The House of Sable Locks book review

House of Sable Locks book cover
House of Sable Locks book cover

The cover and the preamble makes no bones about this novel being heavy on the “dark passions” side of things. It promises this is going to be a heady mix of sexual exploration with over tones of S&M, strange desires, horror and possibly a whodunit, in a steampunk milieu.

Words by Doktor Matas

Let me put my tarot cards on the table; I am not into porn, soft porn or portrayals of S&M in literature or film. It’s a matter of personal sensitivity and I find it distasteful and tedious. So it was with a great sinking feeling I delved into this book. On reading it is surprisingly it is well written and if you are looking for soft porn with a steampunky/horror/whodunit gloss this is the book for you.

There are no more than the usual few typos and grammatical errors but it is the clunky use of phraseology and modern idioms that grates badly when trying to create a “steampunk” scene. There are some factual and technical errors, for example; you cannot find minor bruises on a flayed corpse…if it is flayed it has no skin to show such bruising. Little things like that betray a wider lack of research.

The book is mainly dialogue driven – I have no problem with that – but that has not been balanced with clear description and contextual narrative. This creates a confused overall narrative. The author’s use of switching between first person and third person is okay but the first person prose is no different in style or substance than the third person narrative. When portraying the machinations inside a character’s mind, their internal voice and conflicts, then it would have helped the reader if that voice was singularly different from the narrator’s voice. Also the first person’s perspective, both physically and within the time frame of events, is a question I do not think the author successfully or convincingly deals with.

I feel the love story and the horror and even the steampunk elements get side lined by the author’s need to shoe horn S&M sexual practices into the story line which is a pity as less emphasis on the S&M would have allowed for exploring something more rewarding for the reader, such as background and plot. The overall plot line is about as thin, clichéd and obvious as they come, this is no great “whodunit?” either.

Generally characterisation is fine, though a little sketchy on all but the central protagonists.

In reviewing it though I have to ask is it really steampunk? Well it certainly has some major “steampunk” tropes; Victorianesque period setting, robots, sentient analogue machines made of gears and cogs, etc, etc but the book falls between stalls, it is neither truly steampunk, a whodunit, a horror or an off-kilter romance, it simply remains just 50 Shades does steampunk with a few horror elements thrown in to the hotchpotch.

I feel that this is yet another case of an exploitive “stick some cogs on it and call it steampunk.” The “it” in this case is palaverous and transparent whodunit soft porn novel – more who does what to whom. Even the titillation of the pornographic side of it ranges from graphic to plain dull.

It’s better written than I feared and there is the bones of a better novel underneath it but I would not be recommending it to anyone as an example of a steampunk novel.

Ratings (out of five)
Story 2.5

Pace 3
Value 2
Overall 3

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