THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR
Bannon & Clare #1
Adult Urban Fantasy
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Emma Bannon, forensic
sorceress in the service of the Empire, has a mission: to protect
Archibald Clare, a failed, unregistered mentath. His skills of deduction
are legendary, and her own sorcery is not inconsiderable. It doesn't
help much that they barely tolerate each other, or that Bannon's Shield,
Mikal, might just be a traitor himself. Or that the conspiracy killing
registered mentaths and sorcerers alike will just as likely kill them as seduce them into treachery toward their Queen.
an alternate London where illogical magic has turned the Industrial
Revolution on its head, Bannon and Clare now face hostility, treason,
cannon fire, black sorcery, and the problem of reliably finding hansom
The Iron Wyrm Affair pairs together unique and drastically different characters, both whom possess a special talent for investigation but operate from opposite ends of the spectrum. One sees this steampunk world logically, using equations and observations to establish intent and pattern, while the other defies logic with her sorcery, proving to her partner again and again that what is supernatural can also be rational. As can sometimes be the case with alternative worlds with a strong steampunk influence, the parameters of the world and its inhabitants are extraordinarily complex, unfamiliar mechanical creatures and technologies accompanied by an unusual vocabulary to keep the story just out of our reach, left behind at times as the tide of Ms. Saintcrow’s innovation marches forward without us.
While we occasionally stumble to fully grasp what’s being described over the course of Ms. Bannon and Mr. Clare’s investigation, Ms. Saintcrow does craft two deeply intriguing and layered characters to guide us in this adventure. Ms. Bannon is perhaps the one out of the two of them we get to know better, Mr. Clare’s sharp analytical and highly mathematical mind creating a hard shell we don’t quite yet have the tools to break through in this first installment. A touch of dry humor here and there lets us know the potential for accessibility is strong though, and will likely be developed as we continue on in our roles as fictional apprentices to both him and Ms. Bannon.
Ms. Bannon, on the other hand, shows a great deal of vulnerability in this story, snippets of a recent traumatic event causing us to feel protective of her physically though she in no way needs it, and as we learn of the stigma attached to her Discipline of sorcery, that protectiveness quickly extends to her emotionally as well. Her relationship with her Shield Mikal is a fascinating one, her distrust over the events that lead Mikal to be her Shield after his previous sorcerer’s demise coloring their every interaction and preventing an otherwise astoundingly observant woman from seeing the truth behind his every action. Those who enjoy a bit of romance in their urban fantasy stories, like myself, will likely be just a touch disappointed in the supremely subtle quality to their relationship given it exists mostly in between lines of text, forcing us to absorb the implications and make inferences with regard to a gesture or statement rather than glory in the details.
Overall, The Iron Wyrm Affair is a complicated story, a multi-tiered conspiracy combining with an already layered and intricate world to at times overwhelm us as we struggle for purchase on such foreign ground. The second installment will likely be easier to sink our teeth into given the unusualness of the world will have had time to settle in our minds, and the promise of truly brilliant characters is enough to have us looking forward to The Red Plague Affair with eager anticipation, the mismatched duo of Bannon and Clare sure to entertain yet again.