A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway: Review

A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane HollowayTitle: A Study in Ashes
Author: Emma Jane Holloway
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: December 2013
Length: 662
Series: The Baskerville Affair (#3)
Audio or Book: Book
Reason for Discovery: ARC

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From GoodReads:
As part of her devil’s bargain with the industrial steam barons, Evelina Cooper is finally enrolled in the Ladies’ College of London. However, she’s attending as the Gold King’s pet magician, in handcuffs and forbidden contact with even her closest relation, the detective Sherlock Holmes.

Not even Niccolo, the dashing pirate captain, and his sentient airship can save her. But Evelina’s problems are only part of a larger war. The Baskerville Affair is finally coming to light, and the rebels are making their move to wrest power from the barons and restore it to Queen Victoria. Missing heirs and nightmare hounds are the order of the day—or at least that’s what Dr. Watson is telling the press.

But their plans are doomed unless Evelina escapes to unite her magic with the rebels’ machines—and even then her powers aren’t what they used to be. A sorcerer has awakened a dark hunger in Evelina’s soul, and only he can keep her from endangering them all. The only problem is…he’s dead.
This book is the exciting conclusion in The Baskerville Affair. The steam barons are vying for control of the British Empire, while Evelina, Imogen, Nick, and the rest of the gang are desperately trying to protect themselves and their loved ones. There is no doubt that someone will come out on top, the only question is who and with what force intellect or magic?
Do you want to know an embarrassing book blogger story? I thought that this book was in a different series about Sherlock Holmes' niece. Also, I picked up this book, because I was under the impression that the books could be read out of order. Well, A Study in Ashes is part of The Baskerville Affair, which is the final book in a trilogy about Evelina, a different niece of Sherlock Holmes. Apparently, Holmes has a lot of nieces running about London. Although I would not recommend starting with book three (A Study in Silks is book one), I really enjoyed this book. 
First off, I need to give this book praise for doing a good job of catching the reader up to speed with the plot. I did not read books one and two, but I was able to get the gist of what was happening and who all the characters were. I never felt completely lost. At the same time, I never felt like there was a lot of info dumping. Granted, someone who has read the first two books may feel differently, but I didn't notice it.When I started reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, there were times that I felt completely confused, because JK Rowling wasn't spelling something out (I forgot that DA stood for Dumbledore's Army) and I hadn't read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix since its publication day. This was not the case with A Study in Ashes. I was able to follow the plot reasonably well.
Although I was really impressed with the author's ability to summarize the first two books, I would not recommend jumping into this book for two reasons. One, I know I missed out on a lot of world building. The world building was pretty amazing in this book. It is a magical steampunk world with evil steam barons. Doesn't that sound amazing?! Unfortunately, there were some world building details that were lacking for me; however, I think that these details most likely happened in the first two books. For example, some people have magical abilities. I wanted to learn more about that, but there wasn't too much about the history of magic in this book. Also, I wanted to learn more about the steam barons and how they came to be. Again, there wasn't a ton of detail. I chalk this up to A Study in Ashes being the third book, and these details being explained in the previous books. The second reason I wouldn't recommend jumping into this book is that this book relies on a lot of different character POVs, and it can be a bit overwhelming. Also, the characters are written with the expectation that you already care for these characters. I feel that if I had already known all of these characters I would have been swept up in the ride of this book more quickly. 
This book starts off just a wee bit slow, but very quickly revs up into high gear and there is a ton of action. Because this is the world of steampunk, there are dirigibles, clockwork everything, and fantastical explosions. I thought that once the action sequences began, there was a nice pace to everything. It was quite a fun ride. My one concern with the action sequences was that although there was a ton of action, each action sequence was fairly short. I felt each event lasted about two pages on my Kindle. I wish they had been drawn out a bit longer. There would sometimes be pages and pages of dialogue, but once an action sequence began it would be over before I took my next breath. I think this was Holloway's first series of books, so I expect that these sequences will improve in time.
In regards to the characters, I thought they were great fun and fairly deep. They all felt a bit different and unique for the most part. By the end, everyone seemed a bit similar in their ability to be action heroes, but I give fantasy books a bit more leeway about that. I must admit that I wish the characters of Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty had not been used. I don't think they were used to their full potential and the characters could have been just as interesting with different identities. The same goes for Evelina. She wasn't the super intellect that Holmes was, so I didn't feel that she needed to be related to him. Also, I was surprised that Evelina is billed as the main character when she really isn't in the book more than the other characters.
One last thing I want to note about this book is that this book (and the series from what I gather from book reviews) is quite dark. It is YA dark, but still is much darker than what I was expecting. If you are looking for a fun, steampunk adventure, this is not it. If you want a fantasy steampunk world that is a bit dark, this is for you!
I give this book a 4 out of 5.
Very Good


