There comes a time in every reader’s life that they get that feeling.
You’ve begun a new novel, and you’re stoked over it. The concept is interesting, the characters are great, and it has a unique twist that keeps you continually invested.
That feeling starts out as an, “Eh, something seems a little off,” and gradually grows into “Okay, something is definitely missing. Is it me? Is it the book?”
And then BA-DING! You know what’s up. You look in the tiny print at the bottom of the cover, and in the quaintest font imaginable you can make out, “A (insert series name) novel”. Seeing this, you’re quick to Google the book, and your suspicions are confirmed.
You’re reading a book that’s part of a series, but it isn’t the first book.
Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in quite a while I experienced this very feeling. I picked out The Chess Queen Enigma randomly from the shelves of the CSC library, and I knew within the first 15 pages that this wasn’t the first book. If only I paid attention to the finer things in life…you know, like fine print?
However, I do have to say that this is a series I’ll be following up on, even if I didn’t start with the first book. Though I didn’t know from reading the excerpt, this book was right up my alley: it was historical fiction with a twist! We start in the year 1889 with partners Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker, the niece of Sherlock Holmes and the sister of Bram Stoker, respectively. They’re both part of the family businesses, too; Mina is a mastermind Sherlock mini-me, and Evaline is a vampire hunter. Both have worked on cases before that involved both the UnDead and the ominous Ankh, a mysterious high-profile criminal that poses a huge threat to their world. Mina and Evaline are assigned the job as chaperone/bodyguards to the Princess Lurelia from the fictional state Betrovia on a crucial visit for both Betrovia and England’s relations. The reason for the countries’ shaky relations centers around a highly-coveted chessboard from the Byzantine era; it wasn’t until 50 years ago the Betrovians returned the chessboard to England, but for 300 years the key piece, the chess queen (which was the first chess queen ever made), has been missing. Now, a 300 year old letter from Queen Elizabeth will show where the chess queen is hidden and mend the rift between Betrovia and England. What’s the most important about this chess queen, however, is that it is said to unlock a hidden treasure inside the chess board, which is said to contain anything from the secret to immortality to jewels from Helen of Troy. All is going well into Mina and Evaline’s reluctant job until the Princess is attacked and the letter is stolen, and it appears it’s at the hands of none other than the Ankh. Mina and Evaline must find the letter and the chess queen, not just for Princess Lurelia, but for the safety of the world.
Right off the bat, this story had me interested; the setting, Victorian London, takes on a steampunk-esque theme, which wasn’t overdone and made visualizing the story even better. Mina and Evaline are perfect opposites, and it shows that they play off each others’ strengths and make a great team despite their differences. Though some of the language is a bit corny (If I never have to read the exclamation “Blooming fish!” ever again, I’ll be happy), the story more than makes up for it.
Ultimately, this book was a spin on a good old-fashioned mystery, and I loved it. I’m bummed I didn’t read the series in order (this is the 3rd and latest book), I thoroughly enjoyed it. A thousand recommendations for this one.
Happy trails, nerds.