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The Aylesford Skull

(Narbondo #7)

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  359 ratings  ·  74 reviews
It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St. Ives - brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer - is at home in Aylesford with his family. However, a few miles to the north a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt Bay; the crew murdered and pitched overboard.

In Aylesford itself a grave is opened and possibly robbed of the skull. The suspected grave ro
Paperback, 425 pages
Published January 15th 2013 by Titan Books
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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Kat  Hooper
Nov 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
James P. Blaylock is most famous for being a protégé of Philip K. Dick and, along with his friends K.W. Jeter and Tim Powers, developing the steampunk genre of fantasy fiction in the 1980s. Blaylock’s most popular steampunk stories take place in Victorian England and feature gentleman inventor Langdon St. Ives and his archnemesis Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, a hunch-backed necromancer. The Aylesford Skull is considered to be the seventh installment of THE NARBONDO SERIES, though each of the LANGDON ST. ...more
Garrett Calcaterra
The Aylesford Skull is Blaylock writing in vintage form. It's fast paced, witty steampunk from start to finish. The Aylesford Skull does have its dark plot turns, but the writing never gets too heavy, opting for thoughtful introspection with the characters rather than heavy-handed themes or allegory. All in all, a fantastic, fun read.
Mar 09, 2013 rated it liked it
It's odd that I haven't encountered James Blaylock before, despite my being a SF and Fantasy fan for nearly 40 years. Maybe it's because his output has been quite small in comparison to other authors, but it seems strange that his work has never come up on my radar despite labels describing him as one of the fathers of steampunk.

Having read this book, I'm not sure that I've actually missed very much. While I didn't dislike it, it never seemed to catch fire with me. The whole thing just plodded a
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Finished this book sometime ago but I've been busy finishing off our new board game 'Promised Land 1250-587 BC' and so have shirked my reviewing duties. I enjoyed this book immensely! Reading a new Blaylock book is like visiting a much loved friend you haven't seen for a long time. It's full of nostalgia for me as Homunculus was the first Blaylock I read many years ago and that set me tracking down all his books. This one reads easily and sets Langdon St Ives against his old nemesis Narbondo. Bl ...more
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
A new entry in James Blaylock's steampunk sequence is a promise of great pleasure. I've given it a provisional four stars, because I get at least four stars worth of pleasure from the prospect of reading it. (Sometimes I think I get as much pleasure from the anticipation of reading a book as from actually reading it...)

Steampunk has become rather devalued as a brand in recent years - a ragbag of stale tropes and gimmicks for lazy fantasists (Lord save us from another bloody airship!) - but Blayl
John Lawson
A mad man wants to blow stuff up and open a door to Hell. A renown investigator intervenes, so the mad man kidnaps his son. Fisticuffs ensue.

This is billed as "Steampunk". The cover touts the author as a "Steampunk Legend" and the fellow on the cover sports the requisite extra lenses and other sepia-hued doo-hickies. I've never read Steampunk, so I didn't know what to expect. But it was more than this book could offer. Beyond some mentions of magic (including aforementioned "door to Hell", which
Hugh Griffiths
Jul 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
Maybe this makes more sense if you've read the rest of the story? I found the plot rambling and directionless, there didn't seem to be any real theme or meaning to anything, and the conclusion didn't resolve any of the issues.
The big thing that struck me is that steampunk is really built on nostalgia for the victorian age, which really whitewashes all the colonialism, brutality and rampant inequality, and I would really have hoped we've got beyond uncritical adventure novels about that by now.
Fred Hughes
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Couldn't really get engaged in this Steampunk novel. I like Steampunk as a genre and have read many books within it. It seems to be a fine balancing act when written and some authors get the balance and other don't.

Blaylock has written some good books in this genre but this isn't one of them
Tim Hicks
Sep 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Good story with faults.

First, the dialogue and setting are well done. The slightly clunky writing style is just right, too.

Some of the characters are good solid ones, and some are caricatures, but that's appropriate for the style.

But St. Ives isn't much of a character. He's almost a disembodied observer, and near the end when he (a) sheds a tear, and (b) flies the airship at last, I felt as if it was being done to round out his part.

