The Shadow Revolution (Crown & Key #1) by Clay & Susan Griffith Reviewed by Peri
“A thrilling new Victorian-era urban fantasy for fans of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, the Showtime series Penny Dreadful, and the Sherlock Holmes movies featuring Robert Downey, Jr.
They are the realm’s last, best defense against supernatural evil. But they’re going to need a lot more silver.
As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.
After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.”
When my friends at Edensbookshelf asked if I was interested in reviewing an ARC of the newest urban fantasy offering from Clay & Susan Griffith, I squealed an enthusiastic “YES!” I am admittedly an ardent fan of the Vampire Empire series and hoped for a new series from these authors that I would enjoy at least as much as I had it. I was not disappointed in the first offering in the trilogy. In fact, I had no time to consider comparisons as I read because the world, the characters, and the story swept me up and carried me away.
The Shadow Revolution is set in Victorian London and features a gritty, slightly steampunk landscape in which the worst of the worst have been unwittingly released from imprisonment in the Bastille when it was stormed and are now, apparently, looking to recreate their niches and dominance in the world. But these are no ordinary bad guys, these are magic practitioners and monsters so vile they were long secreted away in the Bastille, locked away for so long they had come to be considered myth by most. Rather than spending much time in world-building the book jumps right into action, monsters, and magic use in the very first chapter. Be prepared because the monsters are decidedly nasty, the bad guys are exceptionally inventive, and the results are quintessentially macabre. Don’t be disheartened by all this nastiness, however, because the good guys are all slightly broken in their own unique ways, well-meaning, and very good at what they do. More, they are each endearing in their way and even the grumpiest of them will draw you in and make you their friend, rooting for their victory. There are a few who will leave you wondering what they are about, though, and a few that will break your heart such that you will keep turning the pages needing to know what will happen next.
The primary protagonists, Simon Archer and Kate Anstruther, are both a bit unusual for the time period. Simon, a bit more typical of the times, poses as a rake to hide his magical abilities from society at large and from other magic practitioners. Kate, a “modern” woman that has found herself the matriarch of her family, is less concerned with the opinions of society than with caring for her family, doing the right thing, and facing whatever comes. The daughter of a renowned explorer she is not only an accomplished alchemist but also a surprisingly competent fighter. The two meet in this, the first installment of the trilogy, and after a bumpy start find that circumstance and their own attractions bring them together. Those of you who wish for immediate romance won’t get it here, but those of you who are quite happy with a slow burn romance will find Simon and Kate’s blossoming relationship compelling. The relationship does take a distant back seat to the rest of the story and is more alluded to than actualized, leaving one with the sense of more to come.
At first blush it seems that the fight will be against werewolves, but I assure you that is just the tip of the iceberg. Kate’s younger sister is kidnapped and the process of trying to rescue her peels back a story that gets increasingly macabre and shudder-worthy as it is revealed. These are not romance hero monsters.
Things that stood out for me over and above the story, and perhaps a bit in comparison to the Vampire Empire series, is that the story brought you along and allowed the world to build as the story did, rather then spending any significant amount of time in world building alone. Also a stand out is that there was character growth even in this, the first book of the trilogy, with characters brought to face personal misconceptions and practices that may have previously stunted their growth. They are forced to stretch beyond their comfort zones to achieve their goals. I think it only fair that I tell you I am currently reading book 2 in the series and, happily, this is a trend that continues even with the captivating secondary characters.
I did not want to leave this world and these characters when I closed this book. Those of you who know me know that I have been called sensitive to cliff-hangers. It’s true, I loathe them. I can not tell you that all things are resolved in this entry to the series, but I can tell you my wish to stay in the world had more to do with just enjoying the immersion and wanting more of it than it did with the parts of the story that are ongoing. Even though the book ends knowing that it is just the beginning of the conflict and many crises from the book do not get resolved, there is still a satisfying and tightly written end to the book arc that did not leave me feeling as if I had been toyed with. Further, I was joyous to learn the entire trilogy is set to be released within a two month period. Book 1 is set to release on June 2nd, book 2 is scheduled for a June 30th release, and book 3 is set for release a month later on July 28th. Who can complain about near instant gratification?