Shadows of Asphodel has a highly unique premise and it didn’t disappoint. There’s a lot of badassery in this book - ancient magical swords, bloody battles, automatons and a necromancer rising dead people! Steampunk is one of my favorite genres, so when I heard about Shadows of Asphodel, a dieselpunk romance, I couldn’t wait to read it. I admit that I haven’t heard about dieselpunk before, so I was very curious of what this genre has to offer. It turns out, a lot.
I loved the historical setting of Europe in pre-World War I. This alternate history world Karen Kincy created was rich with details and I could really feel the whole broody atmosphere of cold and rainy Vienna, with zeppelins roaming the sky. I also loved how the author included actual historical people in this fantasy. Franz Ferdinand was mentioned, and Rudolf Diesel himself was a character in the book. The story line was action packed, with constant turns and surprises. I was a bit afraid in the start that the story would focus too much on the romance and I’m really glad it didn’t. It was a story of revenge, of Wendel getting free from the Order of Asphodel and people that tortured him.
Ardis was just the heroine I love to read about. She’s half-Chinese and working as a mercenary for Austria-Hungary, which means she doesn’t hesitate when it comes to killing. She was smart, strong and confident, with some pretty hard past left behind. Wendel was a bit harder to connect to, because he constantly omitted the talk about his past, so I kept guessing if I should trust him or not. He was so deeply hurt in his childhood, I was afraid he’s so focused on revenge that he’d risk everything, including Ardis, just to destroy his enemies.
Ardis and Wendel were a great couple, despite the angst. They were so different but still had so much in common. The romance was a bit rushed in beginning, but other than that I liked it. I really wanted for them to get rid of enemies and the dark past, and just get their happily ever after they both deserved. Their dialogue was often filled with humor and insinuating comments, so you could just feel the sexual tension. There were a few really hot sex scenes I thought were perfect, because they weren’t too long or too detailed, and still very tasteful.
Another great character was Konstantin, an archmage with magical abilities, who designed the automatons and helped Ardis and Wendel. He was sweet and a bit clumsy, so you just had to like him, but even more than that - he was gay, which we only found out near the end. I really appreciated that the author touched this topic without adding any unnecessary stereotypes.
As a reader of fantasy and science fiction, I found this story delightful and very original. It was action-packed and I enjoyed it from start to finish. It ended nicely, without a cliffhanger, but still with some anticipation of future, especially with the possible war coming. The book promises in the end that “this is just the beginning” and I only hope the sequel will be out soon because I can’t wait to get sucked into this world again!
*A copy of this book was kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.*