Review: A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway

[Note: The following will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for the entire trilogy.]

I have a really bad quirk. Once I pick up the first book in a series (unless I decide I don’t like it within the first few pages) I can’t not finish what I started. Even if the series isn’t one of my favourites, I need to know how the story ends.

When I first picked up A Study in Silks, I wasn’t really expecting anything particularly innovative, and I enjoyed it for what it was. romance tropes and all. I eagerly began A Study in Darkness, and was ready to give up on the trilogy entirely. However, telling myself that it was just the Second Book Curse, I picked up the third book….and I let it sit there for ages.

The final book in the trilogy opens with Evelina being sent to attend the Ladies College of London, only the academic institution is less a center of learning and more like a prison for her. Forced to wear bracelets that suppress her magic, she’s utterly at the mercy of the Gold King. Meanwhile, war is looming as tension builds between the Steam Barons and the rebels, the Baskervilles, start gaining more support for their cause. Magic, murder, and mayhem is the order of the day.

The final book in the trilogy has a ton of different plots going on at once. Besides Evelina attending college and trying to escape the Gold King, Imogen’s soul has been trapped in a clock and she needs to find a way out, Tobias and Alice are occupied with their son, Jeremy, Lord Bancroft comes face to face with his past sins and the rebels, led by the mysterious Schoolmaster, are running all over the place trying to muster their forces for a final confrontation with the Steam Barons, who are, as usual, plotting and fighting amongst themselves. There’s a definite sense of things moving around, shifting, alliances being made and broken, that sort of thing. We also get a glimpse of other members of the Steam Council besides Gold and Blue, with the Violet Queen especially getting a little more page time. There’s a real sense that things are on the move and tensions in London are about to reach boiling point. This is something that I felt was missing from the last book, which just seemed like Evelina running around not doing what she was supposed to be doing until her deadline forced her to do it.

Let’s start with the stuff I liked about this book. The book has some surprisingly good action scenes and moments which I thought were just begging to be played out on the big screen. I also liked that there was overall less time spent pining for a love interest and more time getting stuff done. without spoiling anything, the book also neatly ties up most of its plotlines. There was a thread or two that I thought was left hanging a little, but it’s always nice to end with many questions answered. I also like how Evelina challenges the sexism of one of her professors while at college.

As for what I didn’t like, well, it’s still slow in places, but nowhere near what it was in the second book. Imogen’s scenes were, funnily enough, some of the slowest scenes for me. You would think considering her situation that it would be a bit more exciting but I didn’t find that at all. There was also a bit near the very end where I found Evelina’s reaction t9 a group of Wraiths kind of ridiculous considering all that she’s been through, but not enough to cause me to put the book down. There’s a certain Holmesian nemesis that I thought didn’t really play as big a role in the plot as he should have, overall disappointing. I also thought that there was a bit of an inconsistency re: Evelina’s “dark power”, particularly how lethal it actually was, I guess maybe I expected more from it than what I actually got, but that’s been true for the entire trilogy, honestly.

All things considered, it’s nothing particularly earth-shattering but it’s definitely an improvement on the second book. If this review seems rather sparse it’s because I really don’t have that much more to say about it. For me, it’s definitely a case of So Okay, It’s Average.

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