Reading the blurb I found out that Tattoo of Crimson is a “gaslamp fantasy” novel. I did not know that the book “market” needed to create a new subgenre. If you, like me, don’t know it, gaslamp fantasy is “a subgenre of both fantasy and historical fiction.” It being a “gaslamp fantasy” explains why the alchemical devices (the knowledge of their existence is introduced from the first pages) are used scarcely and the alchemists are “just” a political faction. Also, it explains how the kingdom of Byren – where the action starts - is a true copy of Victorian England (the historical aspects are quite present and influence the events and the characters’ behaviour). Without insisting on this aspect, I'll say only that the author plays well within the fantasy and historical fiction coordinates I identified so far to fit this gaslamp (or gaslight) fantasy subgenre.
The story starts slowly enough to give the author the opportunity to introduce all the relevant elements for what follows. From time to time, I felt that there was no need to repeat or emphasise some details because the author got too close to the edge of political correctness; better show than tell. Fortunately, since the plot has taken shape and during its development, the necessary socio-political aspects are offered only when necessary for fulfilling their purpose without spoiling the story and its flow which has now an improved pace.
The fantastical elements the author brings into the mix are classical but well-used. Between what Jessa was taught as true about the Otherworld and its inhabitants and what she discovers herself, and her own secret of unknown reason, Jessa must cross some murky waters when deciding the best path to take in solving the mystery, especially when eliminating the killer equals with the salvation of those she loves and of herself. Bargains and sacrifices are made, no price is too high.
And because gaslamp fantasy is also known as “gaslight romance”, I have to say that there are some signs of a (future… probable… and most certainly wanted by the readers) romance, but Jessa has yet to see… or feel… them. After all, Aunt Melisina wants her wed. 😋
Entertaining, with likeable (main) characters, with mundane or otherworldly dangers at every step, a dash of gothic ambience, some magic and a promise for more to come, the Tattoo of Crimson is a pleasant historical, fantasy, cozy mystery that you could read. Enjoy!
PS: Does the cover matter? Yes, definitely! (I am not talking about the books or authors you already know in one way or another.) If I like the cover (design, colour, message etc), I stop and check the blurb and author. If my interest or mood at the moment is satisfied, I’ll read it (or put it on my TBR list). And face it: the covers of all three books so far in the “Blood of the Fae” series are nicely done.
(goodreads, timeofindia.com or Wikipedia – I didn’t check who was the first or their sources
Published: January 17th, 2023