Review: The Adventures of the Incognita Countess & Dux Bellorum

So, I’m doing something a little different with this post and I’m going to review two novellas here by the same author, Cynthia Ward. She was nice enough to send me a couple of e-book copies in order to review.

The Adventure of the Incognita Countess

This was a fun little novella set in an alt-earth steampunk-esque world, where Martians have invaded and been repelled, yet with the influx of foreign tech have changed the technological landscape. We find Lucy Harker, a dhampir (half human/half vampire) and an agent of the Crown, who been asked to hop on a first of it’s kind ship, the Titanic to ensure the secret plans of the Nautilus don’t fall into a foreign power’s hands.

Told in a the spirit of crossover fiction, where Dracula, Doctor Frankenstein, and Sherlock Holmes are all mentioned in passing. This story is rich in the homages of monsters past. Ward incorporates a nuanced knowledge of Europe to give this novella a fun flavor that defines it. Lucy’s antagonism among humans, while also being charged to protect them is an interesting tension, while it only tightens when Countess Karnstein comes on the scene and an immediate attraction blooms. This only becomes more complicated as Karnstein may be working with the Germans and that is not the only thing that is an obstacle for Lucy…

Pulpy, but refined and knowledgeable, Ward’s story is a romp back in time to a world not too far from our own, yet oh so fantastic.

The Adventure of the Dux Bellorum

Four years after the events of the previous book, we find Lucy Harker on a new mission from M. This time she is tasked with playing bodyguard to a young Winston Churchhill during the Great War. All hell breaks loose when they are ambushed by a pack of wolf-men near the war front and Harker now has to sojourn through enemy countryside to retrieve him. Her mission only becomes more complicated when her lover Clarimal Stein enters the scene as well as rumors of a long thought extinct pterodactyl…

This story doubles down on the fantastic in this alt-history novella. Ward does a wonderful job weaving those paranormal aspects to this work, while keeping the historical events just as relevant, though bending them when they need to be. The holistic quality of this book makes it so you do not need to read the previous book, but it does help flesh out Harker’s and Stein’s relationship, as well as the greater conflict with Dr. Krüger. But, even knowing all of that, it wouldn’t hinder a reader coming into it cold.

This story by virtue of taking place on a literal war front is paced with a thriller tone, so the action is fast and visceral. Lucy is as interesting as before, while dealing with her love for Clarimal, especially as their relationship enters new harder territory. The romance between our two female leads is fun, although I did find Clarimal a little whiney if not difficult to empathize with later on in the story. Harker is a fantastic heroine to follow though and I will enjoy returning to follow her in the future.

Both of these novellas are highly recommended to readers who enjoy alt-history, especially of the paranormal vein. And for fans of f/f romance, you cannot go wrong here either.

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