|The book is subtitled An Astounding Horatio Lyle
Adventure. It is set in 1865 and the hero, scientist and inventor Horatio Lyle, must
battle the mysterious Tseiqin and the strange, mystical enigma they represent.
is set firmly in the steampunk genre. I found it very hard to read. The prose is murky and
muddy and author's consistent refusal to identify the characters lends a distancing effect
that I found quite alienating. I simply cannot identify with a character whose name I do
not know. The whole story was vague, confusing and impossible to relate to.
Apparantly there are other Horatio Lyle adventures. I will not be reading any of them.
-- Alan Robson
Steampunk, urban fantasy set in the Age of Steam, is a relatively small subgenre,
mainly because its not exactly easy to write. Firstly, the writer has to know their
way around the era, and has also to acquire the proper literary tone, or else, frankly, it
simply wont do.
Catherine Webbs Horatio Lyle adventures have yet to be listed in
Wikipedias relatively short List of Steampunk Works, but they certainly
deserve to be there. She managed to grab me right from the very first sentence, and for
some days, I wandered around shoving the book under the noses of various persons, up to
and including the local childrens librarian, and getting them to read it. You see,
if there is one thing I like to come across, its a writer who can actually write,
and Catherine Webb is one of those, with a fine gift for prose, and a fair talent for
character and plot besides.
Horatio Lyle is a gentleman, a scientist, and something of an investigator. For some
strange reason, he reminds me somewhat of Dr Who. Maybe its the quirky Englishness
of the chap. In which case, his young friend Tess has to be Ace, right down to her
fondness for explosions. Anyhow, there is a dastardly plot to create a marvellous machine
that will be utterly destructive to the elf-like Tseiqin. Which, of course, must be foiled
by Horatio Lyle and his young assistants. Great fun. And best of all, Catherine Webb is
barely out of her teens, and already she writes this well
One can only wonder what shell be writing in ten years time.
-- Jacqui Smith
I liked the idea of this book when I read about it. Theres this Victorian
scientist, see, and his two youthful sidekicks, and they have the save an entire
mysterious race from mass murder.
I have always enjoyed Anne Perrys Victorian mysteries, and I enjoy reading about
how science and believing in science have affected everyday peoples lives. So I was
hopeful I would enjoy this, the third book in a series.
As it turns out, the author is extremely young. This is her seventh published book, and
she is currently a university student, having first been published at age fourteen. This
relative lack of experience showed through in her writing style. She handles many of the
basics well, but there are two exceptions.
First, and by far worst, she doesnt just spit things out. There are comparisons
to other situations, geographical comparisons, reasons this should be important but
isnt, reasons this shouldnt be important but is, discussions of the
constables lunch yesterday
In other words, her descriptions are exceptionally
long-winded. Im guessing shes trying to be descriptive. Unfortunately it
Second, her characters dont have much depth to them. Horatio Lyle and his
protégées act as they might be expected to act, and were introduced to the family
of one of the protégées, but I dont feel the characters were raised much above the
typical inventor, apprentice inventor, and thief.
As the author is young, there is a possibility that she might refine her technique as
she grows older and later books might be more enjoyable. However, Im not
particularly interested in finding out.
-- Katie Boyle