A Study in Silks starts with a mysterious murder of a young maid and disappearance of magic automatons. It happens in a house where Evelina Cooper lives with her best friend Imogen and her family. She finds herself in the middle of ugly family secrets, while trying to solve the murder and simultaneously protect her best friend’s family. But what if not everyone’s innocent?
It’s very hard to sum up the whole story in short, because this is one of those big fat books with a multi-layered story. There’s the highly detailed steampunk world with amazing world building. The whole British Empire is ruled by Queen Victoria, of course, but also by steam barons, who compete among themselves for more territory, often participating in ugly businesses. They provide steam, gas and electricity to households and they aren’t afraid to take advantage of their power. The magic is prohibited and anyone who’s accused of being a witch has a tough time defending himself. Then there’s a murder, automatons and a love triangle.
Evelina is a young woman who’s about to start her first Season. She’s a little lost in high-society London, having grown up in a circus. Her dangerous hobbies are inventing mechanical gadgets and working out her magical powers, both of which she struggles to keep a secret. Her uncle is the famous Sherlock Holmes, so she also has a taste for solving crimes. She has a crush on Imogen’s brother Tobias, but when a young man from her childhood comes to London, she finds herself torn between the life she left behind and the future.
While reading A Study in Silks, I often thought how it reminded me of Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Not the story itself, but the structure. There’s many side-stories and point of views, characters are complex with both strengths and faults, and the whole world is so thoughtfully developed. The story is pretty slow, I think at 20% we were still on that first day when the murder happened, but there’s a lot going on, too, especially later in the book. A lot of important details are revealed very subtly in conversations, so you need to be very careful not to miss them.
I highly enjoyed the book and loved the world and characters, but it requires a lot of patience while reading. It’s a long book and not that easy to read. I recommend it for steampunk fans and patient readers. Do not pick it up if you have a lot of other books to read soon, A Study in Silks takes time to develop and enjoy, but it’s worth it. The book doesn’t end with cliffhanger, but let’s just say I can’t wait to see what will happen in the next book!
*I received this book in exchange for and honest review. Thank you Del Rey and NetGalley!*