A Study in Ashes: Book Three in The Baskerville Affair
by Emma Jane Holloway
Cover Artist: Gene Mollica
Review by Mel Jacob
Del Rey Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345537201
Date: 31 December 2013 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
A Study of Ashes, a fun blend of steampunk and magic, concludes the Baskerville Affair. The impending war among the Steam Barons and between them and the Baskerville rebels for total control of Great Britain only waits for some person or event to touch off the conflagration. Evalina Cooper, niece of Sherlock Holmes and a powerful magic worker, risks her life to help the rebels return control of the country to Queen Victoria and her heir.
In the previous book, A Study in Darkness, Evalina gained more power as the sorcerer Magnus taught her how to use her magic. She survived an attack by Serafina, an automaton of Magnus, and lost Nick, captain of the Red Jack, when his ship was shot down by Keating's men. Now, she returns to college and her studies.
Always desperate to learn more, she is disappointed that women are limited both in what they may study and are prohibited from doing various science experiments. When she is interrupted in a chemistry lab by a professor, her experiment goes awry. It destroys the lab and the science building. She and the professor survive only because she uses her magic to protect them both.
Evalina, threatened with expulsion because of destroying the lab, must rely on Jasper Keating, the hated Gold Steam Baron, to save her. She is forced to wear bracelets that restrict her magic, confine her to the college, and inform Keating's men where she is at all times. She is furious, but has no recourse.
Meanwhile, her uncle, Sherlock Holmes, works with the rebels and conspires to release Evalina. A young Moriarty, a professor at the college and also the Blue steam Baron's second in command, offers her his help and gives her some salts that may help against the bracelets. Holmes has Doctor Watson concoct the story of a large hound who lives on the moor and bays at the death of a Baskerville.
Evalina is release temporarily into the custody of Tobias Roth, ostensibly to catch the killer of Lord Baskerville. However, her uncle wants her to help destroy Her Majesty's Laboratories, a secret installation where magic users are imprisoned and experimented upon by scientists. They have created monsters of half-human half-machine creatures, killed, maimed, or driven magic users mad.
The climax provides plenty of excitement and a satisfying ending. Holloway leaves plenty of room for Evalina and Nick to continue their adventures.