The bad guy is so repulsive he made me think of Mike Myers
Jan 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
As an introduction to James P. Blaylock‘s body of work, it will have you hooked and looking for more. I truly enjoyed how the suspense built a little at a time in the beginning, and before long we were rolling at a high level of action, concerned for main characters, and itching to thwart Narbondo at every opportunity. Here Blaylock does a masterful job of revealing Narbondo’s past bit by bit, along with his current scheme so that the reader is left guessing the details to the end. We get the ni ...more
Peter Brander
Feb 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Unlike ALL the other reviewers who has never read a Blaylock Novel until now, I have actually read all of his books. Even his cookbook!

(Why do they all say, that they haven't read his books until now? It's not something to be proud of? Maybe it's a joke. Of course they have read masterpieces like "All the Bells" and "The last Coin" and "Diggin Leviathan" and...)

Anyway. This is a book about characters in London 1883. London and the life in London is described in exciting and believable detail. We
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
I didn't realize this was a book in a series until after I'd already bought it. But it stands alone just fine. My complaint with the book was just the general plot plot plot nature of it. Each chapter was a character doing something without thinking or planning that either serendipitously worked out, or wound up not working and then they dejectedly moved on to the next random idea they had 3 chapters later. The arch nemesis was evil, because he was evil, and being evil is what he does, so he had ...more
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Without having read any of Blaylock's previous work, I jumped right into this and was thoroughly entertained. Great example of the Steampunk genre. My only gripe is the lack of female characters. The one's that did exist were either wives or mothers to the principal characters and didn't really contribute much to the story. It's kind of forgivable considering the time period the story is supposed to take place in, but still irksome.
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
My first Blaylock book. Enjoyed it very much. Keeps you on the edge of your seat ready to read more. Looking forward to other St Ives tales
Stephen Holtman
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book follows Langdon St Ives and his friends try to rescue his son and London from the nefarious deeds of Dr. Ignacio Narbondo. I felt that the way that the writers did a fantastic job of bringing the old school adventure feel to the fore front of the story. I also have to put in that the action was really exciting. I originally thought that it would be one of those PG type of adventures where nothing really happens. But thankfully I was wrong on that point. Another Misconception I had that ...more
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an easy book to read, with the story pushing the reader forward, and a lot happening to keep one entertained. The world-building is quite good, though probably it would have felt richer if I had read the first six books in the series. The zeppelins and 'infernal devices' set it strongly within the steampunk tradition, and, as I understand from some quick background reading, James Blaylock is one of the most important figures when it comes to steampunk being established as a genre.
Dave-Brendon Burgh
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Let’s get this out of the way first – I’ve never read any of James’ work, so I’ve never read a Langdon St. Ives story, and believe me when I say that you don’t have to have read anything by James prior to reading this book; in fact, you don’t even need an introduction to St Ives! This was very important for me, because I didn’t want to to feel as if I had missed great and important events while reading ‘The Aylesford Skull’, which I did, in essence, but it didn’t FEEL that way.

So, let’s get to
Monica Bond-Lamberty
I liked this read, and paused my day today to read it, but couldn't bring myself to give it more stars. Some of the characters (Narbondo) seem a little caracturist and wasn't particularly drawn to read anymore in these series.
Also troubled by historical fiction that includes some patently ahistorical events and leans more to steampunk without steampunk's fun.
Jul 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Published 2016. Somewhat entertaining with the British stiff upper lip firmly in place. Curious to me was that the character Finn seemed more interesting than St.Ives as a protagonist. The steampunk science involved was good enough. The plot somewhat standard was well paced.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, steampunk
Why don't any of these people have emotions? I know they're British and all, but damn...
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received a free copy of 'The Aylesford Skull' from the publisher through a giveaway on

Although this is actually the seventh novel in the 'Langdon St Ives' series, it is the first of James P Blaylock's novels that I've come across. It is also the first full length Steampunk novel I've read.

Under usual circumstances, I would never consider reading a novel that far into a series when I haven't read all of the previous instalments. However, I was just so intrigued by the premise o
Victor Gentile
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
James P. Blaylock in his new book, “The Aylesford Skull” a new book in Tale of Langdon St. Ives series published by Titan Books gives us the first new steampunk novel in over twenty years from one of the genre’s founding fathers!

