The Iron Wyrm Affair

The Iron Wyrm Affair, by the improbably named Lilith Saintcrow, is the first in a projected series of novels involving Prime Sorceress Emma Bannon and Mentath Archibald Clare. The setting is a kind of mash-up of steampunk and urban fantasy in an alternative England where Queen Victrix has just married her consort, Prince Alberich, where Clockhorses strain and whinny, and where young toughs have themselves Altered with mechanical limbs.

Bannon is a powerful sorceress in the service of the Queen, and in the service of Britannia, the guiding spirit of the Realm, of whom Victrix is the current vessel. (Note: this is not a metaphor.) She is tough, smart, determined, and because of her unsavory brand of magic, nearly friendless. As the book begins, she is accompanied only by her Shield, Mikal; and not only is it rare for a Prime Sorceress to have but one Shield, Mikal is known to have killed his previous master.

She calls upon Archibald Clare, an Unregistered Mentath; which is to say, a man trained to perform and to desire observation, logic, and deduction to such a degree that boredom can quite literally be a recipe for madness. When we meet him he has been unemployed for some weeks and is clearly paddling in the deep end. (Picture Sherlock Holmes on one of his very bad days.) Their partnership is somewhat unlikely; Mentaths have difficulty with the illogic of sorcery, and Bannon has difficulty with almost everyone.

Together, the two uncover two (or is it three) dastardly and fiendish plots against the realm and the person of Queen Victrix, and (not terribly surprisingly) discover that they make a good team.

I had a lot of fun with this book, and intend to buy the sequel when it’s available on Kindle; however, I was never able to take it completely seriously. It struck me as possibly a little more over the top than the author intended it to be.

And then, the thing that especially struck me is the way that Saintcrow manages to conjure up an air of decadence and sin, especially regarding the relationship between Bannon and her Shield, Mikal—it’s a master/slave relationship, of sorts, and a sexual relationship as well, and I kept expecting the leather and spike heels to come out. But they didn’t. In fact, what little sex there is, is entirely off stage, and (except for the fact that they aren’t married) there’s not actually anything perverse going on. It was really quite odd. I’m used to authors putting forth all manner of sexual goings on as though there was nothing shocking about any of it; and here Saintcrow is creating an atmosphere of great wickedness that completely fails to materialize. Weird. Somewhat refreshing, but weird.

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  • juliedavis

    Somehow the character names alone made it impossible for me to take it seriously. :-)

    • willduquette

      Had you already read this one, Julie?

      • juliedavis

        Nope. But all those names in your description made my eyes water. I couldn’t keep track of anything … or maybe it was just my allergies.

        • willduquette

          A pity, because I think you might enjoy it.

          • juliedavis

            I might. If I didn’t have so many pages of books to read, I’d add it to the list. Although books with “wyrm” in the title are a real turn off. So there was that against it from the beginning.

  • readerofallthingsdecent

    I recently read this book and I must say that it it an absolute MUST READ, for people who have absolutely no taste. Adjectives are wonderful, but there should be a limit of the number of adjectives allowed per sentence. The storyline is poorly conceived, BADLY written, and not fun in the least. I could go on, but I won’t waste my time. I recommend that you not waste your time by even thinking about starting to read this novel.

    • willduquette

      OK, so clearly it isn’t for everyone.


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