Monday, 14 March 2016

Review: Immorality Engine

The Immorality Engine
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy 
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher, Titan! 

On the surface, life is going well for Victorian special agent Sir Maurice Newbury, who has brilliantly solved several nigh-impossible cases for Queen Victoria with his indomitable assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, by his side. But these facts haven’t stopped Newbury from succumbing increasingly frequently to his dire flirtation with the lure of opium. His addiction is fueled in part by his ill-gotten knowledge of Veronica’s secret relationship with the queen, which Newbury fears must be some kind of betrayal. Veronica, consumed by worry and care for her prophetic but physically fragile sister, Amelia, has no idea that she is a catalyst for Newbury’s steadily worsening condition.
Veronica and Newbury’s dear friend Bainbridge, the chief investigator at Scotland Yard, tries to cover for him as much as possible, but when the body of a well-known criminal turns up, Bainbridge and Veronica track Newbury down in an opium den and drag him out to help them with the case. The body clearly, irrefutably, belongs to the man in question, but shortly after his body is brought to the morgue, a crime is discovered that bears all the dead man’s hallmarks. Bainbridge and Veronica fear someone is committing copycat crimes, but Newbury is not sure. Somehow, the details are too perfect for it to be the work of a copycat. But how can a dead man commit a crime?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...I freaking love this series! It's like a steampunk Sherlock Holmes, with Veronica the Watson to Maurice's Holmes. Each book gets better and better as more and more is clearly going on outside of the respective cases of the book. 

The Immorality Engine is atmospheric right from the opening, as soon as you start reading you can feel the fog closing in, everything takes on a slightly darker tinge, you can hear the rain and smell the not entirely pleasant smells of London. You fall in to the book and remain there until the very last page. 

The opening this time was a bit different than usual as we start off in the future, then go back several days. The time jump was brilliantly done, the opening however was a little bit grim. To quote Newbury "The soft loam sucked at his boots, thick and oozing, as if trying to pull him down in to its slick, waterlogged depths, down amongst the corpses and the coffins of the dead." You can see why the book pulled me in to the book, with writing like that! The opening had me panicking a bit actually, being a huge fan of the books! I should have known better than to panic, but panic I did! I had a horrible sense of foreboding and dread for the entire book, a sense that increased steadily the closer we got to the climax of the book, I knew nothing good was going to happen and I was heart broken by the opening. But like I said...I should know better by book three! All is not as it seems in this book! 

As I've just mentioned, Mann creates some fantastic descriptions that really spark your imagination and pull you in to the book, as the setting rises up around you. "A perimeter of uniformed bobbies stood like ghostly sentries, half visible in the vaporous morning." I just love the imagery Mann writes, it creates a specific image in your mind, waking up your imagination, and creating a certain tone and feel to the book. His writing is simply fantastic, and the pace of the book is brilliant. The mystery is always wrapped up expertly, with but a few threads woven in at the end, ready for the next book. His writing never fails to be compelling, atmospheric, cinematic and at times, entertaining. As always we are straight in with the mystery and it's a particularly good one! 

Veronica continues to be one of my favourite characters. She doesn't do or want to do anything a regular lady of the time period would. She walks in to a rather nasty crime scene, determined to do her part. She's daring and courageous, and she doesn't take any of Newbury's crap. She's disappointed in him, but she still believes in him and hopes for the best. I enjoy the fact she's not afraid to get her hands dirty, and will run around and fight just as much as Newbury. She's not your typical Victorian lady and she's brilliant and intelligent and just fantastic! I enjoyed her even more in this book because we see another side to her, with everything going on with her sister, and the thing with the Queen. She's not quite as composed as she usually is at one point. 

Newbury continues to fascinate me. He's a very flawed character, but he's also very likeable and has a certain dramatic flair. He uses opium and we've watched him fall, inevitably, more and more in to addiction over the course of the books. I like that he's flawed, opium addiction was common at the time, I'm fairly certain, and it's being explored so well in these books. In this book, he's pretty heavily under the influence, it's not a pleasant book for him, with withdrawal symptoms and so on. Veronica and Charles's reactions are very realistic and very natural, and I felt a certain sense of pride in Newbury when he determined to get along with out it after a particularly brutal scene. It'll be interesting to see if he actually manages it. His flaw is what makes him so very realistic, but there's so much more to him than his addiction. He's ridiculously intelligent, and I'm rooting for him to finally kick the habit. 

I need to mention Bainbridge because he and Newbury are quite the pair. He cares so much about his friend, but has a bit of a hard time showing softer emotions, and his particular brand of caring is a bit gruff, it was quite amusing, especially as Veronica was on to him. It made me sad in this book, how Newbury and Hobbes weren't entirely sure if they could entrust him with the truth. I'd like to think he'd be on their side, and I'm hoping they'll trust him eventually. 

Amelia has always intrigued me, I like how she won't let her fear show to Calverton. How determined she is to be brave and remain strong. She's not had a brilliant life up until now, and we see more of her this book as she's at the Grayling Institute with Fabian. I don't want to say too much, because it will be too spoilery, but I'm still waiting to see how Mann is going to handle things with Amelia, I'm hoping it'll all end well for her, but I'm not entirely sure. 

