Disclaimer: I was given a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review may contain minor spoilers.
The Earl of Brass (The Ingenious Mechanical Devices #1) by Kara Jorgensen is a bold social commentary, an adventurous love story, and a gorgeous example of the steampunk genre. The novel follows Lord Eilian Sorrell, the heir to an earldom, who loses his arm in a dirigible accident, and Hadley Fenice, the fiery prosthesis maker, as they both battle the constricting roles placed on them by English society. To escape England, if only temporarily, they embark on an archaeological dig and find more than they bargained for in the desert, in more ways than one.
The characters and styling of The Earl of Brass are the crowning jewels of the novel. From the first time the reader encounters Eilian, Hadley, and even the supporting characters, s/he is given a strong sense of their personalities, a tangible reason to empathize with them, and a vivid visual description to complete the package. Each character is well-crafted with realistic motives and dialogue. Admittedly, one of the minor characters, the main villain, is a bit two-dimensional. However, the rest are complex and intriguing. The reader is rooting for Eilian and Hadley from the moment they meet and will enjoy their fun, heartfelt, and satisfying romantic journey.
The steampunk styling of The Earl of Brass is spot on. Jorgensen has clearly done her research, and she infuses the text with both large and minute details that bring a steampunk world to life. My only criticism of the novel’s styling is that sometimes it can be a bit too heavy-handed. While Jorgensen’s broad vocabulary and descriptive language is impressive, at times, it would serve her better to have more discretion with her images. Three great adjectives together muddle up a description, but one perfect adjective creates a precise image.
Overall, The Earl of Brass has an engaging plot that follows a natural arch. The over-arching story has a satisfying build and conclusion, peppered with just the right amount of action and drama to keep things interesting. I must admit, the discovery that Eilian and Hadley make in the desert briefly broke my suspension of disbelief. While it was plausible, it seemed a bit too science fiction in the context of the rest of the novel. However, once I took a breath and trusted the author, I appreciated the discovery and its purpose in the novel. That being said, if you should be a bit surprised at this same point, just go with it. It works in the end.
Along the same lines, the discovery plays well into Eilian and Hadley’s frustrations with English society. Without spoiling anything, the discovery is set up as an antithesis to England. This contrast definitely works, but at times, it felt like a bit too much. The social commentary offered by the discovery, in combination with the ones offered by Eilian and Hadley can seem overbearing. Jorgensen themes of gender and social equality are important historically, and relevant to modern society, but the delivery comes on a little strong. In the future, I would advise her to trust her reader to discern her themes through subtler mechanisms.
While the descriptive language and thematic material may be a bit too strong, overall, The Earl of Brass by Kara Jorgensen is an exceptional novel – especially for a debut novel. The story is fun and engaging, the characters are lively and relatable, and the steampunk styling is beautiful and realistic. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves historical romance, steampunk, and/or novels with a social conscious.
You can find out more about Kara Jorgensen on her website, and you can read an interview with her on The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour here. You can pick up the sequel to The Earl of Brass, entitled The Winter Garden, here.
If you are interested in reading The Earl of Brass and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.