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The Map of Unknown Things #3

The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man

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Ladies and gentlemen, for the very final time, Elizabeth and Edwin Barnabus will perform the grand illusion of the Vanishing Man.

Elizabeth Barnabus is a mutineer and a murderer. So they say. The noose awaits in Liverpool as punishment for her crimes. But they'll have to catch her first.

Disguised as a labourer, Elizabeth flees west across America, following a rumour of her long-lost family. Crossing the border into the wilds of the Oregon Territory, she discovers a mustering army, a king who believes he is destined to conquer the world, and a weapon so powerful that it could bring the age of reason crashing down.

In a land where politics and prophecy are one and the same, the fate of the Gas-Lit Empire may come to rest on the perfect execution of a conjuring trick...

382 pages, Paperback

First published January 14, 2020

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About the author

Rod Duncan

13 books215 followers
Rod Duncan worked in scientific research and computing before settling in Leicester to be a writer. His first novel, Backlash, was short-listed for the John Creasey Memorial Award (now the CWA Debut Dagger).

After four crime novels he switched to fantasy. The Bullet Catcher's Daughter was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. He is currently writing a series of alternate history books, called ‘The Map of Unknown Things'.

Rod is also a screenwriter, and was once eaten alive in the feature film Zombie Undead.

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Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
Profile Image for Daniel.
2,340 reviews35 followers
November 17, 2019
This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 5.0 of 5

***WARNING -- POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK***

Oh, wow. Rod Duncan wraps up the Elizabeth Barnabus series with a tale that is wild, tight, beautiful, and heart-wrenching in so many different ways.

Elizabeth Barnabus, who, despite being an enemy of the Gas-Light Empire, is a strong supporter of the peace and stability that the Empire brings. Although she's given up all the information she can to the authorities in the Patent Office no one seems to take her seriously. She has seen first-hand what could happen if the Empire isn't prepared and so she does what she has always done ... take things into her own hands.

Escaping the Empire she heads into the wild lands of Oregon where a king is preparing for war. And this king has a number of aides on his side. He has a powerful new weapon that can kill many enemies in just one squeeze of the trigger. And, among his many confidants, he has a magician - Edwin, the son of the previous magician who was killed when her prophecy turned out not to be true. Edwin knows his time is short, especially since the king has another aide who will stop at nothing to get Edwin discredited and killed.

Edwin has one more trick that even he didn't realize for the longest time. Elizabeth is Edwin's twin sister. Raised in a circus family performing magic tricks, and with Elizabeth having spent much of her life pretending to be her brother Edwin, the two might be able to perform, for one last time, the Vanishing Man trick and stop a war and save their own lives as well.

Raised by a different parent and in a different land, Elizabeth and Edwin don't exactly see eye to eye.

This story is just ... wow.

Although we've heard mention of Edwin throughout the series as Elizabeth (when she's dressed as a man she refers to herself as her brother Edwin), I didn't expect to actually encounter this sibling. And pulling in the magic that she and Edwin were raised on - the kind of magic that started this series - is some kind of brilliance.

Before I started this I had read or heard somewhere that this was the last book in the series. I don't know if that's true or not, and because I've been enjoying this so much I was definitely hoping that this would continue on. But about three quarters of the way through the book, I could see the end coming. And I was completely content.

Something about the way that Duncan pulled the pieces together had me feeling good about this series and the idea that we weren't likely to get another Elizabeth Barnabus story. It was just feeling ... right.

There are so many layers to this book that I'm sure that when I read this again I'll discover even more. The surface story - that story which is described as a blurb on book selling websites - is only the action that gets us from point A to point B. But the story of family is just tremendous. Though an absent figure in Elizabeth's life, her mother and her mother's leaving have been a source of frustration for some time. And though we get to meet the mother (albeit briefly - and Elizabeth doesn't), there is so much for Elizabeth to come to terms with.

And alongside this learning about family, she also has to face her thoughts on politics and governance. There is a system which hasn't treated her well over the years. A system she herself tried to disrupt. But she finds herself defending this system when confronted with something very different and very aggressive.

One of the most interesting characters here ... and someone I suspect we may see again in another book (either a Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series or the Map of Unknown Things series [or a combination of them]) - is the strange woman being held prisoner by the king simply for refusing to recant her declaration that there is no such thing as magic. Elizabeth becomes obsessed with her strength and integrity for refusing to even just say the words without meaning it in order to gain her freedom. Elizabeth will see to her escape - thereby freeing herself (metaphorically) as well.

