This book started off seeming as though it would be some sort of Victorian, Steampunk Speed Racer. But that turned out to just be a red herring to introduce us to the characters and set up some of the conflicts. I also thought it would focus more strongly on the floating island, Inselmond. It seemed as though it would be one of those islands that feature in many anime and JRPGs where the rich or magical live. Nope, that served as a McGuffin of sorts – although in a lot of ways the Black Mercury of the title is practically a McGuffin, but there might be some debate about that.
In actuality, this ends up being a Victorian Steampunk thriller. Like many of the steampunk novels I’ve come across, the main theme is that of a world in which women do incredible things, but have to fight for recognition and prosperity. The world as conveyed by Ms. Charlotte English is a fascinating world full of many characters I’d love to see again. I’ve come to find out this was a Kickstarter-funded series. I hope it did well enough to convince the authors to return to their characters.
On the assumption that Ms. English is not writing under a pen name, I don’t know if it’s because she’s a woman or if it’s inherent to the steampunk genre, but it was nice to read a story that focused strongly on relationships and how people react as the relationships change. Sure, that’s story-telling 101, but it’s not always as believable as it works out in this novel.