Brendan Doyle is a literary scholar, a premier expert on Samuel Taylor Coleridge and when he is invited by a philanthropist to give a lecture on the man and his work – for a phenomenal amount of money – he takes it up as an opportunity for funds to investigate the more obscure romantic poets that interest him.
What Doyle doesn’t expect is to travel to 1810 and meet Coleridge. Following the lecture, Doyle gets trapped in 1810 and is caught up in a cult plotting to overthrow monotheism and re-establish the religion of the ancient Egyptians. He is reduced to begging in a world where magic and science coincide. Faced with the dangers of a body-jumping serial killer, a plague of crazed apes, a stilt-walking beggar-master teamed up with an Egyptian high priest all while being chased by the cult, Doyle must find a way back to his own time.
The roots of homage to the early ‘science romance’ of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne is self-evident here. London in 1810 is at once both familiar and fresh though the steam/industrial vibe that you would expect of the modern subgenre of steampunk is seemingly missing, giving it more of an urban fantasy feel in the tradition of Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’.
This is a quirky and interesting read which at close to 400 pages is about the right length. There always seems to be something going on and the story has good pacing and direction, interesting yet familiar characters with an original plot. One small complaint is that there are too many characters that it almost becomes confusing trying to keep up.
An interesting read but sometimes confusing 3.5/5