‘Obsidian Eyes’ – A.W. Exley
1836, a world of light and dark, noble and guild. The two spheres intersect when seventeen-year-old Allie Donovan is placed at the aristocratic St Matthews Academy. More at ease with a blade than a needle, she finds herself ostracised by the girls and stalked by a Scottish lord intent on learning why she is among them.
She begins to suspect the underlying reasons when soldiers arrive to see her friend, Zeb, a mechanical genius. On the hunt for answers she breaks into his underground laboratory. There, Allie discovers he is not just constructing sentient mechanical creatures, he is building a devastating new weapon for the military.
The guilds want the weapon and Allie is trapped by ties of blood. She must obey the overlord of the guild and deliver up her friend, unless she can rely on bonds of friendship, to save both their lives.
About the author:
Books and writing have always been an enormous part of Anita’s life. She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.
Today, Anita writes steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. She lives in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.
What set out to be a thriller, ‘Obsidian Eyes’ evolves to incorporate the fantastical, romance and history. Many a time I forgot that this was set in the 1800s and this is definitely why I found this such a diverse narrative. However, I don’t think Exley quite pulls it off as these different genres don’t always successfully fuse together in the plot.
This book reminded me of films such as ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ where it is set in the past but has very modern fighting advancements and fantastical equipment. I always think this is a gamble whether the writer can pull it off and I think in this case, Exley wasn’t wholly successful. Don’t get me wrong, the unusual ideas brought to this story are intriguing, such as Weasel with its bizarre mechanical structure and ability to think independently, or the mechanical messengers that Allie uses. But I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t set in present day and whilst there were formal dances, traditional dress and plenty of travel by horse, I think the author needed to stake the time period a lot more firmly.
There is plenty of suggested romance between Allie and Jared and Exley does not give us the complete satisfaction of seeing a happy ending for them at the end of the story. Jared is already promised to marry Allie’s least favourite person, and readers are left wondering how Jared will break this marital contract to pursue his own happiness.
I liked the suggestions Exley gave towards the next book in the series. For instance, young Victoria is soon to be Queen and there are concerns this will not be a safe reign. It is apparent that Allie will be involved in this in the next story whilst also finding out the consequences of her actions in the guild.
I did enjoy reading this book but feel the author tried too hard at creating an alternate 19th century. I think it would have worked better set in present day but understand the emphasis given to social status and politics. The characters were interesting and the final show-down demonstrates that this author has a lot more to offer in the next book of the series.
This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Click the links below to get yourself a copy of the novel: