Synopsis: A fantastical steampunk novel of magic and machines set in an alternate 1830s London.
Madame Magdala has settled comfortably into her new life in London, as the proprietress of the Book View Café, a coffee shop and extensive library. Her silent partner is Ada Lovelace, who will one day become the world’s first computer programmer—but who now is simply the young woman for whom Madame Magdala was a nursery maid.
Ten years ago, Ada’s father, Lord Bryon, was known as a great writer. But few knew of his powers as a necromancer. Upon his death, his devoted followers tried to repair the Transference Engine—a device that would allow Byron’s soul to claim the body of its choice. Magadala, along with Mary Godwin—a.k.a. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley—had to stop them.
While the original Transference Engine was destroyed, they were unsure whether they truly stopped Bryon and his followers. Together, they fled to safety in London, and built new futures for themselves.
Now, Magdala and Mary care for the Book View Café’s community, leading fashion, following gossip, and reading the latest periodicals. But when members of the café’s community mysteriously disappear, and rumors of a threat of royal assassinaton grow, Magdala finds herself with new mysteries to solve. The more she learns, the clearer it becomes that this is the same mystery returned—the Transference Engine is back with a vengeance.
Review: When I saw the book, I fell in love with the cover! How not to do so? It’s really gorgeous. But here, the synopsis is also very attractive with the mention of Mary Shelley, the Victorian area or the technology development. So I was very curious to delve into the story and to find out what it concealed.
I was a little disturbed early in my reading because we have a chapter in the past (to put the basis of the story) to be propelled thereafter into a period a long time after and we feel that many events occurred. I thought that we would know more gradually by recalls over the chapters but that has not really been the case and found that the passages were sometimes a bit confusing. But if you put that aside, we find Mrs. Magdala, a young woman who after living as a nurse, now runs a café that allows her to be aware of the latest rumors and to help young people in difficulty by giving them work. To avoid any harm to the reputation of her former pupil, she also operates in secret with her protected Ada, to study engineering, machinery and inventions. They live in peace until Ada’s father, Byron comes back at the center of the stage with disturbing disappearances in the population of London and therefore the return of Transference Engine that could cause many problems.
It was very nice and surprising to discover that the Romani community had great impact in this novel and to understand that without them Magdala would have been found in difficult situations. I enjoyed how the author had staged to explain a bit their culture at the same time. It was also a really interesting and different story of what we usually find and it was fascinating to find a mixture such as this and to understand all the subtleties. As I said initially, I would have liked more feedback in relation to what had happened before (I had the impression of reading a second volume or a spin off). And despite some length, I had a great time with the story and the characters (colorful) and I am curious to see what will happen later. It was a good discovery, which laid the foundations of the story but I am curious to understand a little better the characters and their past.