Reviewed by David Brzeski
Steampunk is huge right now, and these books have the added advantage of being Steampunk/Urban Fantasy crossovers. While they are set in a steampunk Victorian England, Cyrus Darian is an occult practitioner and his companion is a demon lord.
In the first book, various factions are looking for the Technomicon, a magical/technological tome of huge power, power too great for any man to hold. Several of these factions think Darian has it. Others want Darian to get it for them. Darian actually knows nothing about it, but soon decides it would be safer in his hands than anywhere else.
What follows is an amazingly complex story, in which these assorted groups of neâ€™er do wells try to put one over the others, or indeed kill them, in their race to own the dreaded book.
Raven Dane has an unrivalled talent for weaving multiple groups with individual agendas into a coherent plot.
Darian himself holds no delusions of altruism regarding his own character. Heâ€™s out for number one. Thankfully, what turns out to be best for Cyrus Darian is also best for the World.
In â€˜Cyrus Darian and the Ghastly Hordeâ€™, Darian returns home to discover that the destruction of the Technomicon was achieved just a bit too late and he has a few thousand restless spirits bound to him in eternal servitude. The spell wasnâ€™t completed, so he has no clue how to control them, or even make them go away. The British Government are not best impressed and soon decide that the simplest solution would be the permanent removal of the focus of these spiritsâ€™ attention, ie: Darian. Again, there are numerous factions at work, including a government agent who sees the military potential of the restless spirits.
It gets complicated….
Darian and his friends flee to France, where they team up with the daughter of a well-known sub-mariner on a mission to Russia to retrieve a vital piece of magical equpiment.
Iâ€™ll write no more on the plot. Read them for yourselves.
Cyrus Darian is a fascinating character. In the first book, heâ€™s very much the reluctant anti-hero, thrust into situations where he, through no fault of his own, finds himself working for the greater good of mankind. We like him. Heâ€™s cool and he has a Lord of Hell who dotes on him and a friend with the coolest airship and a dragoncat!… I want a dragoncat!
At some point during the second book in the series, I found myself going off him a bit. I liked some of the supporting cast much more than I liked Cyrus Darian. I realised that Raven Dane had written him so well that I was feeling the same misgivings about Darian as his friends.
The only thing stopping Cyrus Darian from being a true hero is himself. The idea that he might possibly be a good person and a trustworthy friend, who cares about anyone other than himself terrifies him. It’s so obvious in the effort he makes to sabotage his relationships with his companions. When one finds oneself attempting to psychoanalise a fictional character in a book in this way, the author must be doing something right.
There is a lot more to be discovered about Cyrus Darian and his motivations. I canâ€™t wait!