To Be Released: May 5th
If you haven't read the first book in The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series, there are spoilers in this review for you (even just from the Plot summary). My review of The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter is here.
Unseemly Science doesn't begin with the bullet-like plot trajectory seen in The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter. There's more complexity to the story because of some of the events of the first book. Although it wasn't a slow beginning, it lacked the instantaneous hook the previous book had, and adds more grim moments when you wonder how much of the first book's joie de vivre was due in part to Elizabeth's outlook.
The cover of this book should tell you a lot about it- I haven't encountered a more fitting cover for the second installment of a series. After reading this book for an hour or so, it gives you that slightly sinister feeling of hairs being raised on the back of your neck. Who's out to get Elizabeth this time? Or should the question be, who's not out to get Elizabeth this time?
The Plot: (As Seen on Goodreads)
'In the divided land of England, Elizabeth Barnabus has been living a double life - as both herself and as her brother, the private detective. Witnessing the hanging of Alice Carter, the false duchess, Elizabeth resolves to throw the Bullet Catcher’s Handbook into the fire, and forget her past. If only it were that easy!
'There is a new charitable organisation in town, run by some highly respectable women. But something doesn’t feel right to Elizabeth. Perhaps it is time for her fictional brother to come out of retirement for one last case…? Her unstoppable curiosity leads her to a dark world of body-snatching, unseemly experimentation, politics and scandal. Never was it harder for a woman in a man’s world…'
The political angles of this series continue to evolve. In the previous book, Elizabeth escapes what would amount to slavery by fleeing to the oh-so-sexist Anglo-Scottish Republic again. Because the influential person who was looking for her in the Kingdom has learned of her continued existence, tensions against immigrants in the Republic have risen. As a result, Elizabeth has to rely on more than her own finely honed instincts to survive in this book.
I had worried going in that this book might be too romantic compared with its only slightly romantic predecessor- and my fears were allayed when Elizabeth Barnabus continued to be her very independent self. Not that I don't like romance in a story, but certain stories have heroines who it would take a good deal of time to warm to the idea of 'loving' someone, and Elizabeth Barnabus is one of them. Although there are moments where you wonder if she screwed her head on right that morning, the only romance this book has to offer is epic slow-build, which I love.
One of my favorite parts of the book was one of the plot twists, which, as a science-fiction-minded junior high school student (and a fan of all things macabre) I had done a lot of research on. This element, which will not be named (because I hate spoilers and it happens late in the book) was well-executed and the perfect fit for a book that has a certain chill going on. It made me mentally tip my fedora to Mr. Duncan and declare, "Well played, sir".
I didn't predict the twists that Unseemly Science threw at me. Not only is this book much darker than its predecessor, it also keeps you in more suspense, which is a feat considering I compared The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter to a spy novel. All in all, this book met my expectations and left me wondering how long I have to wait before I get my hands on the next installment of the series. I recommend this to everyone who loves independent heroines and alternate history plots with some science fiction elements blended in.
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars for a sequel that takes a macabre turn!
Content: Ages 18+ for horror-esque themes (which I can't explain without spoiling), violence, and hair-raising moments.
Page Count: 368 pages