Tag Archives: Newbury & Hobbes

Favourite London Spec Fic Tales – Part 2


There are a number of science fiction and fantasy – mostly fantasy, it has to be said – which are set in London, an amazing city, thick with history and yet still buzzing and vibrant. I have already suggested a number of well-written, quality series that use London as an effective backdrop in Part 1 and here is now the next section of the article, which would have been far too long had I published it in one go.

The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
This is another ongoing series that is a solid favourite – I love the way this long-running series has theatrocityarchivesdeveloped to date.

Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for The Laundry, a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. None of them receive any thanks for the jobs they do, but at least a techie doesn’t risk getting shot or eaten in the line of duty. Bob’s world is dull but safe, and that’s the way it should have stayed; but then he went and got Noticed. Now, Bob Howard is up to his neck in spycraft, alternative universes, dimension-hopping nazis, Middle Eastern terrorists, damsels in distress, ancient Lovecraftian horror and the end of the world. Only one thing is certain: it will take more than control-alt-delete to sort this mess out…

The first book in this series is The Atrocity Archives.



Spellcrackers.com by Suzanne McLeod
thesweetscentofbloogThis is a sparkling series with a fantasy PI who pings off the page. I need to get back and catch up with this series!

My name is Genny Taylor. I work for Spellcrackers.com. It’s a great job, pays the rent, lets me do the thing I’m good at – finding magic and cracking it – and the bonus is it’s run by witches, which stops the vamps from taking a bite out of me. When Mr October, a sexy calendar pin-up vamp, is accused of murdering his girlfriend, an old debt is called in and Genny is forced to help prove his innocence, risking her job and the protection it offers – and threatening to expose her own dark secrets. Searching for the killer plunges Genny deep into the hidden heart of vampire society. It’s not long before she realises that she and Mr October are both unwitting pawns in a centuries-old power struggle between London’s non-human communities . . . and it’s not just her own neck that’s at stake, but the lives of all London’s supernaturals. My advice is to start with the first book The Sweet Scent of Blood.


The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud
Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five theamuletofsamarkandand sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the “ultimate sacrifice” for a “noble destiny.” If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn’t tough enough, Nathaniel’s master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The boy’s only saving grace is the master’s wife, Martha Underwood, who shows him genuine affection that he rewards with fierce devotion. Nathaniel gets along tolerably well over the years in the Underwood household until the summer before his eleventh birthday. Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.

Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine.
This intelligent, well written trilogy may feature a wise-cracking genie, who is the main protagonist – but it is for older children, as the jaw-dropping climax left me wrung out… The first book is The Amulet of Samarkand – see my review here.


The Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann
theaffinitybridgeThe entertaining steampunk detective series has also grabbed me as I’ve enjoyed the progression of the characters.

Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution. Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by new inventions. Airships soar in the skies over the city, whilst ground trains rumble through the streets and clockwork automatons are programmed to carry out menial tasks in the offices of lawyers, policemen and journalists. But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side. For this is also a world where ghostly policemen haunt the fog-laden alleyways of Whitechapel, where cadavers can rise from the dead and where Sir Maurice Newbury, Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, works tirelessly to protect the Empire from her foes.

When an airship crashes in mysterious circumstances, Sir Maurice and his recently appointed assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes are called in to investigate. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is baffled by a spate of grisly murders and a terrifying plague is ravaging the slums of the city.

The first book in the series is The Affinity Bridge.


The Skyscraper Throne series by Tom Pollock
This gritty, urban fantasy has London singing off the pages as a magical personification that I found thecity'ssonenthralling.
Running from her traitorous best friend and her estranged father, graffiti artist Beth Bradley is looking for sanctuary. What she finds is Urchin, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London’s mystical underworld. Urchin opens Beth’s eyes to the city she’s never truly seen-where vast spiders crawl telephone wires seeking voices to steal, railwraiths escape their tethers, and statues conceal an ancient priesthood robed in bronze. But it all teeters on the brink of destruction. Amid rumors that Urchin’s goddess mother will soon return from her 15-year exile, Reach, a malign god of urban decay, wants the young prince dead. Helping Urchin raise an alleyway army to reclaim his skyscraper throne, Beth soon forgets her old life. But when her best friend is captured, Beth must choose between this wondrous existence and the life she left behind.

The first book in the series is The City’s Son – see my review here.



The Magnificent Devices series by Shelley Adina
magnificentdevicesThis is a steampunk, alternate history romp, featuring a feisty protagonist – and if you think it starts off reading like a typical period romance, do keep reading because it suddenly turns into something so much more intriguing…

London, 1889. Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin’s son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world. At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire’s talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. The first book in the series is Magnificent Devices – see my review here.




The Night’s Masque series by Anne Lyle
This is an historical genre mash-up, with a dash of science fiction thrown into the alternate world, whichalchemistofsouls gives an intriguing backdrop to the storyline.

When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods–and a skrayling ambassador–to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital? Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally–and Mal his soul.

The first book in this entertaining series is The Alchemist of Souls – see my review here.



