A STUDY IN ASHES - Emma Jane Holloway
The Baskerville Affair , Book 3
Del Rey
ISBN: 978-0-345-53720-1
January 2014
Fantasy Steam Punk

London, September 15, 1889 - October 26, 1889

War threatens not only between England's Gold, Black, Green, and Blue Steam Barons of the Powerful Steam Council over who controls the wealth, influence, and power within the realm, but also between the steam barons and the rest of England's population whom they have crushed back into serfdom. Queen Victoria's heir is ill and dying; who will take the reigns in the monarchy? And a strange, more ancient power exists in the Black Baron who seems to rule the underground and who scares even some of the barons.

The Gold Baron, Jasper Keating, controls Evalina Cooper with sliver bracelets that keep her within the boundaries of the women's college she attends. He wants to control Evalina's gift of magic in his quest for ultimate power. She tries to use her good magic judiciously and tries to control the power of the black magic she knows resides within her. Since a battle in the previous volume, A STUDY IN DARKNESS, her best friend Imogene has lain in bed with her mind absent, her body staying alive only by Evalina's magic intervention. Imogene's brilliant brother Tobias is also in the clutches of Keating as a 'Maker', someone who can devise and construct all the strange clockwork, steam-driven machines and weapons his patron desires. For insurance, Keating forced Tobias to marry his daughter Alice. They have a son who becomes another tool for his grandfather's use. Once, Evalina thought she loved Tobias. Now she loves him as a friend. Her true love, her childhood friend Nicolo, she believes died when his pirate air ship, the Red Jack , crashed and burned in the battle that took Imogene's mind.

This is a very long and involved story told from the viewpoints of many characters. Science and manufacturing have gone mad with the steam barons desire to use illegal magic to enhance their insane machines. A world in which Sherlock Holmes is Evalina's uncle, and as a ruse to help his niece escape Keating, he and Mr. Watson seek to find the murderer of Sir Charles Baskerville. A world where Mr. Juniper (Professor Moriarty) has influence on Evalina's future, and where the war machines threaten to wake an unimaginable power beneath London's streets. Three romances wind through the pages, and unscrupulous greed, hate, and magic threaten everyone. Author Emma Jane Holloway has mixed Victorian sensibilities, history, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's characters, plus the genres of fantasy, romance, steam-punk, science fiction, horror, and suspense into an impressive alternative universe.

The ending made me feel as if another series or volume might emerge, but I cannot promise that, only a current story to enjoy. I have to say I found it difficult entering this world and have to reread this and the previous volumes to absorb the many intriguing facets presented, but I'm sure the effort will be worthwhile.

Robin Lee