The Brass Queen

CamCat. Jan. 2021. 400p. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780744300093; pap. $16.99. ISBN 9780744300109.
Gr 9 Up–Set in an alternate 1897 England, this story opens at Miss Constance Haltwhistle’s debutante ball. Constance is desperately in need of a husband by the end of the week or she’ll lose her estate. Her uncle wishes to take control and raze Haltwhistle Hall in the absence of Baron Haltwhistle, who is presumed dead. Constance is frustrated that women of the time cannot inherit property and furthermore is on edge since she must dodge assassins at every turn. In fact, not only is she the last in her noble line but also a rogue inventor, known as The Brass Queen, who sells intricately designed weapons around the world to support her estate. Enter U.S. spy J. F. Trusdale, who inadvertently saves her when assassins appear and kidnap three scientists from the party. Trusdale and Miss Haltwhistle must work together to learn the whereabouts of the scientists and an invisibility serum, and discover a tightly knit plot on Queen Victoria’s life. The protagonists must learn to trust each other while secrets may sabotage their prospective relationship. This is a delightful read full of comedy, romance, and adventure. The worldbuilding is particularly creative, with lush imagery and Victorianesque settings blended seamlessly with bold, humorous, and sassy characters, and fantastical steampunk gadgets including airships and weaponry. The narrative is well paced and grabs interest from the first page. Alternating chapter POV provides a well-rounded view of events as well as deeper characterization. The developing romance is flirty and plausible, leaving readers smitten.
VERDICT This is what other steampunk narratives should strive to be—creative, light, and fun. Readers will be delighted by this romp full of action and adventure.

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