This is easily one of the best series I've read (with only Roger Zelazny's Amber series being in the same grade) and this book just made me feel good. I don't know that I've ever had such a feeling of peace at the end of a book ... but it took a lot to get us there!

Looking for a good book? The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man by Rod Duncan is a tremendously superb book that (perhaps) closes the cycle of Elizabeth Barnabus stories. Please read the entire series!

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through the publicist, in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Online Eccentric Librarian.
2,834 reviews5 followers
October 21, 2019
More reviews at the Online Eccentric Librarian http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

As soon as I received this, I dropped every other book I was reading and then binge-read through the entire night to finish. This has been one of my favorite series and although I am sad that it is definitely ending the second trilogy and is perhaps the last in the Elizabeth Barnabus books, it was a deeply satisfying and engrossing read. I have to applaud author Duncan in that each of the 6 books was very different and very distinct.

Story: Elizabeth has learned that her brother is alive in Oregon - but she is trapped on the East Coast in the hands of the Patent Office. They want information from her about New Foundland and she wants safety for Julia and Tinker. She must escape them to travel to Oregon but at the same time guarantee that Julia and Tinker aren't implicated in her 'crimes.' Meanwhile, Edwin Barnabus is the first counselor and court magician to the king of Crown's Point on the Oregon coast. His position is precarious - it even cost the life of his mother, who held the job before him. As New Foundland and Oregon look to make an alliance that could topple the Gas-Lit Empire, Elizabeth and Edwin will play key roles in the coming future of North America.

The book is about Elizabeth and Edwin, told in their two POVs. Fortunately, we don't wait the whole book for them to meet. A lot of the book is about the twins struggling to remember their lives together (they've been separated since they were 7) and the differing stories and philosophies of their parents. As well, Edwin has a rival who seeks his downfall and Elizabeth has the patent office ready to spring on her as soon as she surfaces. As with previous volumes, there are the conflicts of those in power and the authority they hold over Elizabeth's (and Edwin's) head. The counterpoint in this third book is that the Oregon Kingdom is very similar to a medieval one - just with the invention of the gatlin gun. This juxtaposes the hard living warrior-society of New Foundland in book 2 and the free-living pirates of the Sargasso sea.

As with every other book, our protagonists survive by their wits and what luck they can find. Elizabeth's journey to Oregon is not without incident and Edwin's political machinations are equally daunting. As with all the books, there is a pervasive air of desperation that is not lightened by levity. A failure at any junction is death for both Elizabeth and Edwin; but they are trapped in the struggle all the same. But that is the genius in the storytelling here: we have a heroine who is all show and little tell; such a contrast to most fiction today and a character whose exploits we want to follow as she succeeds and fails based on her intelligence.

Much of the story comes full circle at the end and ties up well for an excellent ending. All the same, there is some room for more tales with a new start for Elizabeth - only time will tell if author Duncan chooses to continue her story. But I have enjoyed the well-thought out plot in every novel and greatly appreciated the scope of the world building in this alternate universe historical fiction. Oh, and I'd love to read more of Gilad! Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Annie.
3,278 reviews60 followers
January 13, 2020
Originally published on my blog: Nonstop Reader.

The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man is an alternate history epic and the third book in the Map of Unknown Things series by Rod Duncan. Due out 14th Jan 2020 from Angry Robot, it's 400 pages and will be available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats.

This was a compelling read and a beautifully well engineered and plotted denouement to a really enjoyable series. It is ostensibly an alternate timeline fantasy but there are so many more themes explored here: the notion of family, loyalty, personal freedom at what price, and always against a backdrop of war and espionage. The prose is evocative and immersive. There were several times while reading that I looked up to find that I had been completely unaware of the passing of time and an hour had slid by unawares.

It had been a while since I read the other books in this series and I didn't have any trouble following the plot. I suspect it would work fine as a standalone (but I strongly recommend the author's other works, so read them all).

I like the intelligence and fearlessness of the twin protagonists. This is quite a personal story, set against a background of politics and war.

