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The Illustrious by Pavel Kornev is the first book in a series called The Sublime Electricity. In a world where science and magic are at odds and steam power is giving way to electricity, Detective Leopold Orso is one of the few who retains magical abilities. He has the talent to make other people feel their greatest fear. Broke and desperate to get his rightful inheritance, Orso is thrown into a mess of enemies both human and supernatural. He must figure out a way to survive while attempting to preserve his reputation and remain solvent.
This is a novel in which it takes a while to fully understand what is going on and that made is a difficult one for me. There is no description of the magic system and it was really unclear what it was and how it was it fit into the changing steam to electricity world. There are a lot of meandering story lines at intersect, which can be hard to follow. Orso’s character is a typical down-on-his-luck detective that is that is smarter than his superiors despite was they think. There are a lot of different characters that Orso interacts with, but he is really the center of the story. When there is action, it’s fast-paced and exciting and Orso’s conversations with various characters are entertaining. But overall, it felt a little slow. In general, there is a lot of potential here, but with a little clarification of the world around Orso would go a long way in making the story clearer. There are a lot of hanging threads in the story for the next novel to continue with and it did not feel complete at the end.
The narration by Neil Hellegers was good. Sometimes it was hard to distinguish the characters, but the narration and the characters were distinct from each other. His characterization of Orso was really well done, however. The production quality was also good. I would recommend this novel to people who really like steam punk detective novels and are willing to submerge themselves in a novel without complete understanding of the background of the magic system.
Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.
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4 of 5 people found this review helpful
It took me two tries to get into this book but I’m glad I stuck with it. This tale a mix of steampunk, historical fiction, fantasy, and murder mystery. Detective Leopold Orso is a very interesting character that takes time to get to know.
The plot flops the reader down right in the middle of it and it takes time to figure out everything – the magic system, the history of the city, the police department, Orso, etc. I think this is the reason it took me a while to get into this book. I had to set aside time to listen to it seriously in order to figure out everything.
I love the magical beings that populate this story and I’m sure the sequels introduce even more variety. There’s a few succubi and some dangerous shape shifters as well as mischievous leprechaun. The werewolf was the scariest of the lot though the idea of a gang of werefoxes seemed daunting! The two succubi make up the majority of the female characters. This was a weak spot in the tale: the limited number of female characters. The ladies are often referred to as ‘girls’ even as they are appreciated for their sexual attributes. Indeed, the ladies do little more than look alluring as sex objects. I did get very tired of them being referred to as girls all the time.
The plot has a lot of loops and a few cul-de-sacs. Orso has stuff going on at work with the police department, there’s some inheritance entanglement with his uncle, another line of plot with a Judean bank, and then there’s his connections to the paranormal beings. The mess with the police department and his paranormal entanglements were my favorite parts of the book. The bit with his uncle felt like just one more thing to complicate Orso’s life.
Orso himself is the most interesting character. He’s got a sweet tooth, was born into privilege but has since fallen to the point where he needs a job, and there are some interesting tattoos. His moral compass provides some hard rules about how to treat friends but leaves some wiggle room when it comes to dealing with bad guys.
Over all, the world is worth more exploration and I look forward to the second book. 4/5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book.
The Narration: Neil Hellegers gives a great performance. I love his deep, slightly rough voice for Orso. He also doesa good job with various accents. His female voices sound feminine. Each character had a distinct voice. There were no recording or technical issues. 5/5 stars.