On my bookshelf – Adult Victorian Fantasy

Hello gentle reader,

I’ve recently read a couple of Adult books, all set in Victorian London and with some fantasy elements…

Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

Title: The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Burton & Swinburne #1)

Author: Mark Hodder

Genre: Steampunk/Alternate History

Blurb:

London, 1861.

Sir Richard Francis Burton—explorer, linguist, scholar, and swordsman; his reputation tarnished; his career in tatters; his former partner missing and probably dead.

Algernon Charles Swinburne—unsuccessful poet and follower of de Sade; for whom pain is pleasure, and brandy is ruin!

They stand at a crossroads in their lives and are caught in the epicenter of an empire torn by conflicting forces: Engineers transform the landscape with bigger, faster, noisier, and dirtier technological wonders; Eugenicists develop specialist animals to provide unpaid labor; Libertines oppose repressive laws and demand a society based on beauty and creativity; while the Rakes push the boundaries of human behavior to the limits with magic, drugs, and anarchy. The two men are sucked into the perilous depths of this moral and ethical vacuum when Lord Palmerston commissions Burton to investigate assaults on young women committed by a weird apparition known as Spring Heeled Jack, and to find out why werewolves are terrorizing London’s East End.

Their investigations lead them to one of the defining events of the age, and the terrifying possibility that the world they inhabit shouldn’t exist at all!

What I thought:

I enjoyed this book, although it became clear quite quickly this was an introductory book to a series. It has its own plot, but many aspects of the world and a lot of characters are just introduced to us and not fully developed. I’ll probably pick up at least Book 2 to see where this goes.

Mayhem

Title: Mayhem (Mayhem #1)

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Genre: Historical mystery with supernatural elements

Blurb:

A new killer is stalking the streets of London’s East End. Though newspapers have dubbed him ‘the Torso Killer’, this murderer’s work is overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel crimes.

The victims are women too, but their dismembered bodies, wrapped in rags and tied up with string, are pulled out of the Thames – and the heads are missing. The murderer likes to keep them.

Mayhem is a masterwork of narrative suspense: a supernatural thriller set in a shadowy, gaslit London, where monsters stalk the cobbled streets and hide in plain sight.

What I thought:

I really liked this book. I loved that it focused on a (real) series of murders that happened at the same time as the Jack The Ripper murders. I also really enjoyed the supernatural twist. The second book in this duology will come out in April and I’ll definitely check it out.

Elijah's Mermaid

Title: Elijah’s Mermaid

Author: Essie Fox

Genre: Historical/Gothic with fantasy elements

Blurb:

Since she was found as a baby, floating in the Thames one foggy night, the web-toed Pearl has been brought up in a brothel known as the House of Mermaids. Cosseted and pampered there, it is only when her fourteenth birthday approaches that Pearl realises she is to be sold to the highest bidder.
Meanwhile, the orphaned twins, Lily and Elijah, have shared an idyllic childhood, raised in a secluded country house with their grandfather, Augustus Lamb. But when Lily and Elijah go on a visit London, a chance meeting with the ethereal Pearl will have repercussions for all of them, binding their fates together in a dark and dangerous way…

In this bewitching, sensual novel, Essie Fox has written another tale of obsessive love and betrayal, moving from the respectable worlds of Victorian art and literature, and into the shadowy demi-monde of brothels, asylums and freak show tents – a world in which nothing and no-one is quite what they seem to be.

What I thought:

This book wasn’t what I expected. It’s slow-paced, and written in the style of a 19th Century novel. The two main characters are very passive, which I don’t really like, especially when they are female characters. And all in all, it was quite predictable. Maybe it just wasn’t for me.

What have you been reading lately? Any Victorian book you’d recommend?

Feel free to leave me a comment below!

4 thoughts on “On my bookshelf – Adult Victorian Fantasy

  1. Just a quick question: does “adult” in this case mean erotica, or simply non-teen? 🙂

  2. Miss Cole says:

    The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack is probably my favourite steampunk book. I just love it, and the series gets better and better.

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