Triumff , Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett
triumffThis is standalone genre mash-up swashbuckler has a premise that doesn’t bear too much close examination – but I found I didn’t really care, because it’s such fun…
Sir Rupert Triumff. Adventurer. Fighter. Drinker. Saviour? Triumff is a ribald historical fantasy set in a warped clockwork-powered version of our present day. A new Elizabethan age, not of Elizabeth II but in the style of the original Virgin Queen. Throughout its rollicking pages, Sir Rupert Triumff drinks, dines and duels his way into a new Brass Age of Exploration and Adventure. Read my review here.

Review of The Immorality Engine – A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation by George Mann


This book is the third full length novel in this steampunk adventure series set squarely in Victorian times.  Sir Maurice Newbury and his feisty sidekick Veronica Hobbes are called on to investigate a wave of crimes identical to committed by a murderer who the police have just found dead. Their enquiries lead them to the Bastion Society, and personal physician to Queen Victoria, Dr Lucius Fabian. Why is he so interested in Veronica’s sister, Amelia, and can Newbury and Veronica help free her from a terrible fate as a slave to the Empire?

immoralityengineI’ve enjoyed this series so far – but for my money, this is the book where all the ingredients mix together to provide a really gripping story with some horrific overtones. And the steampunk adventure stops being some slightly daft version of Sherlock Holmes and hits its stride.

Maurice Newbury is fighting his own demons – and the consequences of his experimentation bite deep into his personal life and create major strains in his partnership with Veronica Hobbes. Who has major problems of her own, given her concern and guilt about her sister’s fate… These internal conflicts add extra depth to these two characters, whose rather breezy attitude to date gave this series a certain amount of charm – but also allowed us to dismiss the shenanigans going on in Mann’s version of Victorian England as an amusing pastiche of the darker reality. It was also enjoyable to see that one of the characters who has regularly turned up as a regular bit player in the earlier books, Inspector Bainbridge, has been given a far larger slice of the action this time around – to the extent that we actually see the action through his viewpoint on several occasions.

There is a sombre feel to this novel that gives it extra edge, right from the beginning, with the bleak funeral scene that wouldn’t look out of place in a Dickens novel. Queen Victoria is something of a shock – the terrifying monster lurking in the shadows and kept alive by her steam-driven chair is a world away from the white haired matron we are used to seeing adorning various history books and stamps.

What hasn’t changed, is the speed at which the narrative whisks along. Mann is adept at interleaving the necessary scene setting with the various actions scenes that regularly punctuate this engrossing book. While the previous steampunk adventures have always been entertaining – which was why I made a point of picking up this book – this time the narrative braids all the various sub-plots into a really satisfying climax that contributed to the explosive denouement – literally. The fall-out from all the action is equally intriguing and the final hook has left me determined to track down the sequel, The Affinity Bridge. Where I enjoyed the previous books, this one is my favourite steampunk novel to date – and I’m very much hoping that the next book will deliver yet more steam-driven goings on with a same calibre.

Review of The Osiris Ritual – A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation by George Mann


This enjoyable steampunk whodunit ticks all the boxes if you like your speculative fiction dosed with a liberal helping of Victoriana.  Death stalks London and the newspapers proclaim that a mummy’s curse has been unleashed. Sir Maurice Newbury, Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, is drawn into a web of occult intrigue as he attempts to solve the murders. And he soon finds himself on the trail of a rogue agent – a man who died to be reborn as a living weapon.

Newbury’s able assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, has her own mystery to unravel. Girls are going missing from a magician’s theatre osirusshow. But what appears to be a straightforward investigation puts Miss Hobbes in mortal danger.

Can Newbury save his assistant, solve the riddle of the mummy’s curse, capture the deadly man-machine – and stop the terrifying Osiris Ritual from reaching its infernal culmination?

This is the second book in this series, although I haven’t read the first offering. Does that matter? While the whodunit plotlines powering the book certainly are completely stand-alone and brought to a satisfactory conclusion, I did feel that Mann could have spared a bit more time and effort bonding his readership with his two protagonists. I certainly think the scene where Veronica Hobbes visits her sister should be earlier in the book than Chapter 8 – because that ongoing puzzle was the one that really caught my interest and lifted our plucky heroine from the obligatory female sidekick to a more three dimensional character.

Apart from that one grizzle, Mann clearly had a blast writing this book – his depiction of the world crackles with energy and he effectively captures the customs and speech rhythms of the era, without silting up the narrative pace. In fact, the story pitches forward at a fairly cracking rate with all sorts of mayhem ensuing. Mann deftly handles the various plotlines and writes the action scenes with plenty of clarity, while giving us a ringside seat of how all this is affecting his protagonists – a more technically challenging task than it looks.

If you are a fan of this sub-genre, with pea-soup fogs and steam-powered gismos doing it for you, then you’ll definitely enjoy pacing the cobbled streets along with Newton and Veronica. And if you occasionally venture into this corner of speculative fiction when you want a break from faster-than-light travel, or conflicted sword-waving misfits – you’ll find plenty here to provide page-turner appeal and whisk you back to an age where they don’t make ‘em like that, anymore.