Book Review: The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi


the secret of abdu el yezdiGenere(s): Mystery, Ghost Story, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Classic horror, Steampunk
Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
Publisher: Pyr
Description: The assassination of Queen Victoria in 1840 altered history as we know it. After this vicious killing, a group of influential men including King George, Prince Albert and others have received supernatural advice. This advice has had a significant impact on the progress of the empire and is coming from the sprit of a dead mystic by the name of Abdu El Yezdi. All of this is well and good until someone starts abducting important scientists, surgeons, and engineers right before a major treaty with the newly formed Greater German Confederation. To make things even worse, Abdu El Yezdi has gone silent: no advice and no communications with the living. The King appoints Sir Richard Francis Burton, who has just recovered (sort of) from a harrowing expedition that discovered the source of the Nile river. It is up to Burton to located EL Yezdi and find out what has happened, before it is too late.
Review: This is actually the 4th book starring the dynamic duo of Burton and Swinburne, and after reading this story, I am completely excited to read the other three. As sorry as I am that I haven’t read them before, I’m glad I don’t have to sit around and wait for more Hodder literary awesomeness. This is a complex book with a smart plot that is filled with really big Easter eggs spoilers, if you find them. I caught on to a few major plot points, but my lack of depth of knowledge prevented me from finding all of the Easter eggs that Hodder hid.

Even figuring out a few major plot points did nothing to ruin this story for me and this is where the complexity of the story really comes into play. Hodder was able to weave several “sub plots” into the greater whole in a subtle way that sustained the overall mystery of the story. When authors attempt (and for many authors, it remains simