Jilly: Good Novella Squee–Gaslight Hades

I treated myself to a book binge last Sunday. I chose carefully, but my day of self-indulgence did not begin well: neither of the first two books I read hit the spot. In the first I liked the main characters but the plot resolution was weird; in the second I liked the worldbuilding but the characters lacked depth. Fortunately I saved the best for last. Grace Draven’s novella Gaslight Hades rescued my readathon.

The story is a steampunky second chance romance with a difference, and at 39k words it’s compact enough to read in a sitting, but long enough to avoid that rushed plot feeling you sometimes get with shorter novellas.

Here’s the official blurb:

Nathaniel Gordon walks two worlds—that of the living and the dead. Barely human, he’s earned the reputation of a Bonekeeper, the scourge of grave robbers. He believes his old life over, until one dreary burial he meets the woman he once loved and almost married.

Lenore Kenward stands at her father’s grave, begging the protection of the mysterious guardian, not knowing he is her lost love. Resolved to keep his distance, Nathaniel is forced to abandon his plan and accompany Lenore on a journey into the mouth of Hell where sea meets sky, and the abominations that exist beyond its barrier wait to destroy them.

I really enjoyed this story, and here’s why:

Great Setting
Highate Cemetery is a short walk from my house, and it’s a gorgeous, overgrown, tree-filled, shadowy, spookily gothic place. Click here for some moody images of the spectacular vaults and catacombs. In 1839 it was newly built and highly fashionable—the perfect choice for the heroine’s father’s resting place. And what better place could there be for an unnaturally resurrected good guy to find a home and a vocation?

Credible World-building
Airships, grave-robbers and resurrectionists—whoo! This alternative nineteenth-century London is a dangerous and exciting place, and so cleverly rooted in the city’s real history that it feels entirely authentic.

Proactive Heroine
Lenore has brains and backbone. She’s a lady who shared her father’s passion for engineering and who judges people on their merits, not their class. She lost her fiancé and now her father, too, but she’s not repining. She’s mourning her loss, trying to figure out why the mystery Guardian in the cemetery feels so familiar, and working out a daring but logical plan to support herself and her mother. She has guts and determination and I like her a lot.

Noble Hero
Nathaniel was, and is, a great guy. He died a hero’s death and found himself brought back to life in another man’s body, and he’s even made something positive of that. His interactions with Lenore, and his care for her wellbeing, are beautiful and moving. I like him a lot, too.

Fun Secondary Character
Nathaniel’s ex-boss, and Lenore’s best friend, is a hard-drinking, gun-toting, wise-cracking female airship captain called Nettie Widderschynnes. What’s not to like?

The Big Reveal
The big question is, how and when does Lenore finally figure out exactly who the Bonekeeper is? You’ll have to read the novella to find out, but I loved it.

Satisfying ending
The book is a Gaslight Romance, so it’s not much of a spoiler to say that everything works out very nicely in the end 😉

Series potential
The book is subtitled The Bonekeeper Chronicles, Book 1, which suggests that there should be other chronicles to follow. There’s no sequel bait, but I’m guessing they would be the stories of the other Guardians (there are seven in total). I hope I’m right. I’d buy those books in a heartbeat (live or clockwork).

So if steampunk is your thing, I strongly recommend Gaslight Hades. If you’re a fantasy romance fan, Grace Draven’s other books are pretty terrific, too.

How about you? Read anything good lately? Care to share?

9 thoughts on “Jilly: Good Novella Squee–Gaslight Hades

  1. Gaslight Hades sounds amazing and if my Kindle weren’t already neck-deep in unread romances, I’d buy it right now. Ah, what the heck. Bought.

  2. This sounds great, Jilly! Like Jeanne, I’m in over my head with my TBR pile, but what the hell. I’m adding this one.

    Given the things you liked about this book, I highly recommend Graveminder by Melissa Marr (author of the YA Wicked Lovely series, but this book is not YA). And have you read Her Fearful Symmetry, the second full-length novel by Audrey Niffenegger, the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife? It’s very different from Gaslight Hades or Graveminder, and is written in omniscient for those who find that POV less than engaging. But it was one of those books that grew on me, and Highgate Cemetery plays a big role in it.

    Sorry if I’m adding to your TBR pile, but turnabout is fair play ;-). Thanks for the rec, and happy reading!

    • Thank you for the recommendations, Nancy! I had a crash-and-burn yesterday–tried an author who’d started out indie and been picked up by one of the big trad pub houses, plus she had a lot of good, interesting reviews. The premise sounded great, the ‘look inside’ was a brief teaser with no actual writing, but I decided to buy the book anyway. Waste of $7. Couldn’t get past the first page. So your TBR suggestions are much appreciated.

      I adored the Wicked Lovely series but have not read Graveminder. That might have to be next weekend’s treat. I’ll also check out Her Fearful Symmetry. Fun fact: did you know Audrey Niffenegger is an accredited guide at Highgate Cemetery (unless you have family buried there, you can only visit the West Cemetery with a guided group)? That’s what I call research!

  3. I read two Gail Carriger novels when I was in Wisconsin. She’s steampunky—her characters are students at a finishing school that teaches deportment and espionage. I enjoyed them a lot, and if I were more interested in YA, I’d read the rest.

    • I love Gail Carriger’s voice. I’m not that interested in YA either but I strongly recommend her five-book adult series, The Parasol Protectorate. First book is Soulless. It’s witty, steampunky paranormal romance, clever and very fun.

  4. Oh, that sounds great! I think I’ve run across Grace Draven’s name in relation to something else recently, too . . . . I’ll have to check her out!

    I was on an Ilona Andrews marathon (as you see from the next post), and I love that series! The moral boundaries are not drawn in ink, which I like a lot. Things are not what they seem.

  5. Pingback: Elizabeth: New Book Squee – This Time Around – Eight Ladies Writing

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