One of the things that I like to do when I begin a new book is to think about what everyone has been doing in the past year. One of my personal favorite characters is Exquisite, aka Chuck Harwood, the Necroid. It occurred to me that he’s kind of a geek, and he might try his hand at writing. So I figured out the kind of book that he would write and will be including mention of it in Gingerbread Wolves. It also occurred to me that Nancy Dew, the Ambimorph, is the kind of person who would want to support Ex by writing a review of his book.
So here is a fictional review, written by a fictional character, about a fictional book written by another fictional character. It doesn’t have any bearing on the main storyline of The Book Of Lost Doors, it’s just an exercise to get my mind working.
So, this book doesn’t really exist. Don’t go looking for it.
Title: The Apprentice’s Cypher
Author: Charles Harwood
Length: 280 Pages
Format: E-book and trade paperback
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Reviewed by Nancy Dew.
Note: I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: The Apprentice’s Cypher is set in an alternate history version of North America in 1918. In this version of America the Confederacy succeeded from the Union without violence and America is divided into five nations, The Union, The Confederacy, Texas, California, and Oklahoma, each of which has its own style of government. North America stayed out of The Great War, which has recently ended with the Austrian-Hungarian Empire ruling most of Europe.
The global politics of the world, however, have little bearing on the daily lives of Peitr and Karl, two apprentices at Boston’s prestigious Academy of Steam Mechanics. When a well-loved instructor dies in a suspicious accident, Peitr and Karl are sure that it was murder, and begin their own investigation to unravel the mystery and bring the killer to justice.
My impressions: This is a fast paced and exciting story. Harwood starts off (literally) with a bang, opening with the explosion that kills Professor Jakes. The school administration quickly rules the explosion accidental, but Peitr and Karl have information that suggests that it wasn’t, since the two boys were working closely with Jakes on an after hours project. Their evidence is ignored by the administration, and the boys are nearly killed themselves, in accidents that seemed designed to intimidate them into silence.
Harwood makes the boys likable and interesting. Peitr is a son of a wealthy Union family and Karl is a Texan. The dialogue is very clever, and the boys are, for the most part, believable. The adults are less well drawn (in particular the Headmaster seems little more than a caricature) but since the focus of the story is on the students that’s not a major problem.
The mystery itself is very well plotted, with a few genuine twists that took me by surprise. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I was satisfied that everything was explained and the loose ends neatly tied up.
The romance between Peitr and Karl was sweet, and I felt it was realistic, given the boys’ backgrounds. Harwood doesn’t get overly graphic, (I could have used a little more detail, myself) but it’s clear that relationship becomes very physical. I thought that he spent a little too much time stressing Karl and Peitr’s inexperience, and in some scenes they were doing so much shaking, shivering, trembling, and quivering that I was worried that they might vibrate their bunk apart.
All in all, though, I thought that it worked as a mystery, as a science fiction novel, and as M/M romance. I would recommend it to fans of any of the above genres.