I quite enjoyed this book. In my earlier post I categorized it as Steam punk but it doesn’t really belong there. It is dystopian fantasy. ‘The Buried Life’ is in an alternate Victorian timeline but does not focus on scientific and mechanical development.
Carrie Patel has us explore the city of Recoletta with a Laundress, a Reporter, two municipal investigators whose jurisdiction is part of an independent contract agency, and a bureaucrat whose functions are important but distasteful to his peers – the ruling class of the Council. Recoletta is underground and a Warren of tunnels and streets that dig deeper and deeper into the earth. There is a subway like train but no cars. People either use this train, horse-drawn hansom cabs or walk. Culture has gone back to the Victorian not only in design and dress, but also in social structure. The rich being very rich and a large poor servant class to support it. A notable difference is a lack of racial and gender issues that further highlight economic class structure disparities.
The Council regulates its citizens ability to access information, particularly historical information, strictly. They supply a wealth of poetry and fiction to serve as “an opiate to the masses,” but restricts political, philosophical, and historical literature. Society does not know of a time when the Council didn’t rule or a concept of revolution. As Patel’s characters investigate a series of murders of Council members much deeper issues are exposed.
I started the book thinking it was Steam punk alternate noir fantasy. I was wrong. My misconceptions made the mystery and reveals more effective. I just destroyed that possibility for you, but I believe it will create a more accurate view of the book. It was a nice refresher from young adult romances making up the bulk of dystopian literature.
Patel is descriptive in her world building. In a previous post I likened the book to a lighter version of China Mieville and a heavier version of Cassandra Clare but there is no supernatural or paranormal element. I have to retract the statement. There are similarities, but Patel’s voice is her own. It is not perfect, and I don’t particularly like the fact this is being made into a series. I would have preferred it as stand alone novel, but I have to say I was impressed. Patel’s debut novel is definitely worth reading.
I received this from Netgalley and Angry Robot in return for an honest review.