This was my first meeting with Langdon St Ives and it was one of mixed emotion. The reemergence of James Blaylock into the world of Steampunk is lauded by many. This is a man who paved the way for many, so why did his latest novel leave me wanting so much more?
The central hero, St Ives, is great. Everyone loves a gentleman rogue who fights for what is right. It was always enjoyable reading the conversations which took place over vast rich meals in between moments of action. These situations allowed the reader to connect with the cast and also envision the world in which they live. Sadly it was that world which brought my first stumbling block.
To cut right to the point, it just wasn’t brimming with Steampunk references. There were a few dotted here and there, but without mention of steam powered organs or airships, this could just have been an adventure novel set in the 1800s. It lacked the punch that I wanted. Thankfully the actual plot itself was intriguing and kept me interested until the last page.
The idea of government plots interwoven with ghostly plot points was enticing. I was kept up at night wanting to read the next twist in the tale or to see whether a beloved character would make it any further. However, there were moments when the enemy, Narbondo, could have been built up a little more for newcomers to the series. His actions sometimes felt out of place and rather weak willed. The plot, despite the fantastic set pieces, had no real backbone. This characters supposed evil was only shown in petty murder rather than in an overarching lust for power or revenge.
It left me wondering if I suffered as a reader for having not read the previous installments. The odd mention cropped up of past missions which hinted to a bigger picture that I was not party to. Despite that, I would read more of Blaylocks characters. The Aylesford Skull has sown a seed that I wish to see blossom. It isn’t the perfect read for a newcomer, but it does leave you wanting to fill in the blanks with the older books.
Published by Titan Books. This book was kindly sent for review by the publisher.
This article was posted as part of the Aylesford Skull Swashbuckling Blog Tour celebrating the release of James P. Blaylock’s first full-length steampunk novel in twenty years [The Aylesford Skull, Titan Books, £7.99]. For the opportunity to win a limited edition of The Aylesford Skull in a jacketed, signed hardcover with a unique jacket design, just tweet “I would like a limited edition of the Aylesford Skull @TitanBooks #Blaylock”.
Details about The Limited Edition (available Feb 2013)
750 signed and numbered editions:
Jacketed, cloth-bound hardcover with ribbon
Signed by James P. Blaylock
Exclusive foreword by K.W. Jeter and introduction by Tim Powers
26 signed and lettered editions:
As above encased in a custom-made traycase
Be the first to find out when The Aylesford Skull (Limited Edition) is available, by signing up to our mailing list here: http://www.titanbooks.com/signup