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June 28, 2018

Faraday Files by Kate McIntyre ~ A Series Review

by MK French

The Faraday Files is a series of steampunk novels that involves a good deal of mystery. There are so far 3 books in the series.
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The Deathsniffer's Assistant by Kate McIntyre 

The Deathsniffer's Assistant
July 2015; Curiosity Quills Press
978-1620079096
audio, ebook, print (424 pages)
historical, fantasy, steampunk
Chris Buckley spent his family's money training his magically gifted sister Rosemary. The money eventually runs out, and the only one willing to hire him on is Olivia Faraday, the Deathsniffer. Her magic enables her to see the circumstances around death and begins an investigation into the death of Viktor val Daren. Chris is eventually entangled in her investigation, and he has to both help her and keep his sister safe from those who would seek to use his sister's magic for their own ends.

In this world, there are those able to bind spirits, sense truth in others, carve items or bend metal to their will. Categorization details the strength and type of magic that people have, and what kind of profession they would be able to seek. It's a fascinating additional layer to a steampunk atmosphere. We see different names for the days of the week, mention of a different religious system, using mirrors to talk to each other, and the mentions of magic. Yet paperwork and bureaucracy are always the same, no matter the universe.

I'm not sure I like Olivia. She's described as "manic" in the summary, but she is so volatile and can veer from downright rude to entirely sweet and saccharine. It's more that she operates under her own set of rules, and other people may orbit her or intersect her path at times.  She is at least aware of her emotional limitations, even if she doesn't see the point in changing them. Chris is much easier to connect to, especially as he struggles to keep his sister safe from the government who would use her for her power. I like him a lot better than Olivia, and I can see his progression and development over the course of the novel. There are a lot of mysteries surrounding him, not just the murder mystery Olivia is working on, and they do start pulling together rapidly toward the end of the book.

I am more drawn to Chris and his sister Rosemary in this novel, as well as the fantastic world building. The touches of magic and elemental creatures that have been bound to fulfill various tasks in the city are fascinating. There are enough details and hanging plot threads that definitely draw me enough to want to read the others in the series.

Buy The Deathsniffer's Assistant at Amazon

The Timeseer's Gambit by Kate McIntyre

The Timeseer's Gambit
August 2016; Curiosity Quills Press
978-1620078990; ebook, print (402 pages)
historical, fantasy, steampunk
In the three months since Christopher Buckley started working for Olivia Faraday, they've solved a number of murders and learned how to work together. There is a brutal heat wave in Darrington City, as well as a killer using bound elementals, and Christopher is still dealing with his losses and the impending trial of Dr. Francis Livingstone.

The prologue in this novel, just as in book 1 of the series, takes place during the Floating Castle incident. This time, we have a different moment before the Castle came crashing down, which only heightens the mystery about it, as well as about Christopher himself. Olivia is not so volatile in this novel, which makes her more approachable from a reader's standpoint. I actually almost like her in this one! The nature of the serial killer targeting the church figures in this world means we get a chance to learn more about the Three and Three that were mentioned in the prior book, as well as the spirit binding and the process of categorization itself.

The mystery surrounding the deaths of Holy Family members is not dependent on knowing events from the prior novel, but the conspiracy surrounding Livingstone is. There are some clues to fill in the blanks for a reader that is picking up the series from here, but it's better for the reader to have read the first novel before this one to really understand what they're talking about. Having read the first one, I feel especially bad for Christopher, dealing with his grief and losses. There is a lot of confusion on his part, between his romantic desires for Rachel as well as the growing fondness for Will, due to societal pressures and his own prejudices, even though he's presented with a very healthy relationship between two women. This is deftly contrasted with other relationships within the Holy Family so that we're able to contrast ideals to the reality.

I feel like the characters and the world really hit their stride in this novel. There's as much interpersonal angst between the main characters as there is with the characters of the mystery, and I really enjoyed getting a chance to see more of this world and the people in it.

Buy The Timeseer's Gambit at Amazon

The Heartreader's Secret by Kate McIntyre 

The Heartreader's Secret
April 2018; Curiosity Quills Press
978-1948099752; ebook, print (464 pages)
historical, fantasy, steampunk
The engineer Emilia Banks has gone missing. While Olivia Faraday saves her truthsniffing to murder cases, this missing persons case is too close to home. She knows Emilia, and clues lead her back to her childhood home. This gives her more insight into the politics in Darrington City, which are getting more complicated and extreme.

Finally, we get a chance to see what shaped Olivia to be the person that she was in the first novel of the series. She is definitely far more human in this one, and it is very clear that some of her behavior is an affectation to keep her privacy and emotions under wraps. The interactions she has with others on her childhood estate is very interesting and really made me feel somewhat sorry for Olivia. That sympathy for her grew even more after I finally learned more about her backstory, and saw the origins of the strange relationships that she has.

Christopher's family connections and love life get more air time here, so to speak. I frequently had the urge to reach through the pages to shake his shoulders and tell him to stop being such a coward about his feelings. He uses propriety as a shield, which adds layers of complications to his story. For once, I grinned when Olivia called him out on it in her usual roundabout way; it's also a great commentary on blindly following the status quo and the stories that others tell you. Culture is one thing, but it doesn't have to be that way and can lead to all kinds of prejudice and harm. While the society Tarl is modeled after is more like 1900's London, I can't help but see parallels in modern day, too. It's a great author that can make a fantasy piece that helps you question the reality you live in.

As with the other books, when the action picked up in the final third of the book, it took off and flew. Some of the reveals here left me in tears, and I think the echoes of this will last with me for a long time. I can't wait for the fourth and final book in this series.

Buy The Heartreader's Secret at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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