BY ANDREW MCCURDY
Publisher: Penny Gaff Publishing, LLC
Reviewed by Leanne Tough
A Drop of the Venom, Part One, is both an engaging read and a visually stunning eBook. The first thing I fell in love with was the art work and the gorgeous pages; ‘antiqued’ to make them both aesthetically pleasing and, as a bonus, also easier on the eye than ordinary white pages. This is what eBooks should look like – there are so many opportunities for full-colour illustrations and adjusting the design of the text-only pages to fit the genre of the book, and I feel this particular eBook really goes the whole hog, as it were! The team at Penny Gaff Publishing should be proud indeed.
As for the story itself, it is engaging, which makes the ninety-eight pages disappear in a matter of moments. It certainly leaves you wishing there were more available – alas, I shall have to wait until Autumn to find out what happens next! It is so refreshing to find a book labelled ‘steampunk’ which focuses on the machines, their development, and the consequences. This is not a light-hearted gaslight romance; it is dark, enthralling, and tragic. It is essentially a gothic tale, inspired by Victorian tales and myths. I love the development of the myth and how it takes over the lives of those involved. My favourite thing about the story is that because it is told by one of the characters, and certain tragedies are hinted at from the start, it keeps you wondering and guessing at what happens – leading to a truly unexpected twist.
The character development is especially interesting; it keeps you engaged and sympathetic, allowing you to get to know the characters in only a few pages. You do begin to feel for the characters, wanting the best to happen but knowing, as they seem to know, that it may all be hopeless. The whole past tale which Quinn relates to Mr. Lighthouse carries a dark aura; you do not expect a happy tale. But what it ‘lacks’ in mirth it makes up for in twists, machinery, and a fast pace.
Finally, the illustrations, though few, are beautiful. I spent a few minutes at least exploring each one, taking in the details. It’s so rare to find an illustrated novel or novella aimed at an adult audience, especially in colour! The centrefold is of the Leviathan’s Bane, the first machine introduced, and I found it so interesting to see how my vision of the ship compared with the illustrator’s.
Overall, I would recommend grabbing a copy for when you have a spare hour or so to just enjoy the tale, which will leave you wanting more.