From the back cover: It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St. Ives – brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer – is at home in Aylesford with his family. However, a few miles to the north a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt Bay; the crew m
 Reading Reindeer
Reviewing for Hearts on Fire Reviews:

Author: James P. Blaylock
Title: The Aylesford Skull (A Tale of Langston St. Ives)
Reviewed by: Mallory Heart Reviews
Publisher: Titan Books
Genre: Historical/Steampunk
ISBN 13: 97808576818

Review: My first introduction to the work of one of the “Fathers of Steampunk,” James P. Blaylock, instantly made me a converted fan. Mr. Blaylock’s writing is both exceptional and accomplished, polished and exciting, intriguing and well-characterised. “The Aylesford Sku
William Hayek
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Aylesford Skull, James P. Blaylock’s latest entry in the tales of Professor Langdon St. Ives, starts off with a stolen barge of coal and continues with a bang that destroys the Bayswater Club’s greenhouse. Blaylock’s tale slows a little bit from there on, but only to introduce the wickedness of Dr. Ignacio Narbondo once again — whom fans of the St. Ives tales will recognize as the eccentric professor’s great nemesis.

This time though, Narbondo kidnaps Eddie St. Ives from the family farm in Ay
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I had come across the name James P. Blaylock several times in my reading, usually associated with Tim Powers, usually connected to the emergence of Steampunk. I had always meant to get around to checking him out, and now I can say I'm sorry I waited so long.

James P. Blaylock's The Aylesfore Skull, to me, was more of a throwback to pulp's thrilling adventures than the steampunk it claims to be. Gadgetry and airships were a part of that tradtion long before folks at sf conventions started wearing
Chris Branch
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
As usual, Blaylock's command of language is brilliantly clever and reading any of his books is a unique experience. The eccentric cast of characters is another constant positive with his writing, and that's certainly in evidence here.

However, I'm forced to admit that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped. There are a number of possible reasons: it could be that as eccentric as the characters are, they've become less interesting to me as they reappear in subsequent books (or new character
Monique Snyman
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Well, I’m sure you can see I’ve had this book in my possession for a while, but it was intentional not to review it until now. You see, I wanted to read the other books in the series, which were republished by Titan Books, before I delved into reviewing this baby. The reason for that is simple, I’m not a steampunk reader in general and it would have been completely unfair of me to judge the book without some background knowledge. When I first read the book (back in February), I immediately notic ...more
Full Stop
Jun 11, 2014 added it
Shelves: spring-2013

Review by Eleanor Gold

James P. Blaylock has had a long career as a major author of the fantasy subgenre of steampunk — novels written in a style that merges the Victorian adventure novel with historical fantasy and powers it with steam. He has written over thirty books, a number of which fall in a series centered on the adventures of Victorian explorer Langdon St. Ives. In an opening scene of Blaylock’s most recent novel, The Aylesford Skull, St. Ives walk
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Like his buddy Tim Powers with last year's "Hide Me Among the Graves," James P. Blaylock, in "The Aylesford Skull," seems energized by revisiting old haunts.

"The Aylesford Skull" returns to late-19th century England, the third Blaylock novel (there have been short stories and novellas, which I haven't read) to feature Professor Langdon St. Ives and his evil nemesis, the hunchback Dr. Ignacio Narbondo. The result (3.5 stars) is not Blaylock's best work, but better than his last few novels based i
Matthew Baker
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Move over Sherlock’ve got some competition. Professor Langdon St. Ives is going to give you a run for your money. After a short hiatus, author James P. Blaylock brings back the hero of the Royal Society that has infatuated fans for decades. With THE AYLESFORD SKULL, the original father of steampunk gives us an exciting and fast-paced novel that will leave you breathless.

I have never read a Blaylock novel until this one, and I am very impressed. The author is very talented, in both w
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James Paul Blaylock is an American fantasy author. He is noted for his distinctive style. He writes in a humorous way: His characters never walk, they clump along, or when someone complains (in a flying machine) that flight is impossible, the other characters agree and show him why he's right.

He was born in Long Beach, California; studied English at California State University, Fullerton, receivin

Other books in the series

Narbondo (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • The Digging Leviathan (Narbondo, #1)
  • Homunculus (Narbondo, #2)
  • Lord Kelvin's Machine (Narbondo, #3)
  • The Ebb Tide (Narbondo, #4)
  • The Affair of the Chalk Cliffs (Narbondo, #5)
  • Zeuglodon (Narbondo, #6)
  • The Adventure of the Ring of Stones (Narbondo, #8)
  • Beneath London (Narbondo, #9)
  • River's Edge (Narbondo, #10)
  • The Gobblin' Society  (Narbondo, #11)

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