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Steampunk Guest Review from Victoria: The Kaiser Affair by Joseph Robert Lewis

I haven't known Vika for very long but I stumbled on her blog few months ago and followed her insightful, well-thought reviews ever since. Thank you, V., for your help and for sharing mutual love for steampunk!

My name is Victoria and I am the creator of www.zemfirkablogs.blogspot.com. Though new to blogging, I’ve had a long-nurtured love for books, and am an avid reader. Aside my passion for reading, I am also an enthusiastic cook. Thus, combining my two favorite activities, the idea behind my blog was born, where I get to share my book reviews and an occasional recipe or two. If you would like to reach me, email me at zemfirkablogs@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter and/or Goodreads.

The Kaiser Affair by Joseph Robert Lewis (The Drifting Isle Chronicles #1)


Synopsis from Goodreads

When a master thief escapes from prison, detective Bettina Rothschild must put him back behind bars before the scandalous fiasco destroys the Ministry of Justice. Her investigation leads from decaying cemeteries where ravens conspire to warehouses where wondrous machines are built in secret, and even to the fabled Drifting Isle above the city of Eisenstadt where an ancient tomb hides a deadly secret.

The relentless chase proves taxing for a young woman who relies on her cane and her steamcarriage to get about, but that's where a good husband steps in. While Bettina picks locks and interrogates suspects, her beloved Arjuna defends her from the most brutal and bizarre assassins in Eisenstadt.

But as the clock ticks down, Bettina finds too many questions still remain. How did the thief escape from prison? How can he afford to hire so many killers? And why would he go to the Drifting Isle only to steal a giant beetle?

Amazon  US/UK | Amazon kindle US($3.99)/UK(£2.73)


* * *
I am an equal opportunity reader, generally. Although I tend to focus on certain genres at times, I still enjoy a variety of reads. As of late my focus has been geared toward PNR and/or steampunk reads.

I employ various avenues to discover new-to-me books, whether through recommendations or random perusal of my own, and picking this book was no exception. There was a mention of it on the Twitterverse, reviews looked great, the concept and book description as well. So, I decided to give it a try and dove into the world of The Drifting Isle Chronicles, which, in fact, is a project begun by a team of fantasy authors who have concocted this amazing idea: to create one fantasy world, filled with magic, steampunk elements, mysteries and more. Each of the authors contributed their own story, while individual to their style and genre, still interconnected in the whole scheme. I have yet to read the other stories in the series, but here’s my take on The Kaiser Affair, by Joseph Robert Lewis which is the first in the series.

“I can decide for myself whom I deserve to be with, thank you very much,” Bettina said. “Not that I have an intellectual equal, but if I did, I sincerely doubt she and I would be able to tolerate each other for more than five minutes’ time.”

As I read the lines above, spoken by the heroine of The Kaiser Affair, I knew that we will get on fabulously.

And truly, Bettina Rothschild is the kind of woman, I enjoy reading about: determined, levelheaded, with an often-sarcastic sense of humor, and in no need of the constant rescue by the man at her side (although, she doesn’t refrain from directing the skills of said man in a much more pleasant manner). Bettina is a detective, and so is her husband, a rakishly handsome gentleman – Arjuna Rana, whose talents extend far beyond his good looks, and who is the perfect counterpart to Bettina’s practicality with his undeniable humor and charm. Together, employed by the Ministry of Justice, they set out to re-capture a thief, who has escaped under mysterious circumstances; his escape threatening to upset the city’s political balance.

 Their secret mission – essentially is a chase: through the city of Eisenstadt, and above – to unknown expanse of mysterious island of Inselmond (that just might be habitable after all), and behind the city’s shadows – home to the quasi-mythical brotherhood of assassins (who walk a thin line between ally and enemy). However, their investigation just might bring the detectives closer home than they’ve thought.

Indeed, The Kaiser Affair is a charming take on an old-fashioned mystery, a genre of which I was quite fond of. Combining the elements of fantasy and steampunk; an intriguing concept behind the world building; and filled with engaging characters, who don’t fail to share plenty of entertaining banter amongst themselves, with an occasional venture onto the naughty side – it was a refreshing read in my pile of PNR.

For me, Mr. Lewis’ work had slight reminiscence of the creative works of Kir Bulychev, the Russian science fiction and fantasy author, whose books I’ve devoured growing up, and comparison to whom I would consider a great praise.

Although, there were plenty of great elements in this novel, certain aspects of it were unsatisfying. I felt the novel lacked development of its main characters. The two detectives were instantly lovable characters, that I wished we had a chance to learn more of their beginnings, rather than simply witnessing their happily ever after. Perhaps Mr. Lewis is savoring it for the future?

Another annoyance that have slightly irritated my mind is that I couldn’t quite figure out the time frame for this novel. I’ve gotten quite used to being able to pin point such factors in other steampunk novels I’ve read thus far, and found it odd that it was not made clear here. Otherwise, aside slight repetitiveness of the continuous chase scenes, I found The Kaiser Affair an entertaining read. This novel serves as a good first foray into The Drifting Isle Chronicles, which just might pique a further interest.


Blodeuedd said...

It does sound interesting, well except for the fact that you were bothered about knowing the time frame

Victoria S. said...

Blodeuedd, yes it was just one of those things that bothered me, though it was still entertaining, so I am glad I gave it a try. I think it is safe to assume it was just a fantasy world without being a parallel to a particular time in history. ;-)

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

I enjoyed this one too. And the great thing about it is the author of this story has made it available for free on his site! Yeah!

As for a time frame, I think this is a world they created and not really a time frame for it, in our relations. Maybe? Now I'm not sure.

I did enjoy the blend of Steampunk with a touch of fantasy. And most of all, a married couple! I really found the couple refreshing.

Great review!

zEmfIrKa said...

@Melissa I agree... it is refreshing to see a married couple - and they were cute together, completing each other well.

As for time frame, now reflecting on my statement above, I think it really doesn't matter. I do think its their own world - so totally fine. I don't know why it bothered me while I was reading! Go figure... :)

Thanks! :D

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