Written by: Elizabeth Bear
Published by: Subterranean Press
[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”no” align=”left” asin=”1596061634″ cloaking=”default” height=”500″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51gW1jCyvjL.jpg” tag=”buzmag-20″ width=”321″]An unforgiving eye and a damned disinheriting countenance. That describes Elizabeth Bear’s “New Amsterdam” to a T. From its opening pages, the vampire-detective-sorceress novel of scandal and intrigue pulls no punches, and delivers plenty of them in return. The result is a neo-Victorian (or Edwardian rather) alt-history novel that is as gritty as any set in the present.
Sebastian De Ulloa is a noble, and a man of wealth and taste. He is also one of the greatest detectives in the known world. But Sebastian has urges–urges that only the puncture of human skin can salve. Abigail Irene Barrett, on the other hand is very much a Victorian woman–one of the few female Detective Crown Inspectors in New Amsterdam –yet she has yearnings of her own. When a series of high profile political murders threaten to undermine the safety of the British Colonies (that is, New England, Ireland, and a smattering of other territories-the American Revolution didn’t happen in their timeline), as well as their own, they are forced to partner together to save the Crown from dissolution.
Emphasis is on the word ‘partner’. In a series of contrived circumstances reminiscent of a harlequin romance novel they themselves, shall we say, take pleasure in each other’s company. Sex and kidding aside though, Bear manages to weave a montage of panorama of characters and twists that rival any from Dickens–or HBO for that matter. By the end, one is left scratching their heads. As they should be.
That said, the dialogue can be difficult to get into at times-all that Victorian speak can be difficult to parse. Overall though, it’s no worse or better than what high school seniors are forced to put up with. Also, it might be helpful to keep a pen and paper handy for some charts. This novel is deep. Like, Sopranos deep.
Be that as it may, for those who like their scandal served with a dash of Spice, “New Amsterdam ” is worth worthwhile.
John Winn – Staff Writer
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