The themes of this book are the things that stick out the most in your mind after reading it. There is a huge feminist slant on the entire thing, centering around Hadley's wish to do what she wants and not be hindered by simply being a woman. We even see her dress as a man in the hope that she will treated as an equal. There was also a distinct appreciation for how we live now in terms of male and female equality, however, when you compare that to the example given in the book, you find that we have a lot more to learn. Since this is primarily a steampunk novel, there was also a theme centered around other peoples' perceptions and the pressure that society keeps you under to maintain a good reputation. Thank God we don't have so much pressure on us now! This book really made me appreciate the fact that I was able to vote, or to hang out with guys and not be chaperoned, or to simply have a good education and working life.
Character-wise, there was a fairly small cast, making things very easy to remember, unlike other steampunk books I have read (I'm looking at you, Glass Books of the Dream Eaters). Eilian and Hadley were both extremely likeable and had especially strong traits. To me, it seemed like they were slightly too perfect, though. The only flaws I could find were Eilians missing arm and the fact that they were worried about what society might think of them. However, since one has nothing to do with his personality and the other is more a flaw of society, I must rule them both out.
Something that really stuck me as I was reading was the amount of research it must have taken to produce a book like this. There are intricate details of mechanisms, words I had never even heard of (until I looked them up on the Kindle), issues and ideas completely relevant to the Victorian time period, especially the preoccupation with India and even information on dress.
One of the few things that let the book down was the pacing. While the book was written in three very distinct parts, the pacing went from slow, to fast and back to slow again. For an ending, I prefer a fast pace because in this book it seemed that it took a very long time winding down. Despite some drama, it was just not in the same adventurous vein as the middle part, and therefore was a come-down after something quite exhilarating. In terms of the writing style, the author has used a third-person narrative that seems to roam through the thoughts of all of the characters. In some places, that got slightly confusing as you weren't sure who the narrator was referring to.
In spite of these issues, I still enjoyed the book very much and wonder how the author can go on to create more stories around Eilian and Hadley, as this is book one of The Ingenious Mechanical Devices. I think it is a perfect book for someone who needs a push into the world of steampunk; it doesn't have that boring Victorian-style droning, but instead has a sprinkling of romance and that all-important adventure.
The Earl of Brass on Goodreads
The Earl of Brass on Amazon
Thank you to the author, who kindly gifted me this book in return for a review. This has not affected my rating.