“The Daemoniac” is a venture into a new genre by epic fantasy author Kat Ross. It is, as it says in the subtitle, a Gaslamp Gothic story, meaning set in the late Victorian era. 1888, to be precise, shortly after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published “A Study in Scarlet,” and shortly before Jack the Ripper’s notorious killings.
I bring those up because they are referenced specifically, and are integral to the plot. Harry, our heroine, is the younger sister of a brilliant if strange female investigator, and they are both the nieces of “Uncle Arthur,” who is making a name for himself writing mysteries with a character based loosely off of Myrtle, Harry’s older sister. Harry yearns to distinguish herself too, so when clients show up looking for Myrtle, Harry pretends to be her sister and takes on her first case. But it turns out to be much weirder than she was expecting…
Despite its name, “The Daemoniac” is largely a serial-killer mystery, not a fantasy story. Harry, in fact, is determined to debunk her friends’ theories about demonic possession, and comes up with plausible non-supernatural explanations for *almost* everything. I don’t want to give away the plot any more than that, but the mystery is solved and the murderer caught, although of course there’s a surprising twist.
“The Daemoniac” has enough of a foot in the world of the occult to appeal to steampunk and gaslamp fantasy fans, and I know because I’ve read a later book in the series that things become a lot more magical later. However, this first installment, with its comparative lack of magic and the occult, is also likely to appeal to fans of steampunk/gaslamp/historical mysteries. It’s much more in the vein of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries than it is in straight-up fantasy.
Either way, Harry is an appealing character and the plot is full of twists and turns, making this a very readable introduction to what promises to be a highly entertaining series, whether you’re coming to it for the mystery or the fantasy.