The Black Orchid by Celine Jeanjean

black orchid

The second adventure of the Viper and the Urchin finds these two disparate characters relocated to the warehouse of Cruikshank, engineer to the Marchioness, no longer an assassin and a pickpocket, but officially employed by the Old Girl, as the Marchioness is affectionately called.  But their services have not been required and they are feeling aimless and redundant when at last they are summoned to investigate a mysterious death by exsanguination in the insalubrious Bayog district of the city of Damsport.

 

Rory’s knowledge of the criminal underworld of the Rookery make her indispensable but Longinus occupies his time investigating the unexplained shortage of the black silk he needs urgently for his new elegant suit.  A link between these two events is discovered in The Black Orchid, a newly popular brothel.  Rory and Longinus find themselves in great danger again, not just from their enemy but also from threats to their relationship.  As they become estranged, the future looks grim.

 

Like the first book, The Black Orchid engages readers by the strong, vibrant women who never give up against all odds.  An old relationship between the Marchioness and stunningly beautiful Mizria may be reawakened, Rory seems to be becoming closer to Varanguard, Rafe and Longinus continues to send anonymous poems to Lady Martha, daughter of the Old Girl.

 

Celine Jeanjean has written another thrilling adventure which is hard to put down.  The grubby streets of the city come alive in the fast moving plot and each character has substance and complication.  Alchemy and steam driven vehicles play their part but heroism shines.  In conclusion the scene is set for further adventure involving characters who have come to mean a great deal to their readers.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

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The Viper and the Urchin by Celine Jeanjean

Celine

The Viper and the Urchin is a rollicking good tale which grabs you by the collar and sweeps you through the grimy streets of Damsport with humour and nail-biting danger.  Its heroine, Rory, is a small scrawny urchin, scraping a living by theft and deception, who makes an unlikely alliance with the elegant Viper, an assassin who uses only poison on his victims and takes pride in his art.

When Longinus, the Viper, questions Rory’s behaviour, “You are coarse, you swear, and worse, you are grammatically incorrect,” she responds correctly, “Well I’m supposed to be, aint I?  You’re the laconic assassin.  I’m the cheeky urchin.  That’s how it works.”

There are several other vibrant characters too, such as Cruikshank, the engineer who has designed a large mechanical spider to transport them up walls & over roofs, the Old Girl or Marchioness of Damsport who rules the state and the Scarred Woman, a mysterious swordswoman whom Rory wishes to emulate.

The city environment is vividly described, dirty and crowded with Banyan trees sprouting out of cracks in the radiating streets.  I could visualise the Varanguards, costumed in the style of Varan, a dancer who hid knives in her hair, wearing horsehair ponytails as part of their helmets.  And I would love to board Crazy Willy, the wild beast of a steam coach which races through the streets each night.

This exciting story contains all the essential ingredients of a fantastic steam-punk adventure, including a tough but vulnerable heroine, an intriguing companion, an evil foe and even a vague suggestion of a romantic interest.  It is the first book of The Bloodless Assassin Mysteries and I am very much looking forward to the publication of the next one.

Rosie's Book Review team 1