Lynn Viehl twists a tale mixing paranormal, romance and steampunk in Disenchanted & Co., the first in her new series. Viehl creates a neat alternate reality where America lost the Revolutionary War and despite being past WW1, is still in a Victorian state of development. This setting makes the world all the more interesting and combined with the investigative abilities of the protagonist Kit Kittredge, make for a surprisingly decent read despite a few hurdles.
Unlike most folks, Kit doesn’t believe in magic, but she can’t refuse to help Lady Diana Walsh, who claims a curse is viciously wounding her while she sleeps. As Kit investigates the Walsh family, she becomes convinced that the attacks are part of a more ominous plot—one that may involve the lady’s obnoxious husband.
Sleuthing in the city of Rumsen is difficult enough, but soon Kit must also skirt the unwanted attentions of a nefarious deathmage and the unwelcome scrutiny of the police chief inspector. Unwilling to surrender to either man’s passion for her, Kit struggles to remain independent as she draws closer to the heart of the mystery. For the truth promises to ruin her life—and turn Rumsen into a supernatural battleground from which no one will escape alive.
The first thing that stuck out to me was how Viehl manages to mix the proper and the crass, making a society which is staunch in their views with a protoganist who can’t stand this. While this is a popular theme in the steampunk genre, Viehl did this ain a manner which felt fresh. Kit didn’t merely rebel, she seemed to like the down and dirty aspects of life whether she lived in today’s time period or her own. Even her name brought to mind a nice contrast since Kit Kittredge instantly made me think of the American Girl character while she was talking about escaping the throws of lust. This made for an interesting mental image.
I wasn’t too impressed with the majority of characters in Disenchanted & Co.. Kit seemed stereotypical, as did her friends and colleagues. In fact, the only character which stood out to me was her love interest, Lucien, simply because I positively loathed him. This instinctual negative reaction to the character couldn’t have happened without Viehl’s knack for writing despicable characters. In this case, I saw this as a great benefit since Kit struggled with her attraction to such a ridiculous man. Though I can admire Viehl’s talent for creating the deplorable, I couldn’t stand how she created a strong woman who ultimately submitted to a powerful man. Talk about a stereotype! I could see where Viehl tried to create some balance in Kit’s rage at her attraction but I did think it could have been amplified so one didn’t think so poorly of Kit for failing her own conviction.
Though I adored Viehl’s take on an alternate history US, I couldn’t help but be disappointed at how muddled the narrative became. Things worsened as Viehl added more characters and elements like time travel. I was relieved when everything sort of worked out in the end, but the lack of clarity was quite alarming. I had the feeling that there was a really good story…if I could only understand what was going on.
Despite the frustrating plot choices and the confusing center, I was quite interested in Disenchanted & Co. The overall plot was good and the world so fascinating that I wanted to see how everything turned out in the end. Fans of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series will definitely see some similarities and will get a kick out of Viehl’s take. Though romance was quite a heavy aspect of it, there was enough action to keep me reading. Ultimately, I am looking forward to what happens in the second installment, The Clockwork Wolf, when it releases next week.