Good afternoon El Moochadores! I just finished reading The Aylesford Skull; A tale of Langdon St. Ives, written by one of the Steam Punk genres founding fathers: James P. Blaylock. Published by Titan Books, this victorian era adventure once again pits Blaylock’s fictional hero against the evil Dr. Ignacio Narbondo; who has kidnapped St. Ives four year-old son. Here’s a quick synopsis of the novel:
It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St. Ives brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer is at home in Aylesford with his family. However a few miles to the north a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt Bay, the crew murdered and pitched overboard. In Aylesford itself a grave is opened and possibly robbed of the skull. The suspected grave robber, the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, is an old nemesis of Langdon St. Ives. When Dr. Narbondo returns to kidnap his four-year-old son Eddie and then vanishes into the night, St. Ives and his factotum Hasbro race into London in pursuit…
Although I am not very well acquainted with the Steam punk genre, or Byalock’s prior books, there was much in this book I enjoyed. Baylock has a talent for creating suspenseful situations for his characters, who are constantly being pushed together then put apart as they pursue the notorious Dr. Narbondo. Though many of the characters seemed to follow a classic stereotype, or template (cast as hero or villain) most were enjoyable reads and I found myself invested in their story. I especially liked the characters of Mother Laswell and young Finn Conrad. Both have separate, but entertaining, story lines that weave around the rescue of little Eddie. Each adventure being just a little different from the “gentleman” adventures of St. Ives.
If I had any criticisms of the book; first would be the “light-heartedness” of the characters adventures. At no time did I feel any of the characters were in real danger and the story resolved it self much like how I imagined it would. I like surprises and risk taken with the characters and I feel the Aylesford Skull was lacking in that regard. My second criticism would be a distinct lack of dirigibles. Don’t get me wrong; there are many chapters in this book where the main characters travel via dirigible, but for some reason (what with this being steam punk) I wanted more. Oh well.