Zelda Pryce is the only book-related Z title I have for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge this year. With three in the series, I’m hoping it’s good enough to supply me for the next two years, as well.
The Razor’s Edge (Zelda Pryce #1)
by Joss Llewelyn
Zelda Pryce is the youngest and most unusual security expert in Washington DC. Using her knowledge of arcane mathematics, she builds beautiful machines that defy explanation and allow her to break into any home, bank, or museum with ease (and in style!).
After successfully burgling the Smithsonian, Zelda is hired to test the security at the British Museum in London using her anti-gravity wings and electromagnetic cloak. And that’s where everything goes wrong.
The museum didn’t really hire her. A thief did. And when Zelda escapes from the London police, the only thing on her mind is tracking down the thief who set her up and nearly destroyed her career.
So she teams up with a charming English riskbender and a daring French alchemist to chase the thief from Paris to Rome, from Castle Frankenstein to the Taj Mahal. Together they must escape all manners of strange traps and creatures, and only their arcane skills and tools will keep them alive.
But if they can’t catch the thief in time, every arcane device in the entire world could be destroyed, and thousands of innocent lives could be lost.
This is a world where a Chekhov Gun is a revolver with a mind of its own, a Diogenes Lantern makes people tell the truth, and Occam’s Razor is the most dangerous knife in the world. At least it was, until a mad scientist made a sharper one. [goodreads]
I’ve listed this under crime, funny, magical-realism, science fiction, steampunk, and YA. And although it probably is YA, I reckon a smart middlegrader who likes STEM will enjoy it too. It’s certainly different. It isn’t steampunk as it’s futuristic, but with lots of mechanical gizmos which gives it a steampunk feel. Alternate universe, then.
The plot more or less holds together, with a heist which turns into a spy-type caper across several continents. A working knowledge of the history of science may help you. Although there is a glossary to find out to which scientist (and his/her work) all the objects relate. The imagination of the author, putting all this lot together, staggers me. It’s brilliant.
On the other hand the writing is clunky. Zelda Pryce is written in the third person with her thoughts in italics, so it pops in and out of her head with regularity. I added this book to my list in 2014, and I think the author was probably stuck in pre-2000 style. It reads old-fashioned in places, graphic novel in others. Sometimes I thought I wouldn’t bother with it, but there’s an innocence about it that drew me back. I enjoyed the story, even the more absurd bits. It entertained me.
And then there’s the mystery about the author–a mystery pretty well blown apart by the most minor research on Goodreads. The author on Goodreads is ‘Joss Llewelyn, Joseph Robert Lewis.’ The latter has a raft of high fantasy series to his name, a proper author profile, and interactions with many groups. The former has the Zelda series, one other (fantasy but more elvish), and one other standalone, no profile to speak of and no interactions other than a book list. Shame that the author couldn’t get rid of the metadata on the goodreads listing, and the alternative, more modern looking cover!
All in all, I wonder whether it was a first novel. Has he long since consigned it to the ‘I wish I’d written it better (with a better editor)’ and the ‘this is not what I write these days’ piles? In which case, it might be worth reading the next one in the series.