I think I’m getting my fill of steampunk fantasy this year!
For anyone who’s been following along, I’ve been reading all of Mark Hodder’s Burton & Swinbourne series, although I haven’t read them in order. The true order is:
The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack
The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man
Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon
The Secret of Abdu El-Yezdi
The Return of the Discontinued Man
The Rise of the Automated Aristocrats
I, however, have read them in the following order: 5-2-1-3-6. I haven’t found book 4 yet.
This makes things confusing…
Still, this book is just as good as the others – although be ready for a complex, multi-faceted plot that can be very tough to follow at times. In Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, for example, the beginning of each chapter takes place forty-some odd years in the future, which can be jarring, since it’s the same characters. In essence, each chapter starts with a flash-forward, and then jumps “back” to the present.
Still, it all does come together at the end, wrapping up all the threads, but leaving the final ending open and ambiguous. If you want to be surprised, don’t read on!
The whole series started off with the history “fracturing”, thanks to interference from a time traveler, Edward Oxford. This man jumped backwards in time from the future, and accidentally killed the child Queen Victoria in the past. This split off the time stream.
To fix this, Edward tried jumping back a couple more times, trying to run into himself and stop his past self from interfering (and thus keeping the Queen alive). He doesn’t succeed, but further mucks things up.
Eventually, our hero, Richard Francis Burton, realizes just what happened, and he realizes that it’s his job to go back to the time/date of the assassination and “close the loop”, so to say. He has to stop Edward Oxford from killing the queen, erasing his own existence as time snaps back to the right path.
So back he goes, steadies his rifle, and takes a shot…
…and instead of hitting Edward, he kills Queen Victoria.
That’s right. This entire loop wasn’t caused by Edward at all, but by Burton himself. His interference in the past created his own alternate self, which went on several adventures, only to eventually be sent back to create its own timeline.
Time to read: 4.5 hours. These steampunk books can get very heavy and dense.