Of Silk and Steam – London Steampunk #5 – Bec McMaster

Of Silk and Steam (London Steampunk Book 5)


I’ve been waiting for this book….not long though because I finished reading the previous book in the series sometime in February.

This is the 5th book in the series and the plot and story have become pretty thick and complicated. I hope I can explain it without actually having to write a whole other book.

In previous books, Leo Barrons has been a secondary character who everyone knew would get his own book and we all noticed his interest in the Lady Aramina. There are seven seats on the council of the Echelon, the blue bloods who rule London and Leo Barrons has one of those seats or rather he has been filling in for years for his father, the Duke of Caine, who has a mysterious illness. For most of his life, Barrons has known that the man who he has called father is not his real father which makes him a bastard and if that got out, it would ruin him. His real father was a brilliant scientist in the employ of the Duke of Caine. The scientist had other children, Honoria who was in the 1st book of the series, Lena who was in the second book and Charlie who is the youngest. They all know and keep his secret.

Blue bloods are aptly named because they actually have a blue tinge to their blood from being infected with the craving virus that makes them faster, stronger and have better senses than mere humans but they are left craving blood and need to drink it to survive. They don’t have fangs so they have to cut the veins of their donors or drink from a cup usually mixed with wine. Only the elite Echelon can be blue bloods. If someone other than one of the Echelon gets infected, they are put to death unless they are a strong male who then is given the chose to either be in the Coldrush Guard who guard the Ivory Tower and the Echelon, join the Nighthawks who are the similar to police or they can choose death. Only two women have ever been allowed to live after being infected.

All blue bloods live in fear of becoming vampires where the craving virus slowly takes control of them and they turn into mindless beasts with intent only on killing.

Human women from good blood lines have one choice in life and that is to become a thrall for one of the Echelon. They flock to parties as young debutants seeking a thrall contract with one of the elite blue bloods and if they are chosen, their fathers sign a contract with the man who chooses them and they will provide blood to the blue blood in exchange for a lavish life-style. The richer the blue blood, the more thralls he has.

But thralls aren’t the only source of blood for blue bloods because drinking straight from the vein too often can lead to vampirism. All humans have blood taxes where they have to go and give a certain amount of blood each year in places called draining factories. The prince consort keeps upping the blood taxes because of his greed and general disregard of humans.

The true leader of London should be the queen, a human, but she is just a puppet for the prince consort who is a blue blood. The prince consort who I don’t believe has ever been called anything but the ‘prince consort’ is ruthless, cruel and power hungry. Everyone fears him and what he can do to them if they oppose him. He finds ways to eliminate anything that stands in his way. He has built an army of automated mechanical soldiers called metaljackets, some who bulldoze and some who breathe fire and giant mechanical Trojan horses to crush mobs when they rise up against him. He also has the Coldrush Guards who guard the tower and his personal spies called Falcons.

Aramina Duvall, the Duchess of House Casavian is one of the only two women allowed to be a blue blood. She is one of the seven councilors of the Echelon. After her only brother’s death, her father infected her on his death bed and declared her his heir. Many opposed her and tried to murder her but she beat them all including her cousin Peter who she killed in a duel. She believes Leo Barrons’ father is responsible for her father’s death and hates both Leo and his father or so she thought until Leo got under her skin. He intrigues her and she is attracted to him which bothers her.

No one knew where Aramina stood or whose side she was on until this book. She seemed to vote mostly with the prince consort but at times surprised everyone and voted against him. In this book, we discover that she is actually conspiring with the queen who in previous books seemed to be completely controlled by the prince consort. The queen is Aramina’s best friend but even the prince consort does not know that. Together, they are trying to take power away from the prince consort so that the queen can take her rightful place as queen and give humans the rights they deserve. Aramina has been secretly working with the humanists who oppose the Echelon and building an army of mechanical Cyclops to overpower the metaljackets and Trojan horses.

Because her feelings for Leo Barrons frighten her and she doesn’t where his alliances lie, she asks the man who spies for her to find Leo’s weaknesses. He brings her photos of Charlie, his half-sibling from his biological father who looks exactly like Leo did at his age. She confronts Leo with this information and he confides in her and tells her that she can do with it what she will. She doesn’t tell him her decision but throws the file into her fireplace but her spy is actually a Falcon placed in her house years ago when her father. He gave the information to the prince consort who orders Leo to be arrested and executed. Leo thinks Aramina betrayed him so he uses her as a hostage to get away.

They are now in White Chapel which is ruled by Blade who is married to Leo’s half-sister Honoria. White Chapel is like a city of its own where outcasts, criminals and the poor live. It is surrounded by a wall that was made many years ago out of anything the people could find. The prince consort gives Blade 24 hours to give up Leo or he will have his army of metaljackets burn down White Chapel.

Now, Aramina needs to decide if she is going to trust Leo and tell him the truth about herself and her plans and help him or if she going to leave and continue her plan on her own.

Whew! I didn’t think I could get through all of that but I think I did it.

And without any spoilers….I will tell you that one of the regular characters dies in this book but I won’t tell you which one.

I liked both of the leading characters. I always liked Leo and I liked that Aramina built up a façade of cold efficiency and was pretty mysterious in other books. One thing that ruined the feel of it for me was that the author called her Mina and not Aramina from the beginning of the book. I don’t know why that bugged me so much but it did. I think it was meant to make the reader feel more intimate with her character but it made me question why, all of the sudden, she is being called “Mina” instead of Aramina. When Leo calls her “Mina” at the beginning of the book, it even states that only he ever has the nerve to call her that which makes it even stranger that throughout the book she is referred to as Mina. I think Aramina is much more sophisticated than Mina and calling her “Mina” just made her seem child-like and took some of her sophistication away. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just me.

I think was the last book in the series but I’m not really sure. The story seemed like it was concluded. Maybe there will be a spin-off series about the verwulfen or the Russian blue bloods. One can only hope.

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