Review: The Red Plague Affair

The Red Plague Affair
The Red Plague Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A mysterious disease released as a contiguous bioweapon of mass destruction is a theme becoming more popular. Ms. Saintcrow makes it her own with twists and plot turns. This story once again showcases Ms. Saintcrow's creativity. The reader returns to the Steampunk world of Sorceress Prima Emma Bannon and mentath Archibald Clare.

This is a complex story with many layers and characters with conflicting priorities. The end result is betrayal, death and broken loyalties. This story is not intended as fluffy mind candy. It's not the easiest read for average readers. First, the world built in the prior book must be fully understood as a foundation to comprehend the references in this book. Second, the reader must be able to use context clues to decipher words which don't exist in the English language. No dictionary is supplied. Third, a basic understanding of Britain's class system from the Victorian age will also help capture the nuances of each character's actions. Lastly, a rudimentary understanding in germ theory of disease and epidemiology brings all the concepts into a rich reader experience.

Ms. Saintcrow does not neglect her character development. This one, the reader learns more of Emma's past and her current motivations. A surprising betrayal and abuse of Emma's talents is a hard blow which even the reader can feel penetrating her heart. To be one of the most dedicated subject and then relegated as a "cleaner" for dirty jobs is unexpected. To add insult to injury, Emma is kept in a "needs to know" clearance level. And she doesn't need to know. Still, each main character is designed to be either clever or devious. It brings the level of this book at a higher and more fulfilling and meaty reading experience.

This story makes a reader think about the bonds of friendship and how fragile they can be. It makes one question what sacrifices one would make in order achieve the results desired. One may even question, how far they cross the line in order to extract answers from reluctant persons of interest. How ruthless will a desperate person become? For Emma, the lines are crossed repeated for a good cause. What happens when the cause is revealed and it is not just? What happens when a rogue agent uses their own agenda of righteous cleansing of human kind and unleashes a disease like no other? The devastation across the board is truly breathtaking.

I thoroughly enjoy books which make me think hard what I'd do in the same position. How far would I go? Emma stays on course despite her misgivings. Clare supports her and races against time to find a cure for a seemingly incurable disease. Through this terrifying experience, the two characters draw closer together. Times like this, ones friends and enemies become abundantly clear. Sometimes, it's not the people we would expect. This elegant steampunk tale is recommended for those who love figuring out puzzles.

*provided by NetGalley
      The Red Plague Affair (Bannon & Clare, #2)

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