5bat! Review: All Men of Genius by Lev A. C. Rosen

October 16, 2011 Review 6

5bat! Review: All Men of Genius by Lev A. C. RosenAll Men of Genius by Lev A. C. Rosen
Series: All Men of Genius #1
on September 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 462
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex, rape, prostitution, and a threesome.
Reviewed by: Julia
5 Stars

Inspired by two of the most beloved works by literary masters, All Men of Genius takes place in an alternate Steampunk Victorian London, where science makes the impossible possible.

Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a widely renowned school for the most brilliant up-and-coming scientific minds, founded by the late Duke Illyria, the greatest scientist of the Victorian Age. The school is run by his son, Ernest, who has held to his father’s policy that the small, exclusive college remain male-only. Violet sees her opportunity when her father departs for America. She disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, and gains entry.

But keeping the secret of her sex won’t be easy, not with her friend Jack’s constant habit of pulling pranks, and especially not when the duke’s young ward, Cecily, starts to develop feelings for Violet’s alter ego, “Ashton.” Not to mention blackmail, mysterious killer automata, and the way Violet’s pulse quickens whenever the young duke, Ernest (who has a secret past of his own), speaks to her. She soon realizes that it’s not just keeping her secret until the end of the year faire she has to worry about: it’s surviving that long.

Don’t make my mistake of picking up ALL MEN OF GENIUS when you’re on your way to bed. Hours later, bleary-eyed and sleepy, I was only halfway through the book and still fighting to keep reading, unable to put it down. Violet, Ashton, Jack and the befuddled Duke captivated me from the get go, and that was before the other Illyrian students even had a chance to win me over.

Even if I hadn’t fallen in love with the characters, I would have been a goner for the world-building. Rosen gives science the same flash and dazzle as magic at Hogwarts, but with more adult consequences. Violet’s passion is machinery, but her best friend Jack is drawn to the biological sciences. “Animal testing” doesn’t even begin to cover the transplants and experiments that the students undertake. While Jack learns new and exciting things in college, he also comes to the realization that an idolized professor has no real empathy for the animals he augments.

Watching Jack find his own confidence was a subtle note in the background of Violet’s story, and one of many examples of how Rosen’s attention to detail manages to portray some incredibly realistic and important issues amidst all of the hilarity and science. Violet and her friends struggle with gender roles, sexual prejudice, and double standards galore. And while Violet’s crusade to enter the all-male Illyria College is a plan with a deadline (Violet is going to reveal her ruse at the end of her first year) her brother Ashton feels that he will always have to conceal his homosexuality from society and Miriam has no expectations that she’ll ever be able to marry the man she loves due to her dark skin and her religion.

ALL MEN OF GENIUS is a blend of adult issues and fairy tale optimism. The realistic issues that the characters face by no means drag down the tone of the book, but neither does Rosen pull any punches about these prejudices and obstacles. I hope so badly that ALL MEN OF GENIUS is going to be the first of many books in this parallel universe of magical science, as there are many more happy endings that I would enjoy reading.

More Reviews:

6 Responses to “5bat! Review: All Men of Genius by Lev A. C. Rosen”

  1. Rain Maiden

    Thanks for the post Julia, this sounds great. I'll be adding this one to my wish list. I love finding those books that are hard to put down.

  2. erin

    oooooh. Thanks for the awesome review! I've been really getting into steampunk so I'm always looking out for reviews. However, I do have to admit, without this review, I might have passed on this one. I don't like the cover and it looks too YAish. And I know the folly of judging a book by it's cover 🙂 So, adding to my wishlist!

  3. Julia

    @Rain – Hope you like it!

    @Erin – There are too many references to sex (and sex as a primary character motivation) for this to be YA, but it's definitely a Victorian sensibility in terms of sex scenes. I'd descibe this book as similar to the Parasol Protectorate, in terms of tone and reading level.

  4. Anonymous

    That review made me go put a hold request on the book at my local library!

    I agree with Erin that the cover screams YA. Not that there's anything wrong with that…but the other books that I can think of off the top of my head with a girl disguising herself as a boy to get an education are definitely YA. Tamora Pierce, for example, and Scott Westerfield's Leviathan books (also steampunk). So it'll be interesting to look at the trope from an adult viewpoint.

    Mickie T

  5. Julia

    Mickie – *Love* Tamora Pierce's books, and Alanna still has one of the most amazing love lives I've read at any reading level.