Series: Bannon & Clare #2
Genres: Historical, Steampunk
Published by Orbit on May 21, 2013
Reviewed by: Julia
References to prostitution.
The service of Britannia is not for the faint of heart--or conscience...
Emma Bannon, Sorceress Prime in service to Queen Victrix, has a mission: to find the doctor who has created a powerful new weapon. Her friend, the mentath Archibald Clare, is only too happy to help. It will distract him from pursuing his nemesis, and besides, Clare is not as young as he used to be. A spot of Miss Bannon's excellent hospitality and her diverting company may be just what he needs.
Unfortunately, their quarry is a fanatic, and his poisonous discovery is just as dangerous to Britannia as to Her enemies. Now a single man has set Londinium ablaze, and Clare finds himself in the middle of distressing excitement, racing against time and theory to find a cure. Miss Bannon, of course, has troubles of her own, for the Queen's Consort Alberich is ill, and Her Majesty unhappy with Bannon's loyal service. And there is still no reliable way to find a hansom when one needs it most...
The game is afoot. And the Red Plague rises.
Lilith Saintcrow's flavor of simmering emotion, significant glances, and dramatic mystery is a perfect compliment to the Victorian alternate timeline that contains her Bannon & Clare series. And while this tone makes for deliciously satisfying unspoken devotion, both romantic and platonic, it can also obscure the magical elements of the story beyond understanding.
Luckily, while Bannon's magic may be the engine driving her exploration, the lynch pin of the story is the familiar scientific method. Despite some of the more esoteric magic flying right over my head (Mikal's origins and at least two mysterious deaths never clicked for me), there was enough relatable content to carry the story. Saintcrow doesn't take any shortcuts when it comes to defining her characters' relationships, and rivalries pop up between allies and enemies alike. These twists and turns kept the plot intellectually interesting, but only Bannon and Clare's friendship really touched my emotions.
And in turn, despite the hand waving and portents, only the surface events made sense to me. Whatever terrible past endangers Mikal didn't resolve itself to anything I could understand, though Bannon's crumbling devotion to her Queen was touched my heart. THE RED PLAGUE AFFAIR was a a slower read than its predecessor, though as long as the friendship at the core of this story is intact, so too is my interest.