Winter Book Shelf – The Earl of Brass
Title: The Earl of Brass
Author: Kara Jorgensen
Tags: Clockwork, Adult, Fantasy
I suppose my first impressions were that the book was fine. There was nothing overtly offensive about the story or the writing. But that was a lazy anwer and the more I reflected, the more dissatisfied I became.
Our lead male, Eilian Sorrell is an exceedingly flat character. A moral snob when it suits him and selfish, moody brat the rest of the time. When we are first introduced to the next earl, he is standing on the deck of an airship bemoaning his wealthy status. How fate be so cruel as to saddle him with wealth and status? Oh, the tragedy of it all…
Only the unthinkable happens and the airship goes down in flames and destruction. Our melancholy hero is anything but heroic in these moments as he pushes his way past screaming mothers and dying passengers. Eilian failed to garner my sympathy when he is one of very few individuals to survive this terrible incident then spends the rest of the book feeling sorry for himself. For you see, Eilian lost his arm – though not his life. And this makes him somewhat of an outsider in his old social circles. Mostly he whines about his sad state of existence while completely ignoring how lucky he is to be alive.
Our lady heroine, Hadley Fenice, has all the disadvantages of dead parents and brother, low income and female gender paired with sharp wit and mechanical genius. While I am attracted to the cross-dressing aspects of Hadley’s adventure, the fact is she plays such a backseat role. Partly because her marvelous mechanicals serve very little purpose in the overall plot.
This brings me to the two biggest complaints I have for the story: the choice of setting and the obviousness of the message.
The author chose to set her story in an a clockwork Victorian England. But then spends the rest of the book pointing out how terrible this time was for … practically everybody. It was a time of rampant racism, sexism and classism. (and probably even more -isms) So, why bother when you are going to just complain about how it is not fair for women, or any person belonging to another culture? And why is this message delivered in such a ham-fisted manner?
The mystical people of utopian society found in the desert, where an odd inclusion and seemed to be placed only to prove how backwards Victorian England was. But really, don’t we already know that Victorian ideals are anything but ideal?
Also, why build the world’s most complex mechanical prosthetic when really the story veres off to some random treasure hunting tangent? It seemed that the clockwork window-dressings were forced upon the world. While mostly selfish main characters tried to feel better about themselves by professing the ideas of equality.
I cannot complete fault the message. Equality is important, but there are far better ways of expressing the idea – such as creating a functioning world where equality exists. This book was nearly preachy in its message, bland in its characters, and confusing in its world design. So, now that I have finally written my book review, I will give it a conservative 2.5 / 5. Hopefully the author will mature in her writing and create more impactful writing for I think they have potential.