The Explosionist

by Jenny Davidson

I’m having trouble writing a review for this book in my normal style, so I’m going to try something a little different today. It may work. It may not. Guess we will see!

I picked up The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson because of the strong recommendation by Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom (one of my favorite book review sites). I started it on Wednesday night and stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it. The entire book is complicated and detailed, a good thing when done right or a disaster when done wrong. In this case, I think Davidson got it right.

The setting is early to mid-Twentieth century Scotland, but a Scotland set in a world that saw Napoleon win at Waterloo and Aleksander Tolstoy Bell invent the telephone. The book reads like a historical fiction, but the little twists and turns that the alternative reality presented kept things interesting and fun (even if I didn’t catch all of them).

The Explosionist, however, is mostly a mystery. Well, mysteries. There is a lot underfoot, you could say. Sophie – our 15-year-old heroine – has just sat in on a seance where the Spiritualist predicts that she will be crossing an ocean soon. Only a few days later, that Spiritualist is murdered and one of Sophie’s friends is implicated in the plot. Even more frightening, Scotland is being attacked by suicide bombers and terrorist groups that threaten to put the country and its allies to war with Britain, France, Germany and other countries in the Federation of European States. And signs seem to be pointing to Sophie’s favorite teacher as the person setting the bombs. The strands of the mysteries criss-cross and Sophie is the only one who might be able to connect and solve the puzzles.

There is a lot happening and it’s not a book to read idly or without some measure of concentration. The beginning starts off a bit slow, which I feel is expected when the groundwork is being laid in an alt-reality, but it really does start to pick up as you begin to see what is going on and how it all may come together. Sophie is a fun character to follow, if a little slow herself, but she tends to confront things head on and take action, which always makes for a good main character.

The second book, Invisible Things, just recently came out and I’m super glad I didn’t have to wait that long for it to surface. I can’t wait to see how the unsolved mysteries resolve themselves (or don’t) and find out what trouble Sophie can find herself in.

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