It’s no secret at all that I’ve been a huge fan of Karen J Carlisle’s ineffable knack for storytelling and world building since I fist encountered her Viola Stewart series a few years ago. Her beautifully entertaining paranormal series Aunt Enid has captured my heart too, but I have to confess that I have been missing the mysterious steampunkish world Viola inhabits with its secret societies and artefacts of wonder … so imagine my glee when I was sent an ARC of the first book in her new series The Department Of Curiosities -For The Good Of The Empire, which is set in the same world as the Viola Stewart stories! I couldn’t wait to click ‘open’ and begin reading and I’m happy to say it was all I could have hoped for and more…
Karen J Carlisle is one of those rare gems who’s storytelling captivated me from the first page and carried me expertly through a marvellous world of mysterious occurrences, secret societies, wondrous devices and characters I both loved and loved to hate.
Miss Matilda Meriwether is a strong, independent and resourceful character with secrets to protect and unravel and an agenda that is utterly her own. Having said this she is also realistic for the world and time period in which she exists and she wrangles with all the social and emotional baggage that women in the late Victorian era had to contend with. These both combine to make her an utterly believable and lovable character and I found myself feeling her frustrations and quandaries even as I admired her bravado and ingenuity. She is certainly a character I now want to follow through the rest of the series.
As for the plot I don’t want to reveal to much because the beauty of this book is in the secrets and surprises… young Matilda is trying to unravel a family secret with the help of a very unexpected and comically petulant and cryptic ‘guide,’ when she becomes entangled with The Department Of Curiosities. Tillie hopes that working for the department will bring her closer to solving her own mystery but of course life has a lot more in store for her before she gets there… this is a fabulous ‘gateway’ book for anyone new to Steampunk and for old hands it is an expertly woven tale incorporating everything we love about the genre from mad scientists, secret societies, strong heroines, dastardly villains, marvellous mysteries and incredible devices ; yet another another absolute treat from Karen J Carlisle.