In The Earl of Brass we enter a well-imagined, satisfyingly dark Steampunk London where airships and corsets exist simultaneously. We follow two complex characters as their eyes are opened to the possibility of a different world.
Eilian Sorrell doesn’t want to be an Earl. He wants to be an archaeologist, uncovering stories of cultures long gone. His family’s disapproval makes this difficult; when the airship he’s on crashes and he loses an arm, it seems his dream’s gone up in flames.
Now he must struggle to live life with one hand, relearning basic things such as eating or riding a bicycle. I enjoyed watching his spirits lift as he made progress, accepting the challenges and beating them.
When he gets a prosthetic arm, everything takes a more adventurous turn.
Hadley has watched her elder brother craft the arm in his final hours, wrestling with his sickness. Their family business makes things such as mechanical toys and prosthetic limbs for people like Eilian. When her brother dies before the arm’s completed, it falls on her to finish the project.
She plunges headfirst into the family business. In the scene where Hadley delivers the arm to Eilian, I smiled. She wasn’t afraid to show her disdain; after all, this was the arm her brother was working on in his final hours. She thinks the effort weakened him.
The prosthetic arm becomes more of a burden than help, especially when it falls off during a family meeting. On the verge of spiraling, Eilian resolves to wear it as little as possible.
But things are about to change: Hadley, who’s been hiding her genius because it isn’t proper in a woman, has found her older brother’s plans for an arm that could be moved at the wearer’s will, welded to the body. She needs someone to test the invention on.
Eilian agrees to be the test subject. When the operation is a success, his dreams of archaeology spring to life again. Friendship blossoms between him and Hadley despite their social differences, and he invites her to join him on an expedition, where she chooses to disguise herself as a man so they won’t treat her like glass.
Their expedition kicks up the tension and excitement. This book is rich with betrayal, and secrecy—but most of all freedom, newly discovered by two people who’ve lived their lives trapped by social stigma. Now they will return home knowing life has more magic when you break past the barriers.
The Earl of Brass was not what I expected, but I’m so glad I gave it a read! Not only did the plot keep me going, the writing was beautiful. Jorgensen has a way with words that would have kept me reading, even if I hadn’t enjoyed the story—but I did.
This book is great for lovers of Steampunk, Historical Fiction, and characters who aren’t afraid to break the rules.