I spent the most of the book feeling like Dr. Fabian was incredibly shady. You get such shady vibes from him but it takes a while for you to work out why, or see why, which I actually liked, rather than being told straight out he was shady! It was nice to get a sense of wrongness from him, but not being entirely sure if it's founded or not. Calverton is incredibly creepy. The Queen herself is in this book a hell of a lot more than usual. I've never been entirely sure of her. Like Newbury I assumed some of the stuff she did was a one off, or for the good of everyone. This book does not pain a pleasant picture of her. She is not nice, not that she ever really was a barrel of sunshine and rainbows. But in this book, I feel we see her true colours, and I'm slightly scared by what might come about in the next book, and whatever it is she's planning. I actually found myself agreeing with the bad guys a little smidgen in this book! 

As with the other books, we get more than one POV. In this book we get a lot of Amelia's POV, more so than usual that is, as well as a little bit of Fabian's, which provided in an insight in to what it is, exactly, that he does or rather did for the Queen. As well as being the means to see a rather ugly side to the Queen up close. We also get the usual POV's of Veronica. Maurice and Bainbdridge. Poor old Charles got in a bit of a scrape in this book, and it was brilliant to see him hold his own! Each character has their own distinctive narrative, and each change in point of view is done without a hitch, carrying on the narrative without any trouble. I enjoy seeing the other characters through the eyes of, well, other characters. I like knowing what's going on in each character's head and how it matches up with the others and so on. 

The world of the book is so authentic. The steampunk elements are plentiful, but not in your face, there's no pages and pages of over blown descriptions of the devices/machines/etc or telling you how they work in exact detail for an entire chapter, like I've encountered before. The steampunk elements/devices seem to naturally belong in the world. I love getting lost in these books, it's such an original world, and I love reading about new devices and exploring new areas of this London. 

So much is unsaid between Newbury and Hobbes in this book, that needs to be discussed. I was wondering what would happen after the end of the last book, but it would appear they went the not talking about anything route. I mean, partially it's pushed to the side because of Newbury's little opium problem and the case, but both of them had their reasons for not mentioning things that needed to be mentioned like ya know...the Queen...and feelings. Them being them, they eventually did talk about it...but in the worst possible place after me spending the entire book wishing they'd save themselves some hassle and jus have a chat! 

I genuinely ship them so badly it's not even funny. They're so perfect together, and so good for each other. They suit each other rather. This book had me cheering so badly at some points, and getting all excited, but the romance element, is as ever, subtle and the main focus of the plot is the mystery. The romantic bits that there are, are very well done, and there was one scene that was just so them. Things have been building up over the course of the books and this is the book where it finally all comes together. I'm even more excited for the next book to see what happens with them! 

As usual, Mann manages to weave plenty of plot threads in to one complex plot. Mann is a truly brilliant storyteller and weaves deductions with action, romance with mystery and so on. There are multiple threads, some seemingly unrelated to the case at hand, but involving other things, all woven together to give you a complex plot with multiple things going on, and an over-arcing plot becoming more and more fleshed out. Well, I think there is, because you all mark my words, the Queen is so up to no good. 

I feel like there's higher stakes in this book, considering at one point we have a medieval army meeting steampunk and ready to take down the monarchy. There's also stuff going on with Veronica's sister that involves the Queen and it was truly shocking to me because even I didn't expect the Queen to be THAT bad. It's become obvious she's up to something and there's more going on with her. What I found most interesting is that having staunchly been the Queen's operatives, you see Veronica lose all trust and respect in the Queen, and Newbury struggling with his own thoughts on the Queen. He clearly supports Veronica, at least in this situation, but he isn't sure overall what to do. I found it very interesting watching this all go down with the two of them, especially when Veronica had a little freak out about not being able to leave. 

The Immorality Engine is another thrilling instalment in a brilliant and original series that hooks you in from the beginning. You root for Newbury and Hobbes, you spend the book trying to work out what exactly is going on and how everything fits together, and delight in being completely wrong, because Mann always manages to surprise you at every turn and it's no fun working out a mystery before the characters! The initial mystery leads perfectly in to a much bigger plot, it's merely the first step in a more complex scheme. 

The book ends on a note of foreboding tinged with anticipation all thanks to Amelia and her visions, and there's one last twist at the end that you know will not be at all good. The next book has been perfectly set up, and my mind is racing with all the possibilities for it, that will no doubt end up being wrong. 

The Immorality Engine is a fantastic book, characters continue to have hidden depths, continue to be brilliantly written and come alive as you read about them. The book sucks you in with the continued fantastic world building, that's atmospheric and cinematic in equal turns. Immorality Engine has a world you can truly get lost in, and a plot you become fully invested in and get surprised by at every turn. While the main mystery is left neatly solved, there's an over arcing plot involving the Queen, and some other little threads that set you up for the next book, that you find yourself needing ASAP! I can't wait to see where the characters go next, or what mystery they'll next come face to face with. 

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