I fell in love with Rory and Longinus and the city of Damsport when I read The Bloodless Assassin last fall. So, when I learned the book I read was only the first book of a steampunk series, book 2 (which did not yet have a name) became one of the most anticipated new books of 2016 for me. From the first word on page one to the last word on the final page, The Black Orchid met all of my expectations!
The continuing adventures of the assassin that cannot stand the sight of blood and the grammatically incorrect urchin who insists she is nobody’s assistant are highly entertaining. Like the first book, this sequel has engaging characters and an intriguing plot. It all happens in a city that is vividly detailed, Crayola-box-64-colorful and full of possibilities!
In The Black Orchid, urchin Rory becomes a little less urchin-like. Much to her insistence to the contrary. The question of her age was answered – sort of . She may pretend to be 16, but she is not that young. She suspects she is 18, but may be even older. Rory is no longer a child and in her position working for the Marchioness of Damsport, away from her childhood home in the Rookery, Rory is maturing faster than she would like. Rory’s struggle to hold on to her heritage and maintain her urchin life-style is poignant, commendable and entertaining. I love the scenes where, in the course of her grownup job working for the Marchioness, urchin Rory is tearing through Damsport either on the back of a powerful mechanical spider or on her feet. Running and jumping across rooftops and scampering up and down gutters, Rory needs no steam coaches or steam rickshaws to get herself from place to place.
Longinus is the assassin who cannot abide the sight or smell of blood. It would seem a serious handicap for an assassin, but he has other talents that aid him in his profession. In The Black Orchid, his ability with a sword, skill as an alchemist and his heightened sense of fashion are critical to Longinus’ work for The Old Girl (the Marchioness). Longinus’ quirks have endeared him to me despite the fact that he is vain, arrogant and often totally clueless when it comes to understanding Rory.
One of the things I admire about Longinus is his direct mode of conversation. In the Rookery, it turns out to be surprisingly effective. I love this example:
“Why’s he staring at me like that?” asked Adelma.
“Longinus,” hissed Rory, elbowing him.
“Forgive me,” replied Longinus with an apologetic incline of the head. “I was just absolutely mesmerised by the brutishness of your features.” At his side, Rory squeaked.
“Well, course you was,” said Adelma. “And normally I’d buy you a pint for that, but today I’m in no mood for compliments.”
Rory is scampering across rooftops and Longinus is hanging out in the Rookery because there is a mystery to solve. A mystery that started with the mysterious death of Rory’s friend and may have far reaching consequences. Because the Old Girl’s dear friend and former lover Mizria is visiting Damsport, the Marchioness wants the murder solved soon to keep everyone safe and the political situation status quo. Since the body was found in the Rookery, she calls on Rory to visit the old neighborhood and dig into the mystery. It is going to get a lot more complicated than the death of one Rookery citizen and Rory and Longinus will be in the thick of it. There are plots and there are plots within plots. The mystery is complex and dark with more than enough intrigue. The intrigue was doled out in small bites throughout the book, so don’t think you are going to figure this one out very fast. Just the way I like it!
Ms. Jeanjean’s imagination set to words has made her a favorite author for me. I love her descriptions of, well, everything. From Longinus apparel to the automated library book retrieval system, I am able to form very vivid pictures in my own mind about what the city of Damsport and her people look, feel, hear and smell like. In one passage in particular, I was mesmerized by the description of the Damsport docks, the people and all the activity occurring there.
I know that Smart Girls followers like romance, so I will admit now, I’m sneaking this post in here because The Black Orchid is steampunk with only the slightest bit of romance. Book one had only a hint. In book 2, the hint grew two a realization. My hope is that as the as the adventures continue, so will the romance.
That bit of romance is happening between Rory and Rafe. Rafe is one of the Varanguard – the Old Girl’s personal bodyguards – and he is often assigned to duties that involve Rory. He pretends that he is only doing his job. She pretends to detest him. It doesn’t help that Rafe is of the nobility. When Rory insists she is nobody, Rafe response is sweet and very romantic. “You’re somebody to me”. Witty banter between Rory and Rafe is as entertaining as it is enlightening. They have the same number of letters in their names – does that mean they are meant for each other? The Urchin and the Lord. Hmm, maybe that could be a future title. I can tell you that it looks like book 3 has them on a new assignment, leaving the city – together.
The Black Orchid is highly recommended! For truly magnificent steampunk adventures, The Viper and the Urchin series is difficult to top.
I an enamored of Ms. Jeanjean’s skill with words, so I’m going to end my post with a list of words or phrases that made me smile, say hmm, or look something up. Totally out of context, perhaps they will entice you to read The Black Orchid.
- aggressive nutmeg
- no patch on
- alchemical enhancement
- unsightly gasp
Ms. Jeanjean provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Celine Jeanjean’s Blog: Down the Rabbit Hole
The Viper and the Urchin series on Goodreads