Friday, January 03, 2014

Edi's Spotlight: Hounds of Autumn by Heather Blackwood


Dear Readers,
welcome to 2014 and welcome to my first review in 2014. I'm highly motivated to achieve my New Year's resolution which means in this case to write and post 24 reviews.
My first review "victim" is a book which impressed me in December 2013. I talk about  Hounds of Autumn (digital, 2013) [Kindle Edition ASIN: B00AZMU8W8] by Heather Blackwood.

For me it was a superb read and like a lot of other books I read within 2013, it deserve a review.  So I decided to share my opinion about the Hounds of Autumn with you which may give you some arguments why it is worth to get a copy and read it.

Book Store Information
In general my decision to read a book is mostly based on the cover and the blurb/synopsis delivered on the back cover. You do not get more information when you are in a book store. The world of books is changing which means I also will take in account blurbs and descriptions on GOODREADS and other places.
Here we go:

 Hounds of Autumn (digital, 2013) 
[Kindle Edition ASIN: B00AZMU8W8]
by Heather Blackwood
"It is 1890, and the windswept moors hold dark secrets. Chloe Sullivan is an amateur inventor whose holiday takes a dark turn when her friend and colleague, one of the few female mechanical experts in the British Empire, is murdered.

A black mechanical hound roams the moors, but could it have killed a woman? And what secrets are concealed within the dark family manor?

Accompanied by her naturalist husband and her clockwork cat, Chloe is determined to see her friend’s killer found.

But some secrets have a terrible cost." [Source]

My Expectations
I read a lot of Steampunk novels in the past years and based on that I have common expectations. Steampunk elements should be part of the story and no decorative parts. I like either a Victorian background or  an alternate history setting. Romance is not really my cup of tea. Therefore I hoped that romance would not play an important and extended role.

The Delivery
The 270 pages are divided into 20 consecutively numbered chapters. This is quite short compared to the books I normally read. I know that quantity does not say anything about quality.

When I read the words hounds and moor, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came immediately up in my mind. But beside hound and moor there are no further similarities. Hounds of Autumn is a unique story.
The title of the book can be interpreted either as the shortest possible summary or as a synonym for Chloe and Ambrose Sullivan who both play important roles. In fact Chloe is the main character. She is young, at least 20 years younger as her husband. I will come back to that fact later.
Chloe is an extraordinary person for her time. England in 1890 means Victorian England.
"When a Victorian man and woman married, the rights of the woman were legally given over to her spouse. Under the law the married couple became one entity where the husband would represent this entity, placing him in control of all property, earnings and money. In addition to losing money and material goods to their husbands, Victorian wives became property to their husbands," [Source]
One could say women have been the slaves of her husbands.

How did middle and upper class women spent their time?

"Women's leisure activities included in large part traditional pastimes such as reading, embroidery, music, and traditional handicrafts." [Source]

Author Heather Blackwood shows her talent in many ways. Her vivid presentation of the  Victorian society is excellent and matches superb with the unique and fresh main characters in in form of Chloe and Ambrose Sullivan.
Ambrose has been a good friend of Chloe's family and the marriage - including a contract - gave Chloe the opportunity to do something outrageous for a Victorian woman: to read what she wants and to invent and build mechanicals. Her latest invention is the mechanical cat name Giles which is always good for a surprise.
Ambrose admires Chloe's intelligence, straightforwardness and endurance. He defends/saves her whenever necessary. Chloe enjoys a freedom which stands in conflict with society rules. They respect and also love each other which is shown in small gestures, something your recognise when you keep an eye on long term married couples who are still in love. 
Without this unorthodox marriage the story would miss a lot.

While reading this charming story - don't get me wrong, there are scenes where Heather Blackwood pulls no punches - I enjoyed the balanced delivery of information which always light your imagination and avoids information overload.
I do not want to draw the curtain over the fact that humor, superstition, sense of responsibility  and  fog found their appropriate place within the book.

Finally I must admit that all my educated guesses to identify the murderer before the final revelation failed. I highly appreciated that the reader most of the time does not know more than Chloe.

The Inevitable

It was exactly my cup of tea. An intelligent heroine, a most entertaining story with twist and turns, a mystical touch, an excellent description of Victorian society and a bittersweet end, 

The writing style supports the story at all points. Within seconds I forgot my surroundings and followed  Chloe and Ambrose Sullivan on her way to the story.

If you look for a good Steampunk book which 
- delivers suitable action beyond airship battles 
- denies the endless ostentation of Steampunk gadgets
- present you an extraordinary woman her tries to hold her ground in Victorian society
- ends bittersweet
- bewitch with emotion and eerily-beautiful moments

 then you should give Hounds of Autumn a try.

These are my totally subjective closing words
For me Hounds of Autumn cries for a sequel starring the extraordinary and inimitable Chloe Sullivan written by the talented and convincing Heather Blackwood !!!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad it delivered! An overload of information just weighs down a story.

ediFanoB said...

True words Alex, true words.

It was good for me to write this review because it motivated me to work on the next one.

Have a great weekend.

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