5bat! Review: The Iron Wyrm Affair (Bannon & Clare #1) by Lilith Saintcrow

August 17, 2012 Review 4

The Iron Wyrm Affair

(Bannon & Clare, #1)
by Lilith Saintcrow

Genre: Steampunk |
Excerpt: Yes | Book Trailer: No
Reviewed by: Julia | Source: Netgalley

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; August 7, 2012
  • ISBN-10: 031620126X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316201261


Near Perfect – Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

Sexual Content

References to sex.


Emma Bannon, forensic sorceress in the service of the Empire, has a mission: to protect Archibald Clare, a failed, unregistered mentath. His skills of deduction are legendary, and her own sorcery is not inconsiderable. It doesn’t help much that they barely tolerate each other, or that Bannon’s Shield, Mikal, might just be a traitor himself. Or that the conspiracy killing registered mentaths and sorcerers alike will just as likely kill them as seduce them into treachery toward their Queen.

In an alternate London where illogical magic has turned the Industrial Revolution on its head, Bannon and Clare now face hostility, treason, cannon fire, black sorcery, and the problem of reliably finding hansom cabs.

The game is afoot…


THE IRON WORM AFFAIR is one of those books that plays vividly across the mind’s eye, unfolding like a movie in all of it’s fantastic and creepy detail. Clockwork horses, flying carriages, gangs of flashboys with their augmented limbs, stilted mentaths using science to impose order on the world around them even as sorcerors defy all natural laws.  Rather than adding fantastical and steampunk elements to familiar history, Saintcrow adds a few drops of the familiar into her own witch’s brew of a world. The tight restraint of her characters isn’t only due to Victorian sensibilities, but also the physics that governs magic and logic in their reality. Saintcrow has created an ambitious new world with the Bannon & Clare series, one that I cannot wait to revisit.

The prologue from Archibald Clare’s perspective was arresting, his visual organization of the world around him made me feel as if I could see it through his eyes. This cinematic introduction to THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR had me excited to explore their world, and I was almost disappointed to revert to the more mundane narration of Emma Bannon.  I needn’t have worried, however, as Bannon and Clare pass the story back and forth between them for the length of the story.  I’m rarely willing to share the narrative spotlight with a non-romantic character, but Clare’s meticulous mind and touchingly awkward affections for his colleagues completely won me over.  Also, the mentath’s sharp observation and deductive reasoning filled in gaps that the reticent Emma and Mikal left blank.

Bannon is an almost archetypal Saintcrow heroine. Dark, dedicated, sparking and crackling with magic and bruised by a traumatic past. The violence that brought her and Mikal together is also the same thing keeping them apart, and I liked that there was more than simple class-conscious stubbornness stretching out the romance.  Of course, all of THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR’s characters are still a bit remote.  With their fantastic abilities and passionate loyalties, I found them intriguing but not particularly human.

This didn’t impact my emotional investment in the story, however, but rather left me hungry for more details of their intricate, mysterious inner lives.  The relationship between mentaths and sorcerors was very well crafted and fascinating in its own right, but when coupled with with epic characters and a hint of romance, THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR has a lot to offer fans of both steampunk and urban fantasy.

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4 Responses to “5bat! Review: The Iron Wyrm Affair (Bannon & Clare #1) by Lilith Saintcrow”

  1. helen

    I thought I would love this one as I have pretty much gobbled up all of her other works but the stilted language bothered me quite a bit in this one. I realize it was a part of the worldbuilding but it was just too much for me and I was not able to even finish the book.

  2. Julia

    I’ve had that problem in the past. I’m pretty slow reading the Parasol Protectorate books, mainly because I have to adjust to the period dialog. Once I’m there, it cracked me up. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurances just made me roll my eyes, their dialog style never worked for me from a humor perspective. I wasn’t laughing in THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR, but I dind’t find the language nearly as styalized as the prior two steampunk examples. Clare’s perspective is stilted, but that felt more like his personality than a period choice. Have you read THE IRON DUKE? I loved that steampunk world, it’s dark like THE IRON WYRM, and there was none of the period writing or society.

  3. Mardel

    I enjoyed it a lot. I know how dialogue affects enjoyment though – with me it’s mainly if the dialogue doesn’t fit the characters. With this book, the speech styles totally fit the characters. But if it’s hard to read it, then of course it takes away from the enjoyment. It does remind me of the wording used in older Victorian books, so Saintcrow has done her research. Great story, with compelling characters.

  4. Mary @ Book Swarm

    I absolutely adored how you’d move from such a meticulous and overly-detail-oriented gentleman’s perspective to that of a strong-willed and minded sorceress. Such an amazing world that Saintcrow built…I want to return as soon as possible.