The Shadow Revolution (Crown & Key #1) by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
Genre: Adult steampunk fantasy
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: June 2 2015
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
The nitty-gritty: A big, boisterous and bloody adventure tale with non-stop action and monsters, and just a touch of romance.
From the edge of the woods, a figure stepped forth into the moonlight and Malcolm exhaled sharply. The giant creature’s light grey fur shone almost white, as did the enormous battle-axe clenched in her right hand like a banner of war. It stood almost as tall as she. Her howl of rage shook the glass in front of Simon. An exclamation slipped unintentionally from his lips. Simon took in the heavily scarred leather armor that Gretta wore and the huge helmet adorned with a terrifying wolf’s head.
“She won’t stop till she gets what she wants,” Malcolm warned.
Even though I haven’t yet read the Griffiths’ Vampire Empire series, I’ve been meaning to read it, and so when a review opportunity came up for this new series, I was anxious to check it out. Don’t let the dignified Victorian cover fool you: this story has teeth, and I’ll admit it was not quite what I expected. However, I did have a great time reading it, despite the sometimes over-the-top violence. The story is a crazy mix of urban fantasy, horror and steampunk, set within the confines of the Victorian era. There are plenty of ghastly monsters to offset the heroes, enough action for those who crave it, and even some delicious, sexy banter between our main character Simon and several of the female characters. In other words, there’s something for just about everyone.
This is the first of three books, which will all be released by the end of July this year, so if you’re a fan of series but you hate waiting between books, you really should consider this one. Simon Archer is not only a playboy in London society, but he’s also a scribe, a rare type of magician who is able to perform magic by inscribing ancient runes onto objects. He lives with his friend Nick who also has magical powers, but of a different sort. One night, after Simon receives a plea for help from an old flame named Beatrice, he and Nick go to meet her, only to be ambushed by a werewolf, the same creature that Beatrice was trying to hide from. The werewolf, an unpleasant man named Lord Oakham, ends up killing Beatrice, and Simon vows to avenge her death.
As Simon and Nick go on the hunt to kill Lord Oakham, they are joined by a young alchemist named Kate, a Scottish monster hunter named Malcolm MacFarlane, and a weapons forger named Penny Carter. But the danger is far worse than the threats of just one werewolf, as the gang soon find out. At the heart of the mystery is Gretta, a crazed and dangerous werewolf, who is searching for an old and powerful object. And she won’t let anyone get in her way.
The writers really know how to evoke the Victorian era, and I thought their language and dialog was spot on. You won’t find any annoying references to pop culture or modern slang popping up in this story (which sometimes happens in steampunk books!). The chapters are short and punchy, and the pacing is excellent. You may be wondering what the “key” in Crown & Key is all about, but you won’t find out everything about it in this first installment. The Griffiths have written a tantalizing mystery surrounding the key that is only partially revealed in this book.
The best parts of The Shadow Revolution for me were the strong female characters. Kate is a plucky heroine who isn’t afraid of the danger she’s suddenly thrust into, or if she is afraid, she keeps her head and does what needs to be done. When her sister Imogen finds herself a target of the werewolves, Kate does everything in her power to keep her safe, even if Imogen is a slightly annoying and empty-headed young girl. I also loved the character of Penny Carter, a ball-busting woman who puts the “steam” in steampunk with her crazy mechanical inventions and weapons. I hope we get to see more of her in the next book.
This truly was an ensemble cast, and I loved many of the side characters as well. Kate’s butler, a resourceful man named Hogarth, doesn’t play a big part in the story, but I grew quite fond of him. As for our leading man Simon, what can I say? I loved the air of mystery surrounding him. We discover that his ability as a scribe goes further than simply writing runes on pieces of paper. He’s got both light and dark sides to him, and I’m looking forward to learning more about his dark side in particular.
I adored Simon and Kate together, and you can clearly see the beginnings of a romance brewing, but it certainly doesn’t overwhelm the story. I also felt some romantic tension between Malcolm and Penny, although I may have imagined it. Hopefully both potential romances will be further explored in the next book.
The Griffiths’ unique world was so much fun. I loved that there are different types of magic and each character has his own strength. The authors also throw alchemy into the mix, and we get to see some fascinating creations that Kate’s father invented before he died, like the “lampflies,” flying mechanical bugs that light the many gas lamps throughout Hartley Hall, the estate where Kate lives.
If you’re the squeamish sort, you may have some issues with the amount of violence in The Shadow Revolution. Be prepared for beheadings, eviscerations, stabbings and melting bodies, not to mention gruesome encounters between werewolves and humans. If I had any issues at all with the story, it would probably be the endless action scenes, which leave little time for quieter moments.
But all in all, this was a great beginning to the series, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book, The Undying Legion, just as soon as I get an approval from NetGalley (*hint hint*).
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. The above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.
I’m very excited that I’ll be interviewing Clay and Susan very soon, complete with a giveaway of the book! I don’t have an exact date scheduled yet, but check back so you don’t miss it:-D
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