Hi everyone! This is Julia of The Broke and the Bookish, formerly blogging on my own at The Competitive Bibliomaniac.
I read mostly historical romance, but can often be found reviewing paranormal romance, young adult books (mostly distopian/fantasy), fantasy/sci-fi, classics, and the occasional non-fiction book about languages.
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Tarnished Knight is book #1.5 in Bec McMaster’s London Steampunk series, though I would hesitate to call it a throwaway in-between-books novella. It reads like a full length novel. It rarely felt rushed, which in my experience, is pretty hard to do with the shorter word count. But McMaster pulls it off.
Let’s SCORE it.
Tarnished Knight brinks us back to alternate steampunk universe Victorian London. It’s six months after the events of Kiss of Steel, and life for Rip has changed quite a bit. Spoiler free book one events vaguery ahoy. The events of the first book left him in a state of transition. Trying to juggle what he was with what he is now. He doesn't want Esme, the housekeeper whom he has had a secret friend crush one forever now, to feel like she has to be a part of this new life and its obligations. Trying to prove to Blade that he still has what it takes to be a part of the gang, he goes off in search of a new Slasher gang alone, gets in over his head, and has to eventually come back for help when people keep dying. Oh by the way, it’s also Christmas, a long forgotten holiday only celebrated by the lower classes who have yet to be excommunicated. It's the small things like that that I appreciate.
Rip aka John and Esme are the stars of this book, but the secondary characters that we have come to know from the first book make pointed and character appropriate appearances. What I mean by that is they are not shoehorned in and feel like they are acting within the characterizations previously set up. So too for our leads.
Esme and John have a backstory, and one that we don’t really know, but it boils down to they have been friends for a long time and both have had secret crushes on the other for ages. It’s a classic case of miscommunication and I find it completely believable. Rip and Esme both throughout these pages are coming to terms with certain things, Rip moreseo than Esme. The pop out and come to life just as they did in the first book.
I don’t normally like miscommunication plots, but because of the background of these two characters and having seen them in book one, the romance really worked for me. The sexytimes were very nice and the fact that neither of them are right out of the school room is nice. This whole world just sets up for so many compelling romance stories that are outside the norm.
I mentioned in the intro paragraph that this read like a full length novel and that is the highest compliment. It’s so hard to not rush through character development while still making it in at a novella length, but she really pulls it off here.
The only problem that I have with it is that some of the minor characters we didn’t meet last time were sort of cardboard. And any that we meet, we know aren’t just throwaways because why waste the word count on those unless it matters right?
I really, really would not recommend this to someone who hasn’t read book one. Book one sets up te world and it isn’t delved back into in this book outside of a few sentences. Outside of that I highly enjoyed it. It is one of my favorite novellas because I think it actually tells a complete, mostly unrushed story. The characters, while may be a little weak without reading book one (or remembering it), were still unique and enjoyable. If you enjoyed Kiss of Steel, check this one out… especially since at the end of this novella is a little bit of an arc that takes us to the events in Heart of Iron.
PS I really don't like this cover for some reason. Maybe because Rip looks a little skeevy to me... like he reminds me of one of the bad guys in the Power Ragers TV show from when I was little. lol