Definitely one of my best reads this year. Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
Profile Image for Melissa Polk.
Author 6 books39 followers
February 28, 2020
Oh man, this was such a satisfying book! I'll be hiding this review in case of spoilers but.. throughout both trilogies I was never certain that Edwin really existed outside of Elizabeth. Was it her imagination? A child's way of reconciling the masculine and feminine inside of her coupled with the vanishing acts performed in the traveling show? I was probably five chapters in when I decided that it wasn't a present-future (or past-present, even) chapter swapping but rather two separate and distinct people. AND HOLY COW! That changed everything. This book was so emotionally charged and heart wrenching for me. I spent so much time worried about the outcome and the future of these fictional characters that it literally destroyed my ability to sleep at night. And then that ending! Seeing Elizabeth (and Farthing) come to accept herself for who she really is - it was just so beautiful!

A satisfying ending. And yet, I would happily read a dozen more books set in this world. I want more. I want it all.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Will.
371 reviews13 followers
February 11, 2020
4.8 / 5 ✪

https://arefugefromlife.wordpress.com...

I was kindly furnished with a copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Angry Robot for the ARC! All opinions are my own.

While I was divided on my intro to Elizabeth Barnabus in Queen of All Crows—the next book in the Map of Unknown Things completely blew me away. The description, the setting, the world-building, the tension all sold me on continuing the series. While the characters changed, two things remained constant—Elizabeth, and her devotion to the Gas-Lit Empire. In fact, while we have seen some detractors over the past two books, none have really taken center stage like they do in The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man.

The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man (FatVM) follows directly on the heels of The Outlaw and the Upstart King (OatUK), picking up after Elizabeth and her friends escape Newfoundland to the (relative) safety of the mainland. There, they are immediately confronted by the Patent Office who are very interested about their time upon the difficult-to-reach island. And while Elizabeth isn’t interested in talking, the Patent Office holds all the cards to ensure that she eventually will.

But when Julia and Tinker break free from their hold, Elizabeth herself is left out in the cold. And even Patent Agent and her lover John Farthing can’t help her this time. Elizabeth is left with just two options: to flee the Gas-Lit Empire and set her old life behind, or to find something they want even more than her. Then she realizes that these two choices may yet become one. With just her mysterious pistol and a stolen wallet for company, Elizabeth heads west.

Enter Edwin Barnabus, Elizabeth’s long lost brother.

While the Patent Office is keeping the Gas-Lit Empire mired firmly in the past, those outside it are pushing innovation. None as much as in Oregon, where a kingdom built on both new innovation and old magic waits. The same kingdom that had its hands in Newfoundland’s advancement. The same kingdom where Elias manufactured his deadly explosive. And the very kingdom Elizabeth approaches, seeking her brother.

Years prior, Edwin and his mother fled the confines of the Gas-Lit Empire, leaving behind Elizabeth and her father for reasons unknown. Now, Edwin serves as the court magician to the King of the Oregon Territory, seeking to destroy the very empire that he once called his home. And with their weapons and innovation, war is not just a possibility. More like a certainty. But how and when is still up in the air. And when his sister comes knocking, how will her views affect Edwin’s own? Or will the ties that once held them together fray under the differences of their beliefs, leading not only the siblings—but the world itself—to war?

⚙ ⚙

I want to begin at the close. No spoilers, though. While Rod Duncan has stated that this is the final Elizabeth Barnabus novel, the ending itself isn’t cut and dry. It’s definitely open-ended. And there’s certainly room for a sequel. While the ending of the Fugitive and the Vanishing Man wasn’t the ending I was expecting going into the book, it IS an ending, finishing the tale of Elizabeth and her friends. At least, there’s resolution. For them, if not the world. And while Elizabeth may (or may not) return in the future, I was more than satisfied with the conclusion of FatVM. And yet, as I expected the FatVM to conclude the war that had been brewing since Book 1 of the Map of Unknown Things, the ending disappointed me.

And that both begins and ends my issues with this book. Heading into the 90% mark, in my opinion FatVM was solidly a 5 star read. And though it may have faltered somewhat in the end, FatVM is still an amazing read—and one that cannot be missed.

Where Queen of All Crows begins the series with a stumble, the Fugitive and the Vanishing Man ends it with a flourish. In my opinion, the second book is where nearly everything came together: the world-building, the detail, the story. QoAC was a bit of a mixed bag—a faltering story, an uneven pace, a shaky lead. OatUK improved across the board, with only its character development lacking success. And that’s because only Elizabeth really returned, and there was a major disconnect between the events of Books #1 and 2. The same thing can’t be said of the break between #2 and 3. Mostly, because there really isn’t any break. Only a short time separates the events in Newfoundland from those in America, and nothing important is skipped over in the interim. Thus, the character that is Elizabeth continues to develop—her story continuing to unfold even while Edwin’s own fills in around it.

