It’s 1882 and an American research group is working to discover the secret to immortality. They’re finally making progress on what they’ve named the “Eterna” compound when an otherworldly force kills the lot of them.
But that won’t stop Queen Victoria, in London, from capitalizing on their work. She employs her own research team, Special Branch Division Omega, to find out what the Americans discovered and to succeed where they failed. Skeptic Harold Spire of the London Police force is assigned to the case by the queen herself, along with Rose Everhardt, who becomes Spire’s chief researcher.
Meanwhile, the Americans investigate the mysterious deaths of the research team. Clara Templeton, whose lover numbered among the dead, won’t rest until she gets answers.
Published February 3rd 2015 by Tor Books.
I won this book—plus its sequel and another book by Leanna Renee Hieber—in a giveaway on Tor’s book blog. What a nice package! Thanks so much to Tor. I hardly had to look beyond Hieber’s impressive resume before knowing, just knowing I would love this book. The idea is sooo cool.
Unfortunately, it’s just not working out for me.
DNF AT 1/3 MARK
I hate to DNF any book, especially the first in a series or the first of an author new to me; but by page 105, I had read enough of The Eterna Files to know I wasn’t going to enjoy the book. And just to make sure, I read several detailed reviews of both this book and book II and decided I was right to go with my instinct to DNF.
Why DNF? :
The characters are the root cause of my problems with this book. The three or four narrators all sound exactly the same, to me. With the exception of Harold Spire, I can barely tell them apart—even the ones on separate continents—and I don’t like any of them anyway. While reading the first fifty pages, I kept thinking Clara and Sarah (er, I mean…what was her name? Rose, right) were the same woman. “But how does she keep getting back and forth to each continent?” I kept wondering. “And whoa—this American outcast is employed by Queen Victoria?!” You can see why this confusion might put a damper on my reading experience.
Part of the reason the characters all sound the same is because they all—including the males—mentally note the handsomeness of other men or complain about corsets and other social constraints on women. Keep in mind that this is a male narrating:
“‘Maybe that’s what this life is for!’ Clara said with a hollow laugh, hoisting up her skirts and jumping from the deck onto the dock, never letting feminine finery get in the way of an active spirit no matter how much the fashion of the age tried to limit her sex.” (56).
Does that sound like a guy to you? A Victorian guy? Heavy-handed condemnations of female oppression crop up multiple times throughout the first third of the book. It’s not that I disagree; it just gets old.
Aside from the characters, the handling of homosexuality—which was obviously very controversial at the time—doesn’t appeal to me. A gay woman character remarks, with a “winning” smile, to a clearly heterosexual and much younger woman,
“And don’t worry, if it’s a concern, I don’t seduce coworkers.”
I mean, good for you? Seriously, that would be sexual harassment. I don’t excuse sexual harassment just because you’re socially oppressed. This weird and uncomfortable humor didn’t help me warm up to the characters at all.
Beyond these concerns, I was also bored. The 100+ pages I read never sparked an interest in me. The narrative lacked tension and suspense.
Basically, the book underwhelms. I just didn’t feel like I was in the hands of a master storyteller and the mystery quickly lost interest, for me.
Other reviewers have been generous enough to say that The Eterna Files might appeal to a certain type of reader. It might. I’m not sure. If it sounds interesting to you, by all means give the first 100 pages a sniff and see if it might be up your alley. You should be able to tell fairly quickly if the style works for you or not. But I would recommend The Parasol Protectorate series over this book; Soulless is a much more fun example of Victorian fantasy. I do have my eye on one of the other books from the Tor giveaway, Hieber’s The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, which just sounds amazing. I know, I know, The Eterna Files did too, but I can’t resist the all these awards, can I?
Anyway, all three of the giveaway books are now on the shelves of my local library, so I expect plenty of readers to find and enjoy them. In fact, one man already told me he enjoyed The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker!