It’s not a good month without an indie novel or two. Today I’ll be reviewing The Earl and the Artificer by Kara Jorgensen. If you’re intrigued by a few characters that break the Victorian English mold, than you’re in for a treat. Check out the review below and make sure to give your two cents in the comments section if you’ve already read the book, too!
Rating: 4 stars
After focusing on Immanuel Winter’s adventures, it’s a joy to return the focus on Hadley and Eilian Sorrell. Both misfits in their own right, they continue to face their fears as they move into Brasshurst Hall, property that Eilian now owns as an earl. Their hopes are to keep up the facade that they are normal people of high society, but the citizens of Folkesbury—including Eilian’s nosy and pretentious second cousin, Randall Nash—see right through them. As the newlyweds try to develop a strong marriage and shield themselves against societal demands, they also have to deal with brewing drama surrounding an ancient plant found on their property.
What I enjoyed:
Jorgensen’s bread and butter is top-notch and complex characters. They’re the main reason why I love the series to begin with. Specifically within this novel, we get to meet new characters that fall in the gray area between nice and naughty. For example, we meet the writer, Nadir Talbot, who uses his charm to woo his romance novel fans, but knows half the charm lies in his exotic Egyptian heritage. We first meet him as a rather misogynistic man that doesn’t take Hadley seriously, since he makes money from writing about silly and lovesick women. Hadley sure sets him straight, and they become allies and dear friends through the drama to come.
The novel revisits themes surrounding gender roles in society, but also touches on relatively taboo subjects such as male insecurities surrounding intimacy. Since Eilian has this rather masculine role of earl and husband jointly thrust on him, we watch him struggle through these issues, but also struggle to be open about them with his own wife. It’s by far one of the most realistic and healthy examples of marital openness and unity. Both characters struggle through difficult and realistic challenges, but teach each other that communication (a general taboo in their society) will help them be better spouses for each other. As the couple grew closer and closer together I was mentally screaming, “Yes! Break the mold! Amen to talking and not assuming the other person can’t deal with your emotions!”
What I didn’t enjoy:
To avoid giving too many spoilers, I’ll have to tread carefully through this section. The main characters have to spring into action to clear their friend of murder charges by finding the real killer. The only part I found confusing was how they found out who the true murderer was, when the character doesn’t actually confess; their falsely accused friend just says they know who really did the killing, and they go from there to prosecute the individual. It seemed like an unnatural jump in logic, and I wonder if that will carry consequences in future novels. Well, that might be confusing to navigate, so I suppose that could give you further incentive to read the novel so we can further discuss and debate the matter.
My Final Thoughts
After so much action and danger, The Earl and the Artificer is a bit more sedate and laid back, which can be a good thing depending on the type of Victorian steampunk thrills you’re into. The novel surrounds more societal pressures, rather than action elements, but Hadley and Eilian don’t take the subtle quips and jabs without a fight. It’s a subtle deviation from standard “us versus society” plots that I really appreciate and admire.
I’m really lucky that the next book, Dead Magic, is already out, so I could jump from one novel to the next. Thanksgiving weekend is all about catching up on good novels, right? Most of my praise will always go towards the social themes that are discussed and displayed in this novel. Rather than acting as moral lessons, they are picked up naturally by the reader in delightful ways.
If you’d like to learn more about Kara Jorgensen and her work, you can catch up with her via social media:
Have you read this novel? Do you have your own thoughts about it? Share with me in the comments!