Review: Bronze Gods by A.A. Aguirre

Bronze Gods by A.A. AguirreFormat read: print book borrowed from the Library
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: Steampunk fantasy
Series: Apparatus Infernum, #1
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Ace
Date Released: April 30, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Danger stalks the city of steam and shadows.

Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko work all hours in the Criminal Investigation Division, keeping citizens safe. He’s a charming rogue with an uncanny sixth sense; she’s all logic–and the first female inspector. Between his instincts and her brains, they collar more criminals than any other partnership in the CID.

Then they’re assigned a potentially volatile case where one misstep could end their careers. At first, the search for a missing heiress seems straightforward, but when the girl is found murdered–her body charred to cinders–Mikani and Ritsuko’s modus operandi will be challenged as never before. Before long, it’s clear the bogeyman has stepped out of nightmares to stalk gaslit streets, and it’s up to them to hunt him down. There’s a madman on the loose, weaving blood and magic in an intricate, lethal ritual that could mean the end of everything…

My Review:

Cops, machinery, and old fey magic make for a stunning combination in this first story in A.A. Aguirre’s Apparatus Infernum series.

When someone says “Bronze Gods”, it’s a curse. Mikani and Ritsuko, well, Mikani anyway, say it rather a lot in the course of the investigations that make up this story. They have a lot to curse about, and not just because they’re detective partners on the night shift at the Criminal Investigation Division.

Janus Mikani does too much of his investigation by magic for it be comfortable. Literally. When he opens himself up to the energies in a crime scene, he leaves with plenty of evidence, but also a killer migraine and bleeding from some orifice. Celeste Ritsuko sifts the tangible evidence, and deals with the details and the witnesses Mikani pisses off.

Mikani occasionally roughs up any detectives who believe that women like Ritsuko don’t belong in the CID. Their partnership works pretty well. After three years, they communicate without saying a word. I don’t mean telepathy, not exactly, more the nuances of body language between two people who work together extremely well.

Then someone starts murdering young women. Women from upper-class families who have chosen to step outside their family protection and family compounds for a little freedom. Women who are breaking pattern just a bit, but nothing wild or criminal. Women with very influential families.

They are being murdered by means of incredibly complicated ritualistic magic. The questions are legion. Why these particular women? What connects them? What does the murderer hope to gain?

And can Mikani and Ritsuko catch the killer before he claims another victim? And before he completes whatever and wherever his infernal devices and desires are leading?

Escape Rating A: There were layers within layers within layers, and every single one was necessary to make this magical steampunk clockwork run. It is a grimly beautiful piece of worldbuilding.

Dorstaad’s ancient backstory is glimpsed in the prologue, and that depth is important. It also invokes a marvelous piece of myth. Hy Breasil is from Irish folklore, so we feel this place is familiar, even as the story moves to the more contemporary setting. We know in our hearts who the Ferisher and the Iron Folk will be, even if we don’t know where this story will take us.

Dorstaad is a world where big magic has been made to go away, although some people still have enough Ferisher in them to be able to do some smaller magic. Magic, and magical people, are fading.

On top of that, we have machinery. Guns and gears and trams and trains. As the magic fades, steampower is taking over. But the rich still have elementals to perform magical tasks.

And in the middle of it all, we have the story of a partnership. Two cops needing to solve a terrible crime. Mikani and Ritsuko are utterly fascinating. She’s the one who is by-the-book, because she’s living in a time/place where a woman has to be twice as good as a man to be thought his equal. Mikani does it all by his sixth-sense. A part of that sense tells him he needs Ritsuko in his life. Her cop instincts tell her she needs him in hers, but that she’ll keep him there a lot longer if she makes sure their relationship stays on the work side of the line.

But they aren’t complete without each other, and they are at their best together. They have to be their best to catch this killer, because he is way more than human. And also much less.

Bronze Gods was one of those books that I was sorry to see end. Like the best urban fantasy, although the case was resolved, there are loose ends, and I’m grateful. I want to read more of Mikani and Ritsuko’s adventures. There are definitely more stories to tell.

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