The book starts with a short intro of how Sir Isaac Newton discovered magic through science in the 17th century. The rest of the story happens in the year 1720 when machines called philosophical devices have become common. Among them are the aetherschreibers that work in pairs. When you write something with the other device, its mate scribes it at the same time, no matter where the devices are on earth. There are also more military devices such as the feverfactum that can boil a man’s blood.

In Boston a young Benjamin Franklin dreams of being a sailor while he invents scientific devices. Instead he becomes a newspaperman’s apprentice. The other main character is Adrienne de Montchevreuil, a young woman who wants to be a philosopher and research science. Unfortunately, even in King Louis XIV’s court that is not possible for a woman and she has to hide her scientific aspirations. The Sun King himself is also intimately familiar with the supernatural side of the world. He appears as a minor POV character. One might even call him undead. Sort of.

There are also supernatural beings that can be persuaded to help humans through some philosophical devices. The beings are called malakus, malakim or djinn depending on who you ask. However, their nature is explained in the second book.

The end is actually shocking for those who have grown to expect that the status quo of the setting doesn’t change.

Keyes’ world that mixes history, science, magic and fiction was very appealing to me. Although we don’t see the whole world, the glimpses that we are shown in Boston, Londo,n and Paris are well done.

Some people complain that the book is too choppy but I rather enjoyed it that we aren’t shown endless descriptions of whatever the writer uses to rack up the word count. Every scene counts. However, Keyes himself has said on his website that he was unhappy with the rather drastic work that his editor had done with this book, which might explain the abruptness.

An excellent beginning to a promising series.

9/10

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