|Posted by Mredydd on March 30, 2014 at 12:15 AM|
The Admirer is an interesting blend of mystery, coming-of-age, and high society romance. Rose Fraser, a refined young orphaned woman of a marriagable age, is introduced to London society by her aunt and uncle, whose primary concern is in finding a rich husband for her. At first, Rose enjoys the excitement and bustle of city life, but she is soon harassed by a series of anonymous, threatening notes, which she strives to keep secret from her aunt and uncle. In a stroke of good fortune, her preferred suitor, James Grey, happens to be a private detective, and decides to look into these mysterious events.
It is difficult to say more about the plot without giving away the ending, since the story is, after all, a mystery. Suffice to say that many unpleasantly exciting events befall Rose as she navigates her way through being a debutante.
My personal taste does not run to upper-class society dramas, but fortunately the mystery plot provides a diversion. The tone of the book is rather darker than one would assume from the synopsis - a sinister threat lurks in the background of every ball and party, surfacing in surprising and violent ways.
The novel makes no attempt to be strict historical fiction, setting the story in a vaguely Victorian-ish London whose social mores vacillate wildly between semi-Victorian and a more modern brand of conservatism. The agency Rose lacks, as an upper-class woman, fits with the setting: despite being the main character, she is unable to take action to affect the course of the plot, aside from enlisting James's help.
As has happened to me many times, I liked many of the supporting characters far more than the leads. In particular, Will (the street-savvy pickpocket who James hires as an informant when his investigation takes him to disreputable parts of the city) came across as a vibrant and complex person, surely with an interesting life story to tell. Possibly the author will choose to feature Will more prominently in some future work.
I would hesitate to classify The Admirer as steampunk, since it contains no elements which indicate it takes place in a different world. Nonetheless, if you prefer the Neo-Victorian side of things and fancy balls over gadgetry, this novel should be ideal.
A grim mystery interwoven with the story of a young woman finding her independence, The Admirer contains a solidly crafted story with a variety of characters, set in a richly imagined Victorianesque London.
Interested in steampunk even before they knew there was a word for it, Mredydd (aka Meredith Weinhold) has been involved with Steampunk Ottawa for multiple years. A voracious reader, Mredydd studied an officially unrecognized, but singularly enjoyable quantity of English literature in university, and is periodically a panelist on steampunk fiction workshops.