Finished April 14
A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz
This is the first steampunk novel I think I've read, but it is historical fiction and has a paranormal romance in it as well. The year is 1903, and air traffic consists mostly of helium dirigibles. Elle Chance is likely the only female pilot of one, and she takes what charter work she can to get enough money to keep her ship, Water Lily, in good condition. So when Patrice, someone she has done work for before, asks her to come to Paris to transport something back to England, she agrees readily.
But when the item he entrusts to her is stolen and she is nearly kidnapped, and she discovers the real nature of what she is transporting, she realizes the danger she is now in. Back in England, more things have gone wrong and her father is now endangered as well. The influential Viscount Greychester has taken a strong interest in her safety, but what is his real purpose?
For the world that Elle lives in is divided into Light and Shadow. On the Shadow side are the Nightwalkers (vampires) with their partners the Alchemists trying to increase the influence of Shadow. On the Light side are other creatures including Warlocks like Marsh trying to keep the world in balance.
One of the controlling factors is an influential female known as The Oracle, and Elle's mother played this role until her death when Elle was a child. There are many on both sides who believe Elle is destined to take her mother's place, but what levels will they stoop to to make her fulfill such a role?
This is a book with a lot going on. One is the struggle between Light and Shadow, which is not a pure fight between good evil, but more complex. Another is the ambitious and adventurous Elle, with her strong family feelings and naivety in love. And then there is Marsh, who is the youngest on the Council of Warlocks, but also imbued with a strong sense of right and wrong, and an increasingly strong regard for Elle.
A good story, that is obviously the first in a series. Interesting characters with some complexity. Very enjoyable read.