The interaction between the two siblings is fascinating. I was really wondering how they’d get on when they met, as Edwin’s views are night and day from Elizabeth’s own. They share blood, but little else. While I can’t go into any detail without spoilers, just take my word that their interactions alone make the entire story worth reading. Will it be a fight to the end, or a hug-of-war? Read it to find out!

Again, I haven’t read the original trilogy—the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire—but I’ve heard that the entire thing takes place with England. Meanwhile, every book in The Map of Unknown Things takes us somewhere new, beyond the borders of the Empire. First it was the Atlantic Ocean, next Newfoundland. FatVM finds us across the continent in Oregon. It’s a very well constructed adventure when told from multiple POVs, as the last two books prove. Where the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire showed us what life was like within, the Map of Unknown Things shows us life without—all setting up what I have to imagine will be an epic conclusion (if Duncan chooses to write it). Otherwise, it’s left to the imagination to fill in the gaps.

Neither the story nor world-building faltered at all from its high in Book 2. While we’ve moved location, the attention to detail did not wane in between, casting Oregon in an interesting and unique light. Though not much time is spent in the forest, the mountains and weather of the Pacific Northwest play a major role in setting the mood. And progressing the story. And while I didn’t feel transported to the Pacific NW in the same way I did to Newfoundland, I found that it didn’t bother me. The castle—where a good portion of the story takes place—is full of intrigue and is story-rich, making the time outside feel like exciting side-trips rather than breaks from a stifling prison. While not relevant to the story itself, the area surrounding the Kingdom of Oregon is a fascinating place—and one that I would’ve liked to see more of. Perhaps… in the future?

If I haven’t raved enough about how much I loved this book til now—don’t be fooled. I absolutely adored it, despite its few faults. Up to 90% mark, it was looking like a solid 5-star read. And while it let my expectations down in the final pages, the Fugitive and the Vanishing Man is a triumph, ending Elizabeth’s story in style—albeit in a manner that also leaves the door very much open for more. An intensely satisfying conclusion that satisfies while somehow leaving the reader wanting for more. But more of the world itself, not of the text.

TL;DR

The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man finishes Elizabeth Barnabus’s journey with a flourish—her greatest adventure yet, both involving her brother and a war not yet fought. But be forewarned: while this DOES end Elizabeth’s own story, it DOES NOT tie up all the loose ends of the world itself. If you went into this expecting war, prepare to be disappointed. If you went into this expecting an amazing story that tugged at the heart-strings, prepare to feel vindicated. And if you went into this with no illusions whatsoever, prepare to be surprised. While it does falter slightly at the end, the Fugitive and the Vanishing Man is an amazing read throughout, building upon the Outlaw and the Upstart King’s improved story, world-building and character development, while somehow adding its own unique flair. If you haven’t yet begun Elizabeth’s story, maybe start at the beginning. If you’re up to date and waiting to see if Duncan laid an egg here—don’t worry, he didn’t.
Profile Image for Sara Codair.
Author 30 books56 followers
January 1, 2020
I read an early version of this. It was the best one in both of the the trilogies aside from The Bullet Catcher's Daughter.
Profile Image for Jess (Iorelyn).
74 reviews7 followers
January 19, 2020
I'm not quite used to the final book in a series being one of the best, but here we are. The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man became one of my top favorites nearly immediately. Maybe it was for the political and magical intrigue (Spies, kings, magicians, and such? Yes please.) Or perhaps for Elizabeth and Edwin's actual POVs and immediate danger from chapter 1. Whatever the case, I was glued to the book.

But I think what caught my attention the most, was one quote in Edwin's POV.

"Not he and yet not she. Something neither pronoun managed to convey. But something entirely real. They."

This quote alone had my immediately glued to Edwin's perspective. After all, he was like his sister in so many ways, dressing against society's norms being just one of them. Throughout the series I've been drawn mostly to Elizabeth's actions both as a male percieved character, and a feminine one. Yet seeing her brother dealing with his own musings on identity piqued my interest.

There was a scene were he shows Elizabeth how he would prefer to dress. An outfit that shows both masculine features of style, but also feminine, and in that moment I could literally feel Elizabeth's mind working. Especially considering I've been through that same process of thought when I finally accepted my own Gender Fluidity. (Part of the Reason I picked up the first book in this entire saga was my own exploration of dressing outside my perceived gender). The last scenes, with Farthing and Elizabeth, had tears coming to my eyes. Not because Elizabeth found her identity and how she wished to be, but because I've had the same very conversation with myself. And honestly.. this is the first reason this book hit such a cord with me.

