This was my first foray into reading Steampunk so I’m not entirely sure what is typical for the genre. In this world, there has been some kind of environmental crisis, with corrosive slime rain and poisonous rivers. Poor people live in neighbourhoods in the open air with homes built from whatever could be scavenged, whereas richer people live in flying cities or eco-domes. The man who invented these eco-domes, William Darcy, is the descendent of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, who were real people. The book of Pride and Prejudice exists as the chronicle of their romance. Darcy is extremely proud of his ancestors, and he contacts Seraphine to enlist her help with a project. Seraphine understands that the project is to recreate Pemberley, which was destroyed due to the environmental disasters, as a theme hotel, but this isn’t entirely the case. Darcy has a deeply awful half-brother, Richard, who he is trying to keep his inventions secret from so they are not misused. They also have a 15 year old half-sister, Gianna, who is very spoiled and tiresome.
Seraphine has had a very hard life. When she was 10 her father was taken by the authorities and erased from all records. Five years later her mother, who was previously a gifted scientist, was taken by the authorities and given mind-altering drugs – although she was returned to the family she isn’t really aware of much of what is happening. Seraphine’s brother ran away from the family leaving Seraphine, then a teenager, to look after her mother and her much younger sister, Briar-Rose. Seraphine did what she had to, not always on the right side of the law, to ensure her family’s safety and survival. Now, Briar-Rose is 15 years old and a selfish and self-absorbed teenager. Seraphine works as a scientific investigator and earns extra money from delivering cargo. Being the sole breadwinner, and being aware of the damage the authorities can wreak on a person, Seraphine fears being taken in by the authorities.
Although Sera doesn’t want to work for Darcy, her hand is forced, and they end up working together. Darcy needs her, but is afraid of trusting anybody and won’t let her in; he doesn’t actually let her work on the project he has employed her to help him with! The lack of trust definitely goes both ways. They have chemistry from the off, but they are both conscious of the class divide – he feels like he should make a society marriage and she feels that he couldn’t possibly be interested in her for more than a quick fling.
I would have liked to have seen a bit more interaction between the characters; although Sera and Darcy talked most of their relationship seemed based on chemistry, and they both frustrated me by telling each other very little. For example, at one point Sera has a listening device planted on her. She discovers how it was planted, and Darcy works out who arranged it but they never tell each other. I could understand their reluctance to trust each other but Darcy in particular was annoying about it, refusing to explain his motivations on many occasions which lead Sera to misinterpret his actions when a partial explanation would often have sufficed. These two also have major sibling issues which are largely left unaddressed, and in some cases this seems unlikely, such as a time when Sera’s sister crashes her ship and it’s barely spoken about.
Although this isn’t the type of thing I usually read I enjoyed this book. It might have been helpful to have a bit more detail on the uprising, as I was a bit sketchy on what they were fighting against, I imagined a kind of ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ type of society but less restrictive. There was a lot of action, and if you have quite a visual imagination it’ll be working overtime on this book because there was description of the outfits, machinery and fights which really helped set the scenes. The world the author created was very interesting, and I hope she writes a follow-up, as I am interested to know what happens with the invention, and what happens in the relationship of Sera and Darcy with their respective siblings.