Often, when I pick up a new book, by an author who is unfamiliar to me, there is both a sense of excitement, wonderment, but also a little sense of dread, wondering what I might be about to throw myself in to. It’s a game of trust betwen me, the author, the editor, and the publisher. And when the author, and his/her book hooks me and takes me on a fantastic adventure and in to a land of people and places that I don’t want to leave, I am thrilled to have been so surprised.
Rod Duncan’s The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, has thrilled me.
Our protagonist is Elizabeth Barnabus, a spy/detective who disguises herself as her own brother. We meet her as she takes on a new job for a Dutchess, the Lady Bletchley, tracking down a person while avoiding capture and the loss of her home and discovering what makes a few new machines so valuable. Along the way she encounters a travelling circus that may be concealing some of the information she’s looking for, and an agent for the Patent Office … perhaps the most powerful of all agencies.
Elizabeth is resourceful and intelligent. If she can’t talk or disguise her way out of trouble, she likely can use guile and prowess to physically escape. Author Duncan weaves in Elizabeth’s back story with masterful ease. So nicely intertwined, we often don’t realize that we’ve stepped out of the present story to get some background. This is precisely how it should be done – it is a wonderful balance of being story-driven and character-driven.
Everything about this world felt real. Elizabeth and author Duncan don’t spend time marvelling over little things that would be very natural to them (and as Elizabeth was raised in a circus environment, even the most strange would appear natural to her). Instead, the world/environment is created through the action of the story. It ocurred to me at some point that this book might be considered ‘steampunk’ given the era and the modern marvels within. Typically, I haven’t been impressed with steampunk precisely because so much attention is paid to showing off how ‘cool’ the concepts are. But when a story isn’t about concept, it is much easier to make it real.
It’s almost impossible to have a book without some sort of romance, but here again, Duncan gets it just right. There are hints of romance that satisfy, amuse, and promise more for another time.
There wasn’t a single moment that I felt bored or wanted to skip ahead a little. I was mesmerized early and the story and characters blossomed before me with precision. This is the book I was hoping to read back when I delved in to The Night Circus and again with Hang Wire. Now it’s been done correctly and I want more!
Looking for a good book? Mystery, duplicity, secret societies, alchemy, romance, action … The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan has it all and promises to be the talked-about/must-read book for sci-fi/fantasy enthusiasts this year!
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The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter
author: Rod Duncan
series: The Fall of the Gas-Light Empire #1
publisher: Angry Robot