There was an article Mr Duncan wrote about the Big Idea and Elizabeth's Identity, and since reading it, this series became so much closer to my heart than I ever thought it could be.

"She will never be the woman that society demands. Nor can she properly fulfill its ideal of the masculine role. But perhaps she will at last find a way to understand herself."
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Monique.
207 reviews
March 10, 2021
Elizabeth Barnabus still believes in the Gas-Light Empire, even after being labelled as an Mutineer. Elizabeth is slatted for a Mutineers execution (hanging) unless she can get something ground breaking for the Patent Office. So Elizabeth escape and flees into the Oregon wildness to find her brother, Edwin, and secure her freedom.

This novel was great as the reader gets to witness the clashing of two ideals and kingdoms: Oregon and the Gas-Lit. Each kingdom has good and bad elements with neither one being truly good or bad. It was interesting to read the arguments both Elizabeth and Edwin use to support their kingdom and why it is a better ideology for the world at large.

Elizabeth and Edwin are amazingly well-written characters. The two siblings don't meet until later in the book so there isn't a lot of interaction between the two. And when they do talk together it's usually them trying to remember their childhood together or about old magic tricks. I really wish I could have seen them joking or laughing with each other. The scene where the were almost caught by Janus was perfect as they worked together well while also improvising.

The conclusion between Elizabeth and John was so sweet that I almost cried, I'm glad they got their HEA.

My one minor complaint with this novel, and hence why I removed one star, was that I found the middle dragged a bit. There was just too much magic and politics and not enough action.

Overall, this was a great steampunk sci-fi novel that I strongly recommend.

Thanks to Angry Robot Publishing and Netgalley.
Profile Image for The Speculative Shelf.
234 reviews34 followers
November 27, 2019
Elizabeth Barnabus, our intrepid adventurer, having made it to the Free States of America, is pursued, caught, and eventually escapes the custody of Gas-Lit Empire agents. She flees to a kingdom in Oregon, where a power-hungry monarch has plans for eastward conquest. Only a grand illusion and an assist from a long-lost ally can save her skin and keep the world from falling into ruin.

This is the sixth and final(?) adventure for Elizabeth and these books have been really enjoyable. This specific trilogy has improved with each subsequent installment, with each book exploring a new frontier and story type. Book 1 was a seafaring tale, Book 2 a revenge story, and Book 3 now deals with court intrigue and politics. While I’m less interested in the world-altering events that Elizabeth continues to be mixed up with, her personal journey is the hook that keeps me coming back for more. The smaller moments of this book that deal with Elizabeth finding her identity, her family, and her real place in the world are exceedingly well done.

In all, this is a satisfying conclusion to a six-book, two-trilogy saga that has been supremely entertaining and well-told by an author with a wonderful flair for storytelling.

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

See this review and others at The Speculative Shelf.
Profile Image for Tricia.
274 reviews
May 9, 2020
Audio. I had to brace myself to listen to this as I had been so disappointed by the narrator of the previous book - not a patch on Gemma Whelan. It was marginally better this time - marginally being the operative word in the sentence which is just as well as I would not have wanted to miss the culmination of Elizabeth Barnabus' adventures.

Again beautifully written and well paced with some fabulous new characters - some expected, some not so much. Whilst the redoubtable Elizabeth was the centre of the story it was far more widely focussed than previous tales, with other characters taking just as large a part. The intrigue, both political and personal kept you on your toes throughout as it genuinely could have gone either way. When everything turns out 'just so' or is telegraphed a million pages ahead I get 'slightly' miffed - thankfully that did not occur and Mr Duncan kept me well entertained.

Many threads were neatly pulled together with the appearance of little effort - I suspect that was not the case and congratulations are in order for the deft tangling and untangling of those threads in an absorbing, entertaining and entirely believable manner.

