Note: A Study in Ashes is the third book of the The Baskerville Affair series. For the first book, A Study in Silks, click here, and for the second book, A Study in Darkness, click here. Otherwise, read on!
Emma's had a rough time of it. After her bargain with Keating failed to save her Nick's life, she's still little more than his indentured servant. Currently at the Ladies' College at the University of Camelin, she's at the beck and call of the Steam Baron, and has the magic-suppressing bracelets on each wrist to prove it. And after a rather unfortunate explosion in the main area of the University, Evelina's days
The Indomitable Niccolo is, unbelievably, in even worse circumstances than Evelina. After his beloved airship crashed, it was all he could to do hide Athena's Casket before being captured by the Scarlet King's forces and taken to Manufactory Three. Little more than a forced labor camp, he spends his days hauling bits and pieces of scrap metal to the foundry to be melted down for the Steam Baron's machines. Escape is impossible, the amount of metal completely suppresses his air magic, and it seems only a matter of time before his body gives out.
Tobias, at least, is making the best he can of the situation that he's found himself in. In a political marriage to the Scarlet King's daughter, he's finally committed himself to be the best husband he can to his wife Alice. She deserves better than he believes he can give her, and it will take a lot to make up for how he behaved in the beginning of their marriage. Not all is lost, however, because their union as brought forth the light of both of their lives, a son named Jeremy.
Perhaps most lost is Imogen. The world sees her in a coma, being cared for by her family. Miraculously, she's still in perfect physical health, despite being insensate for a year and a half. She simply won't awaken. Her last words, spoken to her brother Tobias before collapsing, raises even more questions: "Surely I killed you?"
But there are machinations far beyond the lives of our cast of characters. Big Ben, the iconic clock tower in London, has been attacked. The outcome of its investigation will determine the future of the Empire. As heirs to the throne die off one by one, each Steam Baron is jockeying for power. The winner will control one of the most powerful countries in the world, and as always, the common people will be the ones to suffer.
Highs: You don't really think that a user of Death magic would be that easy to kill, do you?
Lows: As the political intrigue and magic developments grow, Imogen's storyline is pushed to the side a bit, which is a shame.
Verdict: With new plot points developing throughout the story, and the betrayals coming fast, Emma Jane Holloway beautifully weaves her storylines together with an ending that is both satisfying and leaves the possibility of more books in this wonderful universe.
Further Reading: Soulless, God Save the Queen, 'Clockwork Chickadee'