The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter: The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, Book 1
by Rod Duncan
Cover Artist: Will Staehle
Review by Mel Jacob
Angry Robot Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780857665300
Date: 26 August 2014 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Elizabeth Barnabus was forced at a young age to flee the Kingdom to escape the clutches of a vengeful Duke who ruined her father in order to make her his indentured servant and plaything. Fortunately for her, she managed to cross the border to the Republic (northern England and Scotland) and establish herself there.
In Elizabeth's world, Great Britain no longer exists. The world map has evolved in different ways. As in Victorian times, women have few rights and are considered subordinate to men. The International Patent Office functions as a supra-governmental agency that rules over the entire world. They decree which machine may be produced and what new inventions are acceptable. They hold absolute power including that of life and death.
Elizabeth learned the art of disguise working in her father's circus and was able to pass herself off as a young man on stage and during her escape. Her current neighbors believe she and her brother live together and he is an Investigator who works at night and sleeps during the day. No one has ever seen the two together.
A wealthy Duchess from the Kingdom has contacted the brother and asked to see him. The Duchess sends money asking Elizabeth's brother to locate her own brother and return him to the Kingdom. Apparently the Patent Office wants him or something he has. Reluctant to take the commission, debt forces Elizabeth to agree to find the brother. The Duchess promises no harm will come to him.
This new steampunk series offers yet another alternate view of the world from the nineteenth century to a new future. It shares similarities with both the Clockwork Empire series by Steven Harper and the Baskerville Affair series by Emma Jane Holloway. Close escapes and the hint of a possible romance drive the action forward. However, the ending raises some questions about the overall plot. Most readers will enjoy the adventure and look forward to the next installment.