I will miss the escapades of Elizabeth Barnabus
Profile Image for Annarella.
10.1k reviews94 followers
January 23, 2020
It's a bit bizarre starting a series with the 3rd instalment but I fell in love with the cover and couldn't resist.
I can say I'm happy I requested this ARC because I discovered an amazing series and found this book engrossing and enjoyable.
This instalment is character driven, there's a lot going on with lost relation and the need the meet again.
The world building is amazing and complex, the plot is well crafted and the character are interesting and well crafted.
I hope this won't be the last instalment because I want to read more about these great characters and this amazing world.
It was an excellent read, strongly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Profile Image for Bmeyer.
349 reviews2 followers
February 26, 2020
What a great cap to this series! While I have enjoyed it from the first book onward, I was delighted to find how well Duncan wrapped up these books. Also I thought he approached his non-binary character very well. Initially I was concerned I would become confused with the use of "they" instead of "he/she" simply because of my own lack of familiarity with the new-ish grammatical usage but in fact I found it very uncomplicated. I'm glad that character was included if only to further widen my own knowledge base.
Looking forward to his next series!
Profile Image for MichaelK.
223 reviews11 followers
March 3, 2020
I loved this series so much, and am very sad it has come to an end (only temporarily, I hope). I stayed up far too late last night finishing it, despite my very early start this morning, so my mind is in no state to write a detailed review. Take this as a glowing recommendation.
309 reviews7 followers
October 22, 2019
I am a newbie to this author and was pleasantly surprised by this book, it’s not my usual fare but it kept me engaged and interested
96 reviews3 followers
March 21, 2020
This is the sixth (and perhaps final?) book in Rod Duncan’s Elizabeth Barnabus series, including the three Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire books which I absolutely loved and the reason why I slogged through the second trilogy, Map of Unknown Things, which I did not like very much but was hoping for better books coming (Queen of All Crows), or absolutely hated (The Outlaw and the Upstart King and this book).

I hated the book before this one (Outlaw and Upstart King), specifically because it did not give Elizabeth Barnabus much of a plot at all, fridged all of her friends from earlier books, and didn’t capture the same magical spark that the first three books did. But, I guess I am a glutton for punishment because I decided to keep reading. (But I did not keep buying these books, I’ve bought the previous 5 books, but I decided to let my library see if they wanted to buy this one on Overdrive, and they did).

Why did I hate this book so much?

Mostly for the same reason I hated the previous book. Instead of moving Elizabeth Barnabus’s plot forward in any meaningful way, her friends are once again fridged and left out entirely for most of the book, only to make an appearance at the beginning (and maybe at the end, who knows? I’m not spoiling the plot). The first part of the book moved back and forth between Elizabeth’s plot, and her brother Edwin, who is a very late addition to this series.

In the first three books, we hear a lot about Elizabeth’s life in the traveling circus and growing up. We hear about her dressing up as a brother Edwin, but at no point did it seem like Edwin was an actual flesh and blood person that existed, or that Elizabeth’s mother left with her twin brother. But whatever, I read the last book, I knew this was coming.

Once again, Elizabeth’s plot is far from the focus of the book and we are immersed into the Kingdom of Oregon (or whatever it is called) and some very in-depth political machinations for the Oregon Kingdom somehow trying to overthrow the Gas-Lit Empire and how Edwin is scheming to- I’m not really sure- wait for the Newfoundland Kingdom’s representatives to show up to make an alliance where his nemesis is trying to convince the king to go to war right away. But really, Edwin and this other guy Janus hate eachother and want the other one to look foolish or be killed off.

How did we get here? Why do I care about any of this? And what the heck is going on with Elizabeth Barnabus? She has been captured by the Gas-Lit Empire, and is trying valiantly to get out of their custody and protect her friends and get to her brother she didn’t know existed…

What really got to me was, in the first 5 books it seemed like Elizabeth HATED the Gas-Lit Empire for keeping her repressed, for keeping technology repressed, for keeping her away from John Farthing, for almost getting Julia and Tinker killed, for wanting to kill her, the list goes on and on. Did I just misread Elizabeth for the last five books? I can’t imagine why the author suddenly decided to have Elizabeth defend the Gas-Lit Empire and their practices in this book, especially when she is still on the run from them and they are trying to kill her. It makes no sense. After five books of being anti- Gas-Lit Empire, we are now supposed to believe that Elizabeth supports and has always supported the Gas-Lit Empire? I feel gas-lighted just reading this book.

From OED, the definition of gas-light: To manipulate (a person) by psychological means into questioning his or her own sanity.

It is so odd.

Also, once again our previous main protagonist is sidelined with a plot that does not involve her very much at all (she spends most of this book hiding out in “the room of cabinets”, and Elizabeth comes across as a secondary character to Edwin Barnabus’s plot. Yes, it is her brother. Yes, learning some of his background is interesting. But, I’m so confused. Did the author just give up on moving Elizabeth’s plot forward after book four? Were there no interesting plot lines involving any of the characters that were in the first three books? How is this the Elizabeth Barnabus series, when the majority of this book is told from Edwin’s point of view, and the last book was mostly from Elias’s point of view? And what happened to Elias from the last book? Why did we focus so much on his plot and then now no mention at all now?

