Adrienne's Reviews > The Explosionist

The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson
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's review
Apr 13, 11

bookshelves: alternate-history, book-count-2011
Read in April, 2011

Sophie's favorite class is chemistry; Mr. Petersen is so handsome! Too bad all her classmates seem to know about her crush - they won't stop teasing her. Sophie's least favorite activity is the Friday night seances her great-aunt Tabitha makes her participate in. Unfortunately, spirituality is a major pastime of Ediburgh's fashionable ladies, so there's not much Sophie can do to get out of them, particularly when she starts showing signs of being a medium herself. Then the medium from great-aunt Tabitha's last seance is found brutally murdered, and Sophie and her friend Mikail are plunged into a mystery that reaches to the highest levels of Scotland's government. Can Sophie solve the mystery and keep Scotland and the Hanseatic League from going to war with Europe?

The Explosionist is set in a fascinating alternate history in which an independent Scotland is allied with the Scandinavian nations while most of continental Europe (and England) is under the dominance of the descendants of a victorious-at-Waterloo Napoleon. In Sophie's Edinburgh, the Enlightenment has come to full flower (with some horrifying results) and the only reason Scotland is an independent country is its factories that produce the explosives invented by Alfred Nobel. Davidson's ability to work in concepts and names from history is wonderful, and the world feels very real. Sadly, Sophie is not the most interesting character, and the murder mystery is a bit predictable. I would, however, be very interested to read another story with different characters set in the same world.

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