This novella came by way of Netgalley – thank you to them.
Now, this is steampunk as I keep expecting it to be (and keep being disappointed). Victoriana combined with automata and dirigibles (there should always be dirigibles) and a strange and unaccountable magic, hanging from a very good story: that’s what I keep hoping for.
Elspeth Shaw is under a curse. Anyone who cares for her dies horribly, from family to a stray cat. It’s all down to an artifact her father unearthed – her now-deceased father, needless to say. She lives on an island and keeps to herself, and sees to it in every way she can manage that the one person she has regular contact with, her housekeeper, simply does not like her.
Meanwhile, in England, James Weston is a young nobleman whose body is failing him. A rumor comes to him of an artifact (yes, that artifact) which can extend life, and he sees this as his only chance. His intrusion into Elspeth’s world is unwelcome – especially when she realizes she is beginning to have feelings for him.
The story takes a turn I never expected, to wind up in a conclusion I would never have guessed at. It becomes very dark, very quickly, and feels like one of those episodes of The Twilight Zone – or maybe Alfred Hitchcock Presents – that might not make you reach for your teddy bear, but surely is good for a shiver or two. It’s an excellent tale.