Department of Curiosities by Karen J. Carlisle


Yet another book by Carlisle delivered to me in the post because I back her on Patreon (shameless plug, just because). I think I’ve caught up with all the books she’s sent me, there may be some ebooks I haven’t read yet, but that’s another story.

It’s another steampunk book, this time it’s an adventure of heroines, mad scientists, traitors and secrets. There were so many things in here I could have made a note of, but I was caught up in the story. I seem to be saying that a lot. I’m sure it’s to do with the quality of the writing in these books rather than my state of mind. Today I’m not sure I have a state of mind so it’ll be really good if these words make sense.

There are the steampunk inventions I really want. Mag-specs are one. My eyesight is nothing to write home about. What with the astigmatism and the shortsightedness I have to wear glasses all the time. I have not considered contact lenses as I have trouble with anything in my eyes. And the older I get the more glasses I need. I exaggerate there, but it feels like it. I have my distance glasses. Then there’s the pair of reading glasses for close work, add in a pair of computer glasses and then my old pair of computer glasses (yes, I use all of them most days). Then for really small, close work I’ll take my glasses off and work without. These Mag-specs would be fantastic! I’d be able to get away with one pair of glasses and just change the magnification as I need.

Carlisle is no shrinking violet, she puts Queen Victoria into her stories. We see the Queen as someone totally in charge of her own affairs. She even employs Tillie Meriwether as her personal spy against the Department of Curiosities. When the Queen slips her the note Tillie is taken aback, but rises to the occasion.

Carlisle mentions a ‘fainting couch’ a couple of times in this book. I have no doubt her research is spot on so I’ll be quizzing her about what a ‘fainting couch’ is and when it was used. I’ll wait until next month. As one of the rewards for backing Carlisle on Patreon I get to be involved in a Live Stream with her next month. Last time I managed to get to one of her Live Streams I was on an old computer with a microphone that wasn’t working. It was great fun to type my questions or answers into the chat.

One thing I’d like to look at is a passage showing the passing of time. Pages 147 and 148 show how someone might occupy themselves over a long period of time when they have nothing to do but sit and monitor a piece of machinery. In this case it’s a modified telegraph machine. We’re shown this with cups of tea, how they’re still warm and how the teapot is still hot enough. We are also given short paragraphs, because they’re so short the brain can speed up with reading, but the content slows down the reading as you have to concentrate to ensure you don’t skip anything. In those two pages I really thought hours had passed while I read. Clever writing.

I have so many questions, though. What is the orb that Tillie is wearing around her neck? How does it work? Who did it belong to before her? And have all these questions been answered in a previous book that I have read and forgotten about? One of the things I’ve found that helps my memory about books is writing this blog. Sadly, it’s not perfect and there are many things I’ve forgotten.

We’re also taken on a dirigible flight from England to Adelaide. Tillie is told to pack for the heat and doesn’t realise she’s coming back to Australia for some time. It’s fun reading about the various details of this dirigible and how it might fly.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest. If I have you can find the book here. I’m very grateful to all those who have clicked on previous links, you make me happy.

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