Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Let’s not argue in front of the children, dear.”
As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.
After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined. (Goodreads)
Set in 19th century Victorian England, we are introduced to Simon Archer, a powerful scribe who uses carvings and his skin as a conduit for his magic, who has seemingly wasted his talent. A handsome tattooed playboy with a chip on his shoulder over his parentage and the murder of his father; Simon has a strong white knight complex that is buried beneath his rakish exterior. When he sees a former lover ravaged by a monster, Simon is forced to reexamine his lifestyle choices and finds himself compelled to make a drastic change.
With his mentor and best friend, Nick Barker, in tow, Simon begins his search for the lycanthrope that killed his lover; which in turn leads him to the brilliant albeit odd alchemist, Kate Anstruther- whose younger sister has been taken by a lycanthrope. Add in a grumpy monster hunter, a fearless weapons maker, and an unlikely ally and Simon soon finds himself engaged in a battle to find and destroy all the lycanthropes who have converged in the city.
I have been a fan of the Griffith’s since the publishing of their Vampire Empire series. In this newest venture, the Crown & Key Trilogy, we are once again taken back into the darkest parts of London where monsters lurk in the shadows and the world is awash in magic. The Shadow Revolution is a dark and adventurous steampunk filled with riveting action, edgy suspense, formattable magic and alchemy, impromptu humor, and an all-star cast. Intriguing world building and characterization slowly begins to lay the foundation for a war that is slowly building steam between the humans and supernatural community.
Though seemingly heavily character driven, the first half of the book takes great pains to set up the world and players; giving readers background information on everyone involved. A bit ham fisted in the beginning, it reads almost like a bibliography, it’s not until the second half that the action and suspense picks up considerably and we begin to see the patterns being formed. Two separate storylines intertwine-the supernatural threat to the city and the mystery behind the murder of Simon’s father. The Griffith’s use some of their own sleight of hand to link Simon to his co-patriots using these seemingly separate plot lines as we learn that past actions of all their families may have played a part in what they are dealing with now.
Fantastical magic wields a powerful spell over the reader while engaging dialogue and dry wit humanizes these characters as does their failures in some scenes. Having magical ability doesn’t always guarantee instant success and this story is sure to hammer that point in. One aspect of the Griffith’s writing that is alluring to me is the strength they give to their heroines. Often considered the odd men out in an era that is decidedly paternalistic, these heroines march to a beat of a different drum and aren’t patronised for their seemingly unnatural interests or talents by the men who they align themselves with.
Those looking for a well-balanced conflict and romance are sure to experience some dismay as the romance is nothing more than a faint idea in this installment. There are some light flirting and unspoken clues that give readers the idea that some of the characters may pair up in the future but for now the theme most decidedly does not run in that direction.
A strong secondary character base adds anticipation and excitement as we see each one develop over the course of the story. Simon and Kate are the strongholds of this installment with promises of additional characters and intriguing conflicts to come. I do wish the characterization of those involved had been sussed out a little more in-depth. I found the emotional aspects lacking as we are told more than we are shown. The villains are decidedly vicious and in some cases insane. I do wish we would have gotten more into the mind of the leader of the Lycanthropes and the reasons behind their actions. I enjoyed seeing the dissension in the ranks and the humanization that is reluctantly witnessed. These are not mindless killers set on destruction and mayhem simply for the sake of doing so. There is a higher objective being set in motion which I for one can’t wait to reveal.
Once again the Griffith’s have created a primer for what looks to be an exciting and magically enhanced steampunk adventure that shows great potential. A fun and fast read that has me looking forward to reading the next two installments, The Undying Legion, which releases June 30th and The Conquering Dark which releases July 28th.