Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
The Winter Garden (The Ingenious Mechanical Devices Book 2) by Kara Jorgensen is the sequel to The Earl of Brass. While it is not necessary to have read The Earl of Brass to understand and enjoy The Winter Garden, I highly recommend it. Not only is it an exciting and intriguing read (see my review for more), having read The Earl of Brass gave me a better understanding of the world of The Winter Garden as well as gave me a creative respect for the way Jorgensen interwove the lives and stories of the characters from both novels.
The Winter Garden begins with young scholar Immanuel Winter saving Emmeline Jardine from drowning. In order to save Emmeline’s life, Immanuel must use a mysterious family heirloom, and after he does so, he and Emmeline are inexplicably bound together. Eventually, Immanuel and Emmeline are taken captive and must work together to escape and later discover the identity of their captor and how to permanently free themselves from the threat of his clutches.
Once again, Jorgensen has crafted complex and realistic characters. Immanuel and Emmeline could not be more different: he is a thoughtful, compassionate scholar and she is a self-interested, spoiled socialite. However, both characters are sympathetic and both learn to overcome their weaknesses and evolve into the people they are meant to be. Likewise, the supporting characters are well-rounded and have excellent chemistry with the protagonists and each other.
My favorite aspect of The Winter Garden is that Jorgensen expanded into new facets of the steampunk genre. In The Earl of Brass, Jorgensen featured steampunk technology, biomechanical limbs, and even explored a fantastical utopian society. In The Winter Garden, Jorgensen explores the “darker” side of steampunk, introducing readers to deadly mechanical devices, a spiritualist society, and a touch of what the “real world” would deem magic. These new subjects ramp up the styling and tone of the novel and set it apart from The Earl of Brass, while still keeping it true to the world Jorgensen created.
While some of the steampunk elements of the story are new, Jorgensen revisited similar themes from The Earl of Brass (albeit in different ways). Once again, the reader is introduced to a loving, respectful homosexual relationship, this time between two of the main characters. Likewise, Jorgensen revisits feminist themes, providing strong, female characters and reminding the reader that one can be a strong, capable woman and still have traditionally feminine values (ie: appreciation for fashion and desire to be a wife and mother). Additionally, Jorgensen grapples with questions of responsibility and power and how they should be executed in ethical ways.
The Winter Garden is an engaging, theme-driven novel full of vivacious characters and fantastical steampunk elements. If you are looking for a novel that is clever, thought-provoking, and just plain beautiful in the imagination, look no further.
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