Demon In The Machine by Lise MacTagueDemon In The Machine by Lise MacTague is an exquisite steampunk and paranormal mashup permeated with action, mystery and romance! This book had my heart thundering in my chest on so many levels!

It’s late Victorian London amidst the apex of the industrial revolution and the horseless carriage is the latest technological rage to hit the city. Briar, half human and half succubus, is plagued with intense feelings of dread surrounding the seemingly innocuous machine her employer recently purchased. Unable to shake the foreboding feeling, she decides further investigation into the new wonder is necessary. But she can’t do this alone.

Isabella Castel is a frequent fixture at the society balls Briar attends for business. She is the epitome of a high society debutante and a rather large thorn in Briar’s side. But Isabella is not the flighty socialite she appears to be, and she has her own surreptitious reasons for attending these balls.

Briar’s chance discovery of a rune inscribed lens is the catalyst that entwines the lives of these two women. Can they overcome their differences and solve the mystery behind the ominous new technology before Briar’s forebodings culminate in utter chaos on Earth?  The fate of humanity hinges on their success!

The Characters 

One of the many things I love about MacTague’s writing is her ability to create strong, complex and ‘real’ characters and the wonderful dynamic she develops between them. This book is no exception!

I was completely drawn to Briar (Brionie) Riley. She is introduced as a half human, half demon archivist under the employ of the Earl of Hardwicke. She has a talent for infernal magic and is skilled at reading both objects and people. Briar spent her formative years struggling to survive, an outcast because of her mixed lineage, in the chaos that is the demon realm. Victorian society offers a reprieve from this chaos and she embraces the order and regulation it affords. Terrified of the implications of losing control, she exudes propriety and composure. Until she meets Isabella.

Isabella Castel is the daughter of Viscount and Althea Sherard. Raised in high society and educated on par with her brother, she chafes against parental machinations and the social conventions of the era. Marriage is the last thing on Isabella’s mind, preferring to tinker in the underground workshop with her father.  An extremely talented builder, Isabella uses her mechanical skills in unconventional ways. I adore the multifaceted nature of her character. One minute she perfects the part of brainless debutante and the next she is using a jump rig she invented to leap from a tower window.

Both Briar and Isabella have incredible depth and we watch as they progress through internal struggles, self-doubt and skepticism of one another. The cast of supporting characters are also wonderfully done and add further stimulating layers to the story. Everyone is multidimensional revealing the fallacy of taking appearances for granted and the complexity of personas. The Earl of Hardwicke, LaFarge, Wellington and Althea aren’t all that they appear. It is exceptional to find such depth in secondary characters.

The Writing Style 

This book is perfectly paced with a wonderful combination of action and romance that kept me excited on multiple fronts as the story progressed. MacTague’s use of elevated language is perfectly matched to the Victorian propriety required of the genre and has a lyrical, artistically beautiful flow that I find entrancing. This skill is particularly manifest in the descriptive imagery she uses that creates a truly immersive experience for the reader. I could visualize the frantic tearing open of a dress, hear the patter of buttons scattering across the floor and feel the hunger driving the act. Her words become deliciously tangible. Another bonus is that there is just enough humour infused in the discourse to keep a book centered around demonic forces from being too dark. And of course, MacTague has magically discovered the perfect ratio of action and sexy time!

The Pros

All great steampunk features wonderful gadgets and contraptions and this novel is rife with such inventions as multi-functional goggles, powerful jump suits enabling the scaling of tall buildings and, of course, the new horseless carriage. My favourite aspect is how MacTague adds her own flair to these gadgets in terms of how they are powered. I also love how she brilliantly captures the atmosphere; the romance, etiquette and manners of the Victorian era and then pumps it full of grotesque imps and demons! However, what really draws me in to Lise’s novels is her fantastic characterization. So, if you enjoy layered, well realized and imperfect but enticing characters, then this book is definitely for you!

The Cons 

Severe lack of sleep as you forge on reading into the wee hours of the morning!

The Conclusion 

One thing I particularly enjoy about Lise MacTague is her ability to migrate seamlessly between different genres. I have thoroughly enjoyed her previous offerings in the science fiction and paranormal genres, but this novel is a whole new level of amazing. MacTague is really suited to Steampunk! She excels at writing stories with strong women and Briar and Isabella are no exception. Demon in the Machine is a wonderful mélange of mystery, steampunk, paranormal and romance that is appealing on so many levels!

Excerpt from Demon In The Machine by Lise MacTague

The carriage crouched in the gloomy corner, drinking in the bright lights from above and seeping shadows across the floor. It looked as though it stared at her and awaited her approach. Its intentions were not good, and she knew it.

You’re mad, Briar said to herself. The smile with which she favored the earl was brittle. She tried to cover her unease by settling the edges of her skirts just so. It’s a horseless, the earl’s newest toy. It certainly doesn’t want to hurt you. how could it? It’s a carriage! When she put it in such terms, her trepidation sounded foolish. Taking strength in the absurdity of the situation, she took a couple of steps closer to the carriage. It won’t hurt you. It’s an inanimate object.  The mantra helped, and eventually she stood next to one of the tall wheels at the back. She reached a hand out to touch it, simply to prove to herself that she could. With some consternation, she realized her hand was trembling. Whatever was amiss, it seemed to be getting worse.

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Bits and Bobs 

  • ISBN number: 9781594935671 
  • Publisher: Bella Books

Lise MacTague Online  

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