Gaslamp fantasy author Madeleine Holly-Rosing’s Boston Metaphysical Society is one of the more remarkable works in the entire steampunk genre. It’s a series of comic novels, all available for free online, and they are a wonderful read all by themselves.
The web comic series tells the story of a small team of experts in the supernatural, defending Victorian era Boston from all manner of ghosts, supernatural malevalencies and things that go slash in the night. The society is headed by ex-Pinkerton detective Samuel Hunter, and aided by Thomas Edison, Harry Houdini and Nikolai Tesla, with the addition of their spirit photographer Caitlin O’Sullivan.
The richness of the world created by Ms. Holly-Rosing is substantial, so much so that novels set in her fanciful universe combining steam, alternate history and the supernatural was almost an inevitability. Her first novel in this setting does not disappoint.
The novel is a prequel, set in 1890’s Boston. It tells some of the back story of how Samuel Hunter began the Society in the first place. In this book, he’s married to the delightfully named Elizabeth Weldsmore, who is the heir to one of Boston’s Great Houses. He is taken completely by surprise with the discovery that Elizabeth is apparently a profoundly gifted medium.
For the sake of her family and their standing in Boston power society, they must keep her remarkable powers a secret, while still training up Elizabeth as quickly as they can to master them. A psychic in a Great House is a political liability which her father, Jonathan Weldsmore, knows only too well.
As the Great Houses jockey for power, the three of them must contend with treachery, subterfuge, and a metaphysical threat that could end everything.
When you read a novel from an author with whose work you are not familiar, you expect to find that the author’s strong suit is one of plot development, story development, or back story. Ms. Holly-Rosing is one of those rare authors that is equally and greatly skilled in all three. The characters drive the story; the story drives the character arcs; the world in which both inhabit is rich and substantial. The pacing is good throughout, and never drags as many steampunk novels are wont to do, being perhaps a bit too wrapped up in the vernacular of the bygone age in which they attempt to set themselves. Instead, the scenes are all immediate and understandable, and each moves fluidly from one to the next inexorably toward a dramatic — and unexpected — finish.
If you love gaslamp fantasy, or are a fan of The Boston Metaphysical Society in particular, you’ll really enjoy The Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets, available now on Amazon.com and wherever fine books are sold.