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Book Review: A Study in Silks, by Emma Jane Holloway

Steampunk, magic, and Sherlock Holmes. It just doesn’t seem to fit together, does it? But in Emma Jane Holloway’s novel, A Study in Silks, just such a thing happens. This novel, which was released September 24, chronicles the adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ niece, Evelina Cooper, as she follows in her uncle’s mystery-solving footsteps, but does things her own way.

In the spring of 1888, in a London ruled by the steam barons and where practice of magic is illegal, Evelina Cooper is looking forward to the Season. She is staying with her school friend, Imogen, whose father is very powerful and whose brother, Tobias, is very handsome, when the peace is shattered by a mysterious break-in and the death of one of the kitchenmaids. Evelina examines the body before the police arrive and discovers a ciphered letter and a silk bag of uncut gems. Determined to find out the reason behind the unfortunate maid’s murder, Evelina and her friend Imogen set to investigating the case. Evie uses her knack with creating small machines and infusing them with magic to create a brass bird and mouse who both help her with her case.

But things are soon more complicated than they appear. Evie captures the attention of both Tobias and her childhood friend from the circus, Nick, and they both have their own secrets to hide. And the more secrets Evie uncovers, the wider the scope of her investigation, and soon she finds that she and her Uncle Sherlock are pursuing the very same case having to do with a secret political intrigue called the Baskerville Affair.

At first, I thought this wouldn’t be much of a read, and I was prepared to be either lukewarmly satisfied or coolly disappointed. The book had quite a few subplots that didn’t seem to jive at all, until Sherlock Holmes arrives on the scene to collaborate with his niece to solve the riddle of the maid’s murder. It’s a treat to watch Evie develop as an investigator as she uses some of her uncle’s methods and tries to think as he would. Ultimately, she uses her own resources and draws her own conclusion. Even more enthralling is the friendship between Imogen and Evie; Imogen, a daughter of privilege who is prone to ill health, is bound and determined to act as Evie’s partner, even though Evie is careful to protect her friend from whatever she might uncover. The budding romances add another plot point and conflict with what Evie is trying to find, but the love triangle between the heroine and the two male leads could have been left out. It’s understandable since a love triangle makes for a good subplot, but with love-triangle stories saturating the market over the past few years, it’s something that has become a little humdrum, in my opinion.

So my overall verdict? I would give the book three out of five unicorns, and I was so eager to read the other two books in the series, I got advanced review copies of those, too. Guess which infamous person the second book deals with—just guess.

I obtained a advanced review copy through Netgalley.com in exchange for my honest review.

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