Lumière (The Illumination Paradox, #1) by Jacqueline E. Garlick

Received from NetGalley for review.

Lumière is a steampunk fantasy set in the late 1800’s in a fictional Commonwealth, comprising the rich (Brethren), the poor (Gears), and the crazy (The Follies – not part of the Commonwealth anymore). The world is dark and complex; the rich seem to live in constant fear and oppression, with Madness and Wickedry (whatever that is) punishable by asylum or death, and the rest of the world is shut out and left to rot, prey to criminals, madmen and poisonous gasses known as Vapour. Despite the fact I had a few issues with the story, the world building is sound, you get a real sense of the characters and it’s a solid and often interesting read – I liked the world Garlick created, even if I didn’t like some aspects of it. It all centres around a machine called The Illuminator, invented and then sold by our main character’s father, and then stolen by Urlick, which supposedly has abilities to heal, both physical and mental maladies.

I’m going to get my number one issue out of the way first, because it is irrational – Eyelet. Fucking Eyelet. What kind of name is that? I don’t understand and it just made me so angry. What a ridiculous, utterly ridiculous name for any kind of character in any kind of book. It makes no sense. From here in my review she will be referred to as E because I can’t even. That’s how much her name irritates me.

Now, the character herself was a spoiled, selfish, entitled little madam, with no regard for anyone else, their feelings or possessions. You’d think she’d have some sense of understanding and humility considering the debilitating seizures she has, something that could have her sent to the dreaded asylum. But no, even with that she was privileged and protected by her mother. She’s just one of those people you want to slap, more so because she believes herself perfectly ‘lovely’ and buys into her entitlement. Urlick (more on him later) allows her into his home so she doesn’t DIE in the wild woods of The Follies and she feels she has a right to ignore everything he says about his home. Err, no sweetheart, not how it works. You go into someone’s home, you respect it and anything they say about it, you don’t touch all the things you were told not to, go places expressly forbidden, and traumatise the lovely housekeeper just because you are a nosy, interfering idiot. She was so unbelievably frustrating I don’t know how Urlick didn’t kick her whiny ass out (because she’s pretty – duh).

The other characters, for the most part, redeemed the insufferable E, even the horrible Professor Smrt (another ridiculous name I can’t really cope with). I won’t go into much detail as I don’t want to ruin the story, but the best characters are linked with Urlick. Urlick himself is rather delicious, with his raven black hair, milky skin and interesting features, and he is a thief. Well, he steals The Illuminator, and ends up with E for his troubles. Poor guy. But, of course, our dashing male lead falls for this special snowflake and her amazing eyes, which we all know will happen from the blurb. That aside he is a fascinating character, and as his past and secrets are slowly revealed he becomes all the more interesting. Why the book wasn’t written from his perspective I’ll never know, it would’ve been much more exciting than listening to E’s internal narrative about the way he uses his fork. Eye roll.

The plot itself seems to be more about E and Urlick getting to know each other than anything else; there are interesting machines, The Illuminator debacle, and some subplots going on, but essentially this book is about the people, what they think and how they feel, rather than what is happening around them. For me, this would have been so much better if it was Urlick’s story – he is far more interesting with a much better back story and personality than E. In the grand scheme of things, though, Lumière is a good steampunk story with an original setting and some interesting characters, even if the title makes me think purely of dancing candlesticks.

Read: August 4th-6th 2015

3/5 stars

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