After the events of the previous summer, Rafe Lancaster is settling into his life as a coffeeshop owner and Ned Winters’ lover. He and Ned need to keep their relationship a secret, not only because their love is a punishable offense, but Ned is also the First Heir to the Glassglow House. Rafe keeps out of House politics as much as he is able, but since he is part of one of the minor houses, it’s not entirely avoidable.
When Ned begins preparations to head back to Aegypt for his next archeological dig, Rafe’s heart breaks. He didn’t think about Ned making another expedition and he can’t imagine five months without Ned. But when Ned’s pilot is killed, it’s the perfect opportunity for Rafe to go with him. It takes some cajoling, and a directive from the Princeps of Rafe’s House, but Rafe is pleased to go.
Ned’s enthusiasm is infectious, and Rafe is overjoyed to see his lover in a way he doesn’t get to back in Londinium. But almost immediately, little things start to go wrong. Over time, the incidents build up, and the men know something sinister is afoot. When there’s an attempt on Rafe’s life, they increase security. But that doesn’t stop the worst of events.
With Ned out of commission, it’s up to Rafe to figure out what is going on and to get Ned’s son back. But in the process, something even bigger comes to light and Rafe now has a huge decision to make. Fortunately, he has Ned by his side, even if they can’t acknowledge their relationship publicly, and Rafe is now in a position to possibly enact the change he so desperately desires.
It’s been quite a while since the first book in the Lancaster’s Luck series came out. The Gilded Scarab was released almost three years ago, and when I read it, I was eager for more in the series. The first book is one that has stuck with me, and I remembered all too well my love of Rafe. So even though it had been so long, I was very much looking forward to the next installment.
I will say here that I think the time between books was a bit of a detriment. This is definitely a series that must be read in order, and there’s a lot going on in the world that needs explanation. I was scrambling to catch up and remember as I began reading this book, especially in regards to the Houses’ machinations and inner workings. There were titles and events thrown out that I couldn’t quite remember, and that worked against this book for me a bit. But as the story progressed, I was able to fall into it and not worry so much about what I didn’t remember in regards to the politics.
The world building, in and of itself, is again stellar. An alternate history, this book is steampunk at it’s best. I loved the way Butler built in all the modern conveniences within the frame work of automation and steam or powered by alternate power sources. It adds a layer to the story that I really enjoyed, and it’s done here with an expert hand.
And Rafe. He’s one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever encountered. He strong and stalwart, with a biting sense of humor that lends itself well to the storytelling. He continues to be just as I remembered. He doesn’t play games and is honest down to his bones. And I really loved the way he loves Ned. There’s something about the quiet way he express his love that really speaks to me. He’s a truly enjoyable character and he makes this book for me. And I really loved watching their relationship blossom and grow under some difficult circumstances. There’s no doubt that these two men are amazing together and will continue to persevere.
There’s mystery and intrigue as well. For the most part, this worked well. While the bad guys aren’t entirely a surprise and I wished there’d been a little less transparency there, I was impressed with the way it unfolded. There were some heart stopping moments, but nothing ever strayed too far over the top.
I did have a small issue with the pacing in this story. It’s a long book, and there’s a lot going on. At about the one third mark, the story got a bit bogged down and the pacing slowed to nearly a crawl. While, on the one hand, I enjoyed seeing the arrival in Aegypt and the particulars of the archeological dig, on the other, I wished this section had been tightened up a bit. With the action slowing down, it was at odds with the rest of the book. But when things picked up again, I was right there with the characters.
So all in all, this was another winner for Butler. I truly enjoyed seeing Rafe again, and I loved watching Rafe and Ned’s relationship grow while danger and mystery tried to thwart them. If steampunk is your thing, and maybe even if it’s not, I can whole heartedly recommend this series, and I’m looking forward to where the author takes it next.