Set in a time when England and Germany have heightened tensions, spy networks are vast, and the ton continues with its balls and social obligations unaware of the secrets around them, Lady Amanda wars with her father, the Duke, over her ability to attend medical school. Amanda is driven by her keen intelligence and a guilt over her brother’s injured leg, to produce a clockwork device to repair nerve damage. Under pressure to find a husband within the year, Amanda courts a classmate, but finds no sparks. However, when her work captures the attention of Lord Thornton, noted physician and neurologist, Lady Amanda finally knows what it is like to have her mind appreciated.
Lord Thornton lives with the guilt over the betrayal of his best friend in his damaged leg that will never heal. As a spy for the Queen herself, he finds Amanda’s work to be the break he needs in a rash of Gypsy murders. However much he is attracted to both her brain and her body, Thornton must keep the relationship professional, especially since he’s not on the market for a wife.
The Golden Spider is a delicious treat for fans of gadgets, science, and steampunk romance! Right from the start, I was drawn into this exciting mystery, trying to discover who is behind the Gypsy murders. Watching Amanda’s mind work to piece the puzzle together is fascinating, and made all the much better as she and Thornton grow closer. I love the science of the story - the author does not brush over Amanda and Thornton’s work, but rather gives listeners the details of both test subjects and gadgets.
While the engineering, science, action, and adventure is completely fascinating, it is the romance between Lord Thornton and Lady Amanda that gives The Golden Spider heart and makes it such a wonderful story. The pair are meant for one another; not only do they share a passion for science and ingenuity, but they are able to openly be themselves with each other. Thornton doesn’t trust easily, but he finds a confidant in Amanda. Working side by side, their passion grows until they finally give into their burning desires.
The story is read by British-born actress Henrietta Meire, who embodies the Regency Steampunk setting perfectly. She modulates her tone to fit both high society snobbery and working class Roma. Her narrator tone is mostly neutral, but seems to be a tad bit softer when expressing Amanda’s POV than Thornton’s. I enjoyed all of her voices, although it took a while for me to warm up to Thornton’s speaking voice, which came off robotic. As I got to know his character, I became accustomed to his unique voice, and it even softened some as he grew closer to Amanda. Ms. Meire also tosses in German and French accents wonderfully.
In the end, I enjoyed devouring The Golden Spider. A wonderful mix of mystery, adventure, steampunk, and romance, the story unfolded at a thrilling pace, building passion and excitement along the way. I cannot wait for the second title, The Silver Skull, to be released in audiobook format.
My Rating: A
Review copy provided by Tantor Audio
Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About
The Golden Spider and The Silver Skull are both fairly paint-by-numbers steampunk: it's vaguely Victorian-ish, with the ton & the peerage and all that, but there are Babbage cards and steam mechanicals and such too.
The Golden Spider is probably the better novel, following a girl scientist trying to stop a killer and cure her brother and also there are spies.The Silver Skull relies on one of those "we have to pretend to be married so we might as well bang" scenarios, which I find tedious, and I didn't buy the reasons for the lovers to be apart anyway. But bonus points for pteranodons that the evil lady saddles up so she can have sky battles with airships. That was fresh.
What I really wanted to say about this series, the thing I found utterly charming, was the epically nerdy science behind both of these plots. A science that was lovingly detailed with so much legit scientific terminology that I would just start skimming at points as the principals breathlessly talked chemistry at each other. The author's bio states that Renwick has a PhD in chemistry, and it shows: she loves this shit; she's not going to dumb it down; and she's going to work out the science plausibly, even if it's fictional.
Hard science is very rarely my thing. I simply do not care about verisimilitude, unless you wrap it up with some actual characters, which doesn't happen as often as I'd prefer. And generally I'm not reading steampunk for the articles, but because I like the dash-punk pulp aspects: I want to see me a fucking kraken, or an airship battle that crashes, burning, into the sea, or some automata struggling with sentience. But here, in books where the steampunkery was wan and drab, I lived for the nerdy stuff, in a weird reversal. It just goes to show that the enthusiasm of the writer towards the subject, be it chemistry or krakens, goes a long way toward my enjoyment of a novel.