Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
**This is the second in a loosely connected series – if you haven’t read the first, The Affinity Bridge and want to avoid minor spoilers, you can pop over to my review of that book instead HERE**
A steampunk mystery adventure featuring immortality, artifacts, and intrepid sleuths Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes.
When I posted my thoughts on the first in Mann’s Newbury and Hobbes series, The Affinity Bridge, I gave it three stars and said of the second instalment, “I might pick it up one day if I see a copy in a charity shop or something but I’m not exactly clawing at Waterstones’ door to get it”. That still pretty much sums up how I feel about this series. It’s reasonable. The books haven’t had me clutching at them, desperate to know what’s going to happen next, but they equally haven’t had me throwing them across the room in frustration.
Even though I remain kind of ambivalent about the series, I do think that The Osiris Ritual is a massive improvement on its predecessor. The writing was a lot stronger and the plot a lot more focussed. One of my criticisms of The Affinity Bridge was that it had so many sub-plots that the ideas felt jumbled and as though they were all fighting to make themselves heard. The Osiris Ritual felt…clearer. As though Mann had more confidence in his plot and didn’t feel the need to throw all of the extra elements at it.
This time around, Sir Newbury and Miss Hobbes are investigating a string of murders against a backdrop of archaeological discovery and Egyptian mythology. I adore anything to do with Ancient Egypt (and Ancient Greece, for that matter) so the combination of that and the clear steampunk elements of this series was always going to be a tough one to ruin for me. There are plenty of twists and turns in the story but far fewer seemingly random tangents that leave too much to be wrapped up at the end. There are still a few threads wrapped up in neat discussions as the story comes to a close but it didn’t annoy me too much this time.
One thing I will give Mann is that he’s created some brilliant characters and the dynamics between them are very well handled. Sir Maurice Newbury is everything I imagined when I heard the title ‘Gentleman Investigator for the Crown’. Debonair, able to battle in close quarters while sporting a good quality suit and charming but with some demons to give him a bit of a dark side. Delicious!
I actually also like Miss Hobbes. Too often, I find myself getting annoyed by female protagonists in fiction set in any historical periods that are so desperate to prove that women are equal to men that they’re just a bit…irritating. I’m as much of a feminist as the next woman and yet I almost always way dresses/skirts. You don’t have to scamper about town with cropped hair and trousers just to prove that women are capable. Which is a long way round of saying that I’m a big fan of how Miss Hobbes gives Sir Maurice a run for his money in the investigating stakes while also managing to be attractive, elegant and not ashamed of her penchant for being well turned out. Both characters are developed really well in this instalment and it is that more than anything that will make me likely to pick up the next in the series, The Immorality Engine.
Overall: A step in the right direction for the Newbury and Hobbes series. A bit of a dark take on steampunk but a rollicking good story all the same. Definitely recommended if you read The Affinity Bridge and were about to give up on the series. Actually, I probably recommend reading this instead if you’re thinking of reading The Affinity Bridge…
Date finished: 18 February 2013
Source: Borrowed from my local library
Genre: Fantasy fiction; Steampunk fiction
Pictured Edition Published: by Snowbooks in 2010