Lord Kelvin's Machine by James P. Blaylock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reviewing for Hearts on Fire Reviews;
I found this entry in James Blaylock’s Langdon St. Eves series, set in Victorian London and throughout England, and seriously Steampunk, to be much more gritty than either “Homunculus” or “The Aylesford Skull.” Now granted, in the latter, the evil mastermind hunchback Ignatius Narbondo did kidnap St. Ives’ son; but still, St. Ives maintained his composure for much (if certainly not all) of the time, and so did the reader. In “Lord Kelvin’s Machine,” Narbondo (never satisfied with the evil he’s done, always wanting more) has abducted St. Ives’ beloved wife Alice, the light of his very life, and now St. Ives has no composure. In fact, he is bound and determined (and armed) to destroy Narbondo forever, if only he can reclaim Alice—and even if he can’t. The reader’s hook in this novel is incredibly taut and compelling, almost more than the reader can stand at a given moment (stand it I did, however) and there is no pause for contemplation here.
Another reason for what I term the unexpected grittiness in this novel is the understandable evolution of the character of our staunch protagonist, Langdon St. Ives, once the poet-physicist and explorer, man of intellectual and exploratory adventure, a man who despite the depredations wreaked upon him and upon the world in general by the evil Narbondo, could still find the glass to be “half full” rather than “half empty,” because he had sufficient love, light, and joy in his life to so ground him. Now, pursuant to a terrible tragedy, he is at the point of wondering why he even tries to save the world from Narbondo—certainly this world holds nothing for him, he is lost and a wandering soul. Only duty and honour keep him moving. This is not a state to which I’d ever wanted to see Mr. St. Ives reduced—but it is a state which makes for rousing and constant adventure, and will rivet readers just as much as it has this reviewer.
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