Bronze Gods by A. A. Aguirre
Bronze Gods (An Apparatus Infernum Novel)
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(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko work all hours in the Criminal Investigation Division, keeping citizens safe. He’s a charming rogue with an uncanny sixth sense; she’s all logic—and the division’s first female inspector. Between his instincts and her brains, they collar more criminals than any other partnership in the CID.
Then they’re assigned a potentially volatile case in which one misstep could end their careers. At first, the search for a missing heiress seems straightforward, but when the girl is found murdered—her body charred to cinders—Mikani and Ritsuko’s modus operandi is challenged as never before. It soon becomes clear the bogeyman has stepped out of nightmares to stalk gaslit streets, and it’s up to them to hunt him down. There’s a madman on the loose, weaving blood and magic in an intricate, lethal ritual that could mean the end of everything…”
While this is being billed as a steampunk novel, there aren’t a lot of steampunk elements present. I’d classify this more as an alternate Victorian era story, and in that category it succeeds quite well. There are intriguing snippets of this world’s history which are conveyed partially in a prologue and partially through Mikani’s semi-prophetic dreams. I’d definitely like to see more of what makes this world tick, especially since it melds in the fairy stories so prevalent to British mythology.
I liked the relationship between Mikani and Ritsuko, although it’s a bit tricky to portray a relationship that has been in place for a long period of time. They have been partners for around three years when the story begins, and there are some hints of a brewing romance between the two. It’s mostly well done, but there are some moments where the romance comes across as too heavy-handed. Part of that is due to a couple of the scenes happening at odd times in the middle of the investigation—I’m not sure I believe the moment where Ritsuko crawls into Mikani’s lap in the cop car, for example—but thankfully the romance isn’t brought to the forefront too often.
This novel succeeds on the strength of the murder investigation. There’s just the right mix of police procedure, research and straightforward action to keep the novel’s pace moving smartly. Some of the worldbuilding takes place within the machinations of the murderer and the inspectors’ efforts to track them down, which I really liked. The plot begins a bit slowly, I have to admit, but once it got going I found the book hard to put down.
This is an enjoyable foray into a London that never was, one that contains magic and machines in equal measure. Bronze Gods is a bang-up beginning to what promises to be a creative reimagining of Victorian England.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on May 14, 2013.