Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon (Burton & Swinburne #3)
Author: Mark Hodder
Synopsis: It is 1863, but not the one it should be. Time has veered wildly off course, and now the first moves are being made that will lead to a devastating world war and the fall of the British Empire.
The prime minister, Lord Palmerston, believes that by using the three Eyes of Naga—black diamonds possessing unique properties—he’ll be able to manipulate events and avoid the war. He already has two of the stones, but the third is hidden somewhere in the Mountains of the Moon, the fabled source of the Nile.
Palmerston sends Sir Richard Francis Burton to recover it. For the king’s agent, it’s a chance to redeem himself after his previous failed attempt to find the source of the great river. That occasion had led to betrayal by his partner, John Hanning Speke. Now Speke is leading a rival expedition on behalf of the Germans, and it seems that the battle between the former friends may ignite the very war that Palmerston is trying to avoid!
Caught in a tangled web of cause, effect, and inevitability, little does Burton realize that the stakes are far higher than even he suspects.
A final confrontation comes in the mist-shrouded Mountains of the Moon, in war- torn Africa of 1914, and in Green Park, London, where, in the year 1840, Burton must face the man responsible for altering time: Spring Heeled Jack!
Burton and Swinburne’s third adventure is filled with eccentric steam-driven technology, grotesque characters, and bizarre events, completing the three-volume story arc begun in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man
Why did I pick it up?: I read the series at the behest of Jason, my Steampunk writer friend.
Favorite Lines: "Good grief! It's 1918 and that's still considered unconventional? Has the human race not evolved at all since my time?"
"I haven't a clue! I'm just a poet! But you'll find a way."
My Review: There were parts, predominately in the first half of the story, which were all about the African journey. I'm more interested in the characters driving the plot than the foliage and the heat and the way of the African landscape shimmered and blossomed in all its wild glory around Captain Burton. Though many people would undoubtedly enjoy being taken on a safari, I was distracted. And as a result the first half dragged a bit. The main plot was touched upon, but only just. I trusted Hodder to get there eventually but if there has been a little more to keep me curious I would have turned the pages faster.
That wasn't an issue for me in the first two books which were page turners from start to finish. The second half was character driven and I finished it in a few long reading sessions. I enjoyed the culmination of the bifurcated timeline. I thought it merged seamlessly.
One of my favorite things about the series were the geneticists, scientists who alter the genetic make up of plants and animals. That's how they move technology and industry forward. They turn dogs into mail carriers, breed swans big enough to ride, make a pistol out of a cactus, etc. Yet all these inventions come with a hilarious design flaw. The messenger parrots are my favorite. You recite your message, the bird memorizes it and flies off to repeat the message to the recipient. Handy for the 1860's, no? Or it would be but the parrots interject their own colorful language into the message, insulting the message recipient with inventive verbal abuse.
Recommendation: The series as a whole is a great for anyone interested in Steampunk.
Next Week: The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan