Ink, Iron and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
Summary from NetGalley:
Can she write a world gone wrong?
A certain pen, a certain book, and a certain person can craft entirely new worlds through a branch of science called scriptology. Elsa comes from one such world that was written into creation by her mother—a noted scriptologist.
But when her home is attacked and her mother abducted, Elsa must cross into the real world and use her own scriptology gifts to find her. In an alternative 19th-century Italy, Elsa finds a secret society of pazzerellones—young people with a gift for mechanics, alchemy or scriptology—and meets Leo, a gorgeous mechanist with a smart mouth and a tragic past. She recruits the help of these fellow geniuses just as an assassin arrives on their doorstep.
ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.
I kind of have mixed feelings about this book. I spent the first 25-50 pages wondering what the hell was going on and I almost DNF’d it. But I always feel an obligation to finish ARC’s that I receive so I pushed through and I am glad I did. The story did get better as it went along. It still wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be from the premise, but it was interesting enough that I will probably pick up the second book.
The scriptology aspect of the book is what made me want to read this book. And I think that is what I found so confusing at the start of the book. It starts in Veldana, the world were Elsa and her mother live, and it took me awhile to understand the way this world worked. It only got more confusing when Elsa takes a portal to Paris and then to Amsterdam. It took awhile to understand how things worked in this alternate world that is part science and part magic and also and alternative history. The scriptology part remains somewhat of a mystery to me, but if you just think of it as more magical than science, you can let yourself get caught up in the story.
The group that Elsa ends up with are all what is know as pazzerellones, which means ‘mad people’. They each have a special talent that is either for mechanics, alchemy or scriptology. It is implied that most of these talented people are considered mad by most of society, although they are willing to take their talents and use them to their own benefits. The first half of the book often referred to them as mad (as in crazy) which kind of bothered me. Eventually pazzerellones took over as the preferred word, which also annoyed me because I have no idea how to pronounce it. But that is pretty minor. The science part of this story with the mechanical bots and other steampunk like tools were fascinating and fun to read about. I also liked the alchemical parts, especially Faraz’s little tentacled creature, Skandar.
I liked all of the characters, and this is what kept me reading and interested in the story. Elsa is an interesting young lady, smart and not afraid to speak her mind. She is some what socially awkward, not having grown up in Europe, so not knowing the social rules that governed that time. She is also fiercely independent and had a hard time accepting help from anyone. I really liked Leo, he was also smart and independent with a haunted past. His past definitely plays into his actions in this book. I am not totally sold on their romance, but it might work out in the end. Porzia and Faraz are also very likable, but not as well filled out as characters as the other two. It will be interesting to see how they progress in the next book as well.
The story, while somewhat confusing and slow to start, does get better. If you stick it out you will be rewarded with a fast paced and interesting read. This is an alternative history of Italy, although it is based in real facts and historical figures. There is political intrigue and some good twists in the story that were a surprise. I would have liked a little more steampunk, and I am not sure I am sold on the sentient house part of the story, but I do like her personality.
Overall, this is a decent start to an interesting series. I will probably pick up the next one, just to see what happens, especially with Leo.