Steampunk is all the rage these days. The combination of science and historical fiction seems to be the new “paranormal”. (Remember a few years ago when vampires were the edgy topic? Then it was shifters/werewolves. And so on and so forth.)
Heart of Brass is a foray into the steampunk world of turn of the century London. Arden Grey is a wealthy, titled woman who also happens to be quite a skilled inventor. She works for an organization called the Wardens, a quasi-governmental force that uses science, espionage, and trickery to support the Queen. The evil counterpoint to the Wardens is another organization called The Company. It was never entirely clear to me if The Company had an overarching evil goal, but it clearly exists to thwart the Wardens’ plans and to endanger the citizens of England.
Arden Grey’s husband, Luke, disappeared seven years before. Their marriage had not been without its challenges, but she is unwilling to let go of his memory. One night, she sees Luke watching her. He has not returned to her out of love—he is now a Company agent and has been sent to kill her as revenge for Arden’s killing of a Company agent. “Five”, as Luke is now called, is unable to carry out his mission because he feels a connection to Arden.
Luke feels pulled to Arden and seeks to find more information from her. His gradual awakening to who he was before and his new relationship with Arden form the majority of the novel. Both are fascinating characters. Luke was not a good husband before he left, and as he recovers some of his memories, he wants to be not the old Luke, but a new and better one. Arden struggles with Luke’s return and his past actions. Both characters were likable and complex and reading about them falling in love again was quite entertaining.
There was a plot line with Arden inventing a device that allows her to see what happens during the final moments of a person’s life, and she uses it to help solve some society murders. This was the weakest part of the book for me. I read 50 pages with no mention of the murders—and poof!—there they were again. But, I really didn’t care. I wanted to get back to Luke and Arden.
I completely enjoyed the steampunk aspects of the setting. It was familiar enough to be recognized as turn of the century London, but different enough to make the story interesting. Automatons, mind control machines, memory generators (just to name a few) made for exciting scenes.
Heart of Brass is really focused on the relationship between Arden and Luke at its heart and I cared about that relationship enough to keep reading—and to read the next one in the series as well. Recommended.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina