Book Review: The Curious Case of the Jeweled Alicorn by Michael Merriam.
We open in media res, as Arkady Bloom’s assignation with Countess Moretti takes a dangerous turn. It seems that in addition to being a minor court poet, Bloom is also an agent of the Crown’s Supernatural Intervention Agency, and the Countess has stolen the key to a valuable secret formula. Bloom survives the encounter with the aid of his African valet Chillblood, and goes on to accept his next assignment.
This turns out to be attending a house party by the Baron de Blackmere the coming weekend. The Baron will be showing off some artifacts to his eccentric guests, one of which might be the elusive perpetual energy device. Several unpleasant parties would like to get their hands on that, I dare say. Bloom’s assignment becomes more complex when the sidhe (the Fair Folk, his mother’s people) approach him with a request to obtain a severed unicorn’s horn (the alicorn of the title) which they need to restrain a rampaging monster.
Bloom must navigate his multiple goals and loyalties, while trying to figure out which of the Baron’s guests are after what–and perhaps have a little romance on the side.
“Steampunk” is a subgenre of speculative fiction set roughly in the Age of Steam (1770-1914) when rapid industrialization and steam engines changed the face of civilization. It generally involves the use of steam power to do things that the technology was not used for historically, and may indeed be impossible, such as clockwork dragons or spaceships.
This novella is in a smaller subgenre that adds fantasy elements. This can be a difficult balancing act as the author must build the world almost from scratch, and there are no established boundaries what magic can or cannot do. The author does a reasonably good job of limiting the effects of magic in this case.
With a dozen plus important characters, multiple agendas and slam-bang action, there isn’t a lot of time for character development in this short book. It’s a light confection and a fast read. This is a small press book from Sam’s Dot Publishing, and there are a couple of typos. You may want to bundle this with another book from the same publisher to beef up the reading time.