Camera Obscura

I received this as an e-arc, via Netgalley. I didn’t realize it was part of a series, but it stands on it’s own really well – I didn’t feel lost at all!

Author: Lavie Tidhar
Publisher: Angry Robot
Published: May 3rd, 2011

CAN’T FIND A RATIONAL EXPLANATION TO A MYSTERY? CALL IN THE QUIET COUNCIL. The mysterious and glamorous Lady De Winter is one of their most valuable agents. A despicable murder inside a locked and bolted room on the Rue Morgue in Paris is just the start. This whirlwind adventure will take Milady to the highest and lowest parts of that great city – and cause her to question the very nature of reality itself.

It’s hard to give this book a clear genre. I think you’d have to call it steampunk, through there is so much else going on as well that it could be any number of other things: science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller.

I was drawn in by the blurb, and the cover, which I just adore. The opening scene is really intriguing, and I was really interested to see where it would go. We’re presented with a problematic crime scene, and intensely interesting character (Milady), and some some kind of clockwork bug companion (Grimm), as well as information about the world – but not a lot. The first time the lizard queen was mentioned I raised an eyebrow and wondered if I had read incorrectly.

But that is one of the good things about this novel – you are never given all the information. You are dragged along on this journey, learning things about the world, left in the dark about the details and history. And I liked that.

After the beginning, I thought it was just a murder mystery, waiting to be resolved. Over time, you find that this is not the case, in fact the mystery is much bigger, much deeper than you imagined. Some amazing world building has been done here, it draws from so many cultures and backgrounds, and lumps it all into the same novel. I loved the worldly feel this achieved, as if anyone, from anywhere, might crop up in the novel – ranging from actual historical figures, to invented ones.

The writing style was a little different, and took some adjusting to, but I enjoyed the story more as it went on – in fact, it’s not until a fair way into the book that I felt like I MUST read on. There are so many interesting characters, with interesting pasts, all converging ¬†eventually into the main story line. Until you get to that point, it seems a little disjointed at times, but in my opinion, worth pushing on until you get to the good parts.

It’s a big story, breathtaking at times, truly an epic adventure, rich in details and keeping you on the edge of your seat once it gets going. I would give this book a 3.5 star rating, and I would definitely be interested in picking up another book from this author.