TITLE: Lancaster’s Luck, Book 2: The Jackal’s House
Author: Anna Butler
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Rafe Lancaster/Ned Winter
Sub-Genre: Series, Steampunk
Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy….
Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol—just in case.
Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if they’re facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed. What begins as tricks and pranks escalates to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dog—the jackal-headed god, Anubis, ruler of death—casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?
I was already a huge fan of Anna Butler’s SF Taking Shield series before I started reading this one. Although it has a different feel to it—and is a different genre—I’m in love with this series too.
The Jackal’s House—like book 1 in the series—is narrated in first person by Rafe Lancaster. I love his tongue-in-cheek banter, and internal narrative. One of the strengths of this author’s writing is her characterisations. Rafe is just the right mix of smart arse, and a man who feels very deeply. Although we see Ned through Rafe’s perspective, it’s a very intuitive perspective, and Ned is very much a man who is tied by his position as first heir of Gallowglass. I love Rafe and Ned together, and the line when they are making love under the stars was very romantic, and made me sigh happily. It’s sad that although they love each other, they can’t admit it publically or officially marry, but that’s a sign of the times, and again realistic.
The supporting cast is wonderful, with their character quirks and personalities coming across very clearly. I thought the author did a great job in writing Harry, Ned’s son, and he’s easy to visualise as the small boy he is. Molly, Harry’s dog, is a character in her own right.
The world building in this series is fabulous. The author’s love for all things Egyptian is obvious and I enjoyed the details of the archaeological dig. I could feel Ned’s passion for his chosen field, and Rafe’s reluctant realisation that he’s getting sucked into it all as well. Ned’s good humour is also very contagious and I found myself smiling as I read. I also appreciated the fact that Rafe needed to practice flying the airship, rather than just pilot immediately, as it felt more realistic. The descriptions are detailed, and make everything very easy to visualise.
The political agendas seen in The Gilded Scarab rack up another notch, as dangerous games are played against the backdrop of Abydos. It’s obvious that the author has put a lot of thought into the house system and politics of this world, and I found it all fascinating. The title of the book works well on several levels, and there are more jackals around than the animal variety, although the true double meaning is quite subtle.
I also love the way she connects this alternate steampunk world with our own, with references and people I recognised. I must admit I squeed a little when Howard Carter turned up. Although this is set in an alternate 1900 I loved the mention of analytical machines—computers—and other steampunk versions of current technology such as ebooks etc. The security fence was especially cool.
The action scenes are well written, and had me on the edge of my seat. I spent several evenings sitting up far too late as I needed to find out what happened next. There’s a nice twist at the end of the book. I hope the author plans to write more of this series as I’m now totally hooked, plus I want to see how Rafe takes Ned’s advice, and the changes they hopefully can both make.
I’d highly recommend The Jackal’s House to readers who enjoy steampunk with a good dollop of mystery and adventure, and interesting, likeable characters. More please.
Reviewed By: Anne
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