A flavorful variant of Society Girl meets Scruffy Rapscallion in a steampunk-influenced fantasy.
Vespa is the daughter of the Head of the Museum of Unnatural History. Though she should be preparing for marriage, she wants only to work with the Unnaturals; she aims to be the first such woman in 500 years. Syrus, meanwhile, is a Tinker, one of a Chinese-speaking, tilted-eyed race who protect the Elementals, those magical creatures the city folk call Unnaturals and would capture and display in the Museum. Though their positions initially place them at odds—they meet when Syrus robs Vespa's carriage on the highway—they are thrown together in a quest to save the world from the requisite dark forces. Here, though, the darkness comes through a tricky and clever bit of worldbuilding: the Victorian-esque humans arrived here when Saint Tesla tore a hole in the universe and brought them willy-nilly from Old London. The conflict between the human colonists and the local population of Sphinx, Grue and Manticore can make or unmake this world. Though the steam-powered technological potential promised by "Saint Darwin's Litany of Evolution" and statues of Saints Bacon and Newton is disappointingly unmet in this thoroughly magical world, the rich ambience makes up for the loss.
Leaves readers wanting more, so it's a good thing the sequel potential is well set up. (Fantasy. 13-16)