Series: All Men of Genius #1
on September 27, 2011
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex, rape, prostitution, and a threesome.
Reviewed by: Julia
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: