Took a chance on a genre I usually don’t read, steampunk. An entertaining and at times adventurous story.
“The Vitruvian Heir, Book One: The Unraveling, ” by L.S. Kilroy is a story as old as history and as new as the post-punk Neo-Victorian setting that reveals a world ruined by narrow and corrupt patriarchal rule and the revolution that hopes to over throw it.
Vitruvia is the former United States, a festering society ruled by a male-dominated dictatorship that uses social and military power and religion to terrorize its citizens. The rulers threaten anyone who opposes its decrees by using technology that seems like magic to make murderous examples of those they suspect of distrust. They hold “trials” whose results are predetermined.
The modern concerns about women’s rights, sexual freedom, economic equality and racial justice are woven into the tale, as are a bubbling revolution that seeks to over throw the powerful. Virtuvia could exist in any time in human history.
The story focuses on the life of Lorelei Fetherston, the daughter of privilege, who rebels against the tradition of an arranged marriage. The rebellion leads her to a subterranean world of dangerous happenings and then to another country where parts of her past gain clarity. Is she the “Vitruvian heir” of the title?
The plot is as intricate as the many of the postpunk devices used for apparent magic or torture. All the characters have secrets and long histories they hide behind. To the author’s credit no character is without layers, although some, even in complicated dress, seem caricatures.
At times Kilroy’s writing lifts the characters and the story along in a thrilling, brilliant prose that is a wonder to read. At other times the story is weighted down by long italicized backstories of newly introduced characters, which while important, blunt the story by draining energy from the telling.