Nathan (@reviewbarn) said...
January 20, 2014 at 8:10 AM

While level of quality changes it seems that every other steampunk series has the same premise with different names. It is an easy mistake to make =)

Julie S said...
January 20, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Hmm I've been hit or miss with steampunk but I do like dark stories.
I just wanted to add that I love that your rating "stars" are kitties!

Unknown said...
January 20, 2014 at 1:36 PM

LOL. Isn't that the truth? Oh well.

Unknown said...
January 20, 2014 at 1:38 PM

I don't read a lot of dark steampunk, so I can't compare it to anything else, but it was a fun read.

I am glad that you like the kitties. I couldn't decide on what star system to use, and my kitty was bugging me for dinner. A winner was chosen! :)

kimberlybuggie said...
January 20, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Great review! I'm so interested in this book now! I'll do what you say and start at book one! Happy Reading!!

kimberlybuggie said...
January 20, 2014 at 3:02 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...
January 20, 2014 at 3:14 PM

I love your Sherlock niece story and I have so been there done that with books especially of the cover is awesome and my inner cover whore is screaming, "we want it" "click the button" This series is one I so want to read and I snagged book one. Your review has only reinforced my need to bump them up my list!!

Unknown said...
January 20, 2014 at 9:49 PM

You should definitely start with book one. I am sure everything will make more sense that way. :)

Unknown said...
January 20, 2014 at 9:51 PM

I hope that you enjoy it! I have been trying to be better about researching books, before I request them. :)

Bellas Shelf said...
January 20, 2014 at 11:55 PM

What a fascinating book! I love how fantasy & steam punkish it sounds. The local and Sherlocks niece and the steam barons. Very creative. I am glad you did this book it sounds awesome and will attract a lot of attention :)

Unknown said...
January 21, 2014 at 9:56 AM

Wow. Very impressive that you were still able to understand this without reading the first two books. I am not really one to dive into sequels without reading the prequels first.

Though I've never heard about this book, it really piqued my interest since it's about Sherlock Holmes' niece. I think I can overlook some flaws about the world building. Hahahah.

Great review, Pam!

Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms said...
January 21, 2014 at 11:59 AM

I love steam punk, and I am also a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes (but I had no idea he had several nieces ;) )

Thanks for the great review, Pamela, I'm adding A Study in Ashes AND the prior books to my TBR.

Have a fantastic Tuesday.

Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

Vilia said...
January 22, 2014 at 7:20 AM

It's great you enjoyed it despite coming in a bit late to the party with #3 as the trilogy is nicely put together. Mouse was my favourite.

Pamela D said...
January 22, 2014 at 1:33 PM

It really was well put together and so much fun! When I have time, I want to read books 1 & 2. I feel that this trilogy should be getting more love.

Erin said...
January 25, 2014 at 9:05 PM

That cover is gorgeous, isn't it? And don't be embarrassed about series confusion, I can see how that mistake could be made. It sounds quite interesting, will have to keep an eye out for it.

Pamela D said...
January 27, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Keep an eye out for A Study in Silks, not A Study in Ashes, if you want to start at the beginning. ;)

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