Beatrix was a circus girl, flying from trapeze to trapeze, in between whippings from her cruel ringleader and escaping from the memories of her past. Into this bleak outlook, walks a man with flowers in his hat and charm on his lips, promising adventure, excitement and most of all, tickling her curiosity in a way it had never been tickled before. Maybe he wasn’t as ready to indulge this curiosity of hers as she was to be indulged, but, as a circus acrobat who had already revealed her scars to the world, she was more than ready to take on the challenge.
Ok, I know the blurb I gave makes it sound like a romantic heist on the way; but, no! Listen to me and trust me when I say, it’s anything but.
The Colonel and Bee are two characters who’re not very new to our literary world- a charming gentlemen whose shades of suspicious grey cover a golden heart and a plucky heroine with a sassy tongue and enough street smarts to flee an armoured city. What makes them special though are their interactions. Neither is trying to best or woo or pull a fast one over the other. It’s a relationship of mutual respect and necessity. And well, a little bit of human kindness. The author built them not just as characters, but made them people and gave them consistency of character. That helps us identify their voices as individuals and really makes you invest in the book.
Apart from the characters, the other thing I want to sing praises about is the language. Now, this book is set in the steampunk genre and the amount of antique vocabulary just freely tossed about in here made me go all dance-y in my head. I’ll be adding an appendix of all the new words I came across at the end.
And not just the vocabulary, but the prose, the use of language too- Let me give you an example here:
“You take no milk?” I asked, half in jest.
The Colonel huffed.
“Imbibe the mammary ghost slime of thoughtless gluttons bested by a pasture fence? I’ve far better things to do with my time-”
How eloquent is that!
There were so many times where the dopamine in my brain went all giggly because a particular line had tickled me so much. Of course, the downside of such a roundabout use of language is that sometimes, the descriptions just go over your head; particularly in places where you’re so into the story that you’re not really interested in going back to untangle the mass of grammatical hanky-panky of the background.
The take away, of course, from the above mentioned downside is that the story does engross you that much. It’s divided into various parts of the journey and each part is enhanced with satisfying characters and any amount of skulduggery that’ll keep you fully occupied. The story has meat and a purpose. While the endgame is only teased to the reader until the final 100 pages, it isn’t annoying because there’s a lot going on- fast-paced and non-filler until then.
BOTTOMLINE: It’s a book worth reading, with characters worth remembering and a story that’s enchanting. Furthermore, if you’re a person who enjoys creative use of language, twisting and turning it to make sense, looping and hooping it to make even more sense, then you must read this book because it’ll definitely titillate you till the end.
Wait! Here are the…. (drum roll please…….)
- Phantasmagoria (a sequence of real or imaginary images like that seen in a dream)
- Chuckaboo (a Victorian slang term for a close friend)
- Calliope (an instrument resembling an organ, with notes produced by steam whistles)
- Ballast (heavy material placed in the bilge of a ship to ensure its stability)
- Jenever (juniper-flavored traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium)
- Waterzooi (a flemish stew)
- Clydesdale (a horse of heavy, powerful breed)
- Gadabout (a habitual pleasure-seeker)
- Asterism (a prominent pattern or group of stars smaller than a constellation)
- Chatoyant (a gem showing a band of bright lustre due to reflection)
- Pacharán (a Spanish liqueur)
- Coadjutor (a bishop appointed to assist)
- Keffiyeh (a headdress worn by Arab men)
- Pumice (a very light and porous volcanic rock)
Ah! This was fun!