Holloway’s splendid first entry in her Baskerville Affair series will thrill fans of steampunk urban fantasy. While the tome clocks in at over 500 pages, every page exhibits Holloway’s dab hand at characterization. All of her villains, including power-hungry schemer Lord Bancroft, treacherous steam baron Jasper Keating and the mysterious mesmerist Dr. Magnus, are fully realized, three-dimensional characters, even as they commit unspeakable acts for the sake of their ambition. The heroine is on the cusp of entering high society while a part of her yearns for the life she had at Ploughman’s circus, where she performed as a child. But while her personal story has tremendous promise (did I mention she’s Sherlock Holmes’ niece?), it often feels as though the secondary characters, including Evie’s love interests and her best friend push our lead to the margins. Silver lining? Readers aren’t likely to mind, as the characters are thoroughly charming and the worldbuilding is first-rate.

The murder of a servant girl rocks the lofty Bancroft estate, where Evelina Cooper is staying with her best friend, Imogen Roth. Secretly applying her talent for magic —- which is expressly forbidden — and her facility with science, she quickly uncovers some disturbing secrets about Imogen’s family. As titan of industry Jasper Keating and sorcerer Dr. Magnus ensnare Imogen’s father, Lord Bancroft, in their power struggle, Evelina, too, is swept up in their dark plans. But Evie has her own set of allies: the plucky Imogen, Imogen’s rakishly handsome brother, Tobias — and Nick, aka the Indomitable Niccolo, Evelina’s childhood love from the circus, whose magic calls to hers. (DEL REY, Oct., 560 pp., $7.99)
Reviewed by: 
Regina Small