Once again some of my favorite characters (Julia, Tinker, John Farthing) are completely absent from the majority of the plot, and Elizabeth barely thinks about them. It is so frustrating.

All of these decisions seem very odd to me. The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire was such a good series and I had such high hopes for this book, but once again I hated this book because the plot was not nearly as compelling as those first few books. It feels like the author ran out of interesting things for Elizabeth to do and instead decided just to keep introducing new male characters to do interesting things around Elizabeth instead. The only other interesting female character in the series Julia is just sidelined for the entire book (and was in the previous book as well). This is a stark departure from the first four books, with women kicking butt and even a floating island full of women warriors. What the heck happened?

I wanted to just gloss over the fact that Edwin cross-dresses, just like Elizabeth, but when Elizabeth does it she does it to move around in a world that represses women and doesn’t allow women to navigate the world in the same way as men, and I don’t think she ever identifies herself as a man or masculine. Edwin does it because… I’m still not sure. I understand it the author was trying to make the siblings mirror images of eachother, down to political affiliations, etc. I know gender-identity is a very complex topic, I respect whatever a person’s decision is for his or her own gender. I just don’t understand Edwin’s reasoning (or Elizabeth’s, eventually) for the cross dresssing, and since this book is told from his point of view, I’d like to have had a better grasp of what was going on inside his head there. I mean, does he just like dressing as a woman, does he feel like he is a woman, is he confused about his gender or doesn’t want to identify as either gender? As it is, I was very confused.

Will I continue to read Rod Duncan books? I don’t know. There are so many good books out there and I need to realize sometimes an author just isn’t for me. But, I absolutely loved the Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, it was such a good book, and I loved the characters and world building in those first three books.
Profile Image for Pers.
1,404 reviews
October 30, 2019
This is an intriguing end to this series. Unlike all the previous books this one features very little action - it is very focused on the protagonist, Elizabeth Barnabus, and reveals a great deal of her back story that's previously only been hinted at.
135 reviews
March 13, 2021
Spoilers...Abandon all hope, ye who enters here...!


4.5 🌟 hmmm where to start. Overall I really enjoyed the last Elizabeth Barnabus adventure. I had a feeling we would finally meet Edwin and again I wasn’t at all surprised that he also disguised himself but I was at the fact he didn’t do it convincingly. By this I mean he wasn’t trying to ‘pass’ as a female but choose to dress as one but still be seen as ‘Edwin’. So I guess it wasn’t a total surprise then to find out they are twins. How they were separated is still a bit of a mystery, each wanting to blame the other parent but they come to a truce and it’s not quite answered. The fact that Julia and Tinker were left behind so early was disappointing but sometimes the heroine or hero?? just needs to move on with the story.

As I say I enjoyed the book but I’m left with a feeling I’ve missed something...

It’s been good to have a strong female character battling within the constraints of the Gas-Lit Empire and the Patent Office and outmanoeuvring them with her disguise. Genius esp as men aren’t looked at in the same way females are.
When she goes out beyond the Gas-Lit Empire I was a bit disappointed as I loved what Duncan had created, the atmospheric settings, the stealing of inventions and the history of why etc but sometimes we need to move and change for the story to go forward. So overseas we went and I went with it. Each book in the last trilogy is a story on its own. But this last one finished a bit too quickly tying everything up but leaving me with questions, ‘ok what was this all about?’

The very last chapter has taken a leap into the unknown and I guess that’s similar to the future of Newfoundland & Oregon and the Gas-Lit Empire, will it all fall or not...but now we have the added question of Elizabeth’s true gender...? Am I wrong in that assumption? To be honest I don’t care as a reader as I loved her character or is she a he or a they or? But does the author want me to care? I really don’t as in the end Elizabeth ( can I call her that still as we didn’t get her new name?) loves John and he loves her/him. Edwin dressed as female with his eyes in Kohl and red lips so is it Edwin or still Elizabeth but she just liked her brothers ‘look’. As I say it was confusing to have this added to the end but maybe I’ve missed the whole point, I don’t know. I guess this has taken a bit out of the joy of it all for me...was it all just a trick? Faint of hand, a flick of light? Grrrrrr anyhoo if anyone asks I’ll highly recommend as Duncan has something here in these books but maybe I just took it all too literary and there’s a deeper meaning that I just didn’t get or find. If there is, the error is mine...I do read 2-3 books at the same time and one is usually a political beast or history. I loved the stories...if there a deeper meaning that we should all love one another regardless of labels, I get it, but I don’t think this was what made the series nor what captured me. His story telling did that and so he’s a brilliant writer in my mind regardless if I missed something and if I haven’t and have pondered on the last chapter a tad too long...again my error, I was just a little con-fuddled. Enjoy!!!!
Ps and who was Mary Brackenstow??? I had a thought maybe her mother but no...is there a final story here somewhere as the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire hasn’t really begun...has it?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jacey.
Author 26 books96 followers
November 9, 2019
Elizabeth Barnabus, also sometimes known as Edwin in her manly disguise is wanted for capital crimes back in England. Leaving her lover, an agentn of the dreaded Patent Office, far behind, She searches acvross America into the wilds of the Oregon Territory in search of the brother, the real Edwin, she barely remembers. Politics and prophesy mesh as Elizabeth finds Edwin embroiled in court intreague with a king who believes he's destined to conquer the world – and he has the weapons to do it. The fate of the Gas Lit empire, and Elizabeth and Edwin, could hand on one daring conjuring trick. This looks like the end of the two Elizabeth Barnabus trilogies. I recommend you start with the Bullet Catcher's Daughter
Profile Image for Louise.
375 reviews115 followers
February 4, 2020
3 Stars

The more this series moves away from the steampunk crossdressing adventures and supporting cast (more Julia and John Farthing always needed), the more underwhelmed I feel.

Much like the previous entry in this series, I am not invested enough in the second protagonist in this book to care very much about their plot. Which is a bit of a problem as they are basically the primary protagonist while Elizabeth does very little in this instalment.

Still fun though. And a quick read once I broke my readers-block.
Profile Image for Pers.
1,404 reviews
November 1, 2019
This is an intriguing end to this series. Unlike all the previous books this one features very little action - it is very focused on the protagonist, Elizabeth Barnabus, and reveals a great deal of her back story that's previously only been hinted at.
Profile Image for Star Bookworm.
340 reviews2 followers
November 22, 2019
An entire review can be found at In Pursuit of My Own Library

The series is finally over. "Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire" occurred in an England torn in two with recurring characters and a unity of purpose. They flowed from one to the other even if I liked one book over another.

That cohesion and unity of world didn't turn up in the second trilogy of Elizabeth Barnabus. In fact, she is the only string tying the three books together. And she wasn't a very good string, unfortunately. Her charm seemed to dwindle the longer things went on.

I truly loved the start of Elizabeth Barnabus's journey with its gypsies and daring. The clear tensions gave the story direction and kept the pages turning. Once she left the continent, it became all politics--very preachy politics. It just felt so forced that we had to read pages and pages of social justice.

Since I always need to point out something positive, my favorite scene of the entire "Map of Unknown Things" is the Vanishing Man. It brought back all that glorious mayhem and magic from "Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire." So at least the book ended on a happy note for me.
27 reviews
October 28, 2022
Enjoyed this conclusion to the Map of Unknown things.

Even though I really enjoyed the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire trilogy, I was a bit underwhelmed with the first two instalments of this follow up set. In particular, throughout Gas-Lit Empire, I really liked that Elizabeth was a clever, independent character whose quick-thinking and courage saw her through any tricky situation. I felt that this was a bit lacking in books 1 and 2 of Unknown Things. It seemed that luck more than anything else is what kept her alive. I kept expecting her to play a trump card, or contort her way out of trouble with illusion and fast-talking. Disappointingly, she didn't. Instead it felt like Elizabeth was just there, while the plot moved around her. Some of her original spark seemed to re-emerge in this final book, and it made for a much more enjoyable experience. The world and the new characters were also engaging, and it was interesting to have some new POV characters.

SPOILER ALERT** The one disappointment I will admit to is that I've been waiting 6 books for the bullet catch. I was fully expecting the series to conclude with this illusion we've been taunted with for the entire series. But in the end THERE WAS NO BULLET CATCH! WHERE WAS THE BULLET CATCH???
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rhonda.
164 reviews1 follower
January 15, 2023
It is part of a series, but I read it anyway. V interesting, and I just have to wonder about how it can be thrilling to read about places one lives...enjoyable...and the ending is not an ending.
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