necromancy surrounding Lord Byron, the poet king who worshiped death, cannot bring him back to life.

On the eve of Queen Victoria’s coronation in June of 1838, rumors of an assassination attempt abound. Both the Bow Street Runners and Magdala’s army of guttersnipe spies seek to discover the plot and the plotters. Who is behind the mysterious black hot air balloon that shoots searing light from a hidden cannon, and who or what is the target? And who is kidnapping young girls from all walks of life?

Desperately, Magdala and her allies follow the clues, certain that someone is building a new Transference Engine. But is it to bring back the dead or destroy the living?

THE TRANSFERENCE ENGINE, by author Julia Verne St. John, is being billed as a Victorian Era, Steampunk driven novel. It is apparently a standalone novel since I haven't been able to determine whether or not any sequel will be forthcoming. Really, the first 100 pages reads as though this book is a sequel to another book that apparently doesn't exist in any form. The story takes place in Victorian England from 1824 through 1838. The story follows Madame Magdala, or Elise Vollans, proprietress of the Book View Cafe who years before, destroyed Lord Byron's Transference Engine along with one Mary Goodwin aka Shelley. 

Book View is a place where one can get a cup of tea, a cup of coffee, or a freshly baked pastry, while also pursuing the enjoyment of the cafe's rare centerpiece, a magical book sorting steampunk driven contraption that you can find almost any book in the library's amazing selection. Need a newspaper from New York? No problem! How about Tokyo? Also, no problem. The problem happens to be the followers of one Lord George Gordon Byron who are obsessed with bringing him back to life. Elise has a hatred of all things necromancy. She's seen the extreme's that Byron's followers have gone through, including attempted kidnapping of his own daughter Lady Ada Lovelace who is something of a brilliant mathematician. (See below)

From 1824, until Ada finally married Lord William, Elise kept by her side, training her to fight, and protected her from Bryon's followers numerous attempts at taking her away so that her father can use her body for his own machinations. Yes folks, Necromancy is one of the biggest aspects of this story, but Steampunk is the engine that drives the story. While Elise and her friends hate it, there are those who continue to chase after it not unlike the obsession over the philosophers stone. Elise is rather brave and also rather good at taking in orphan's and misfits and having them work in her cafe. She also uses them as spies to keep abreast of things happening around London. She also has a pretty interesting relationship with the Romani community.

Except for Elise, who is a fictional character, St. John uses more than her fair share of actual historic figures. There is, of course, Lord Byron, Dr. John Polidari (creator of the vampire genre), and Poet Percy Shelley just to name a few. Interesting fact, August Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace, lived from 1815 until 1852. She has been created with being one of the first female mathematician's and her work with Charles Babbage led to the first recognized computer (Analytical Engine). Just dropping some 411 on you.

Oh, I forget to tell you, if you continue reading after the end page you will find a special bonus story called Dancing in Cinders which takes place 3 years before this story. Enjoy!

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  1. The synopsis makes me think that It's a sequel, as well. The last book I read that felt like a sequel, I ended up disliking it. I'm glad you were still able to love this. Great review!

  2. Ha! Those are some interesting facts! Though it's weird about the first 100 pages :P

  3. This isn't normally something I would read, but the story sounds fascinating and would keep my interest. Great review! Hugs...RO

  4. Aw man. It all sounds good to me until I actually have the book in my hands then I lose interest. I haven't been able to solve the mystery of why I can never get into the steampunk genre. Sigh.

  5. I liked this one but I was confused about it... it looked too much like a spin off to me

  6. ooooh. The cover is beautiful and sounds like a wonderful read! :D Thank you for introducing me. :D

  7. What a pretty cover! I kinda like when there are real historical "characters" in a story.

  8. Necromancy and steampunk? sounds p interesting indeed :D


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