Heart of Brass
(The Antipodean Queen Bk1)
(Pub: Odyssey Books, 2016)
Emmeline’s family fortunes have taken a nosedive and she has been slowly selling the family’s more valuable possessions in order to keep up the appearance of respectable gentility. The family’s future depends on her marrying well. In the opening scene of the novel we see her waiting for the arrival of her potential beau and his mother.
Of course the meeting with the beau and his mother goes awry and the ensuing events see Emmeline transported to Australia — thus begins the real adventure.
Emmeline is not your average Victorian miss. Her father replaced her heart when she was nine, with a mechanised one made out of brass and silver. Emmeline is a practical young woman and has inherited her father’s technological genius. She likes nothing more than tinkering with and inventing new machinery in her workshop.
The novel is told in first person and the Emmeline’s voice throughout is delightful, in that it conveys what I imagine is a very convincing Victorian voice. The character is well developed and actually learns and changes during the course of the book. I love the way that Emmeline, though resourceful and intelligent, has her own failings. Her Victorian snobbery and adherence to the dictates of fashion are tested and eroded. Banks writes Emmeline with a dry wit and at times her thoughts will make you laugh out loud.
The pacing of the story was steady from the beginning but very much picked up once Emmeline was in Australia. I felt occasionally that the very Victorian nature of the character’s voice — that prim and proper manner about her, did sometimes lessen the pace of some of the action sequences. However, ironically I still found them vastly enjoyable because even when chaos was erupting around her, she was still so “straight laced.”
The weaving of Australian history into Emmeline’s adventure was clever and there were some fabulous twists and turns in the escapades of Emmeline and her companions. I had no trouble visualising any of the scenes and settings that Banks wrote, which is a testament to her writing. I found myself not wanting to put this book down and read it very quickly.
This is a fabulous yarn and well worth your time to pick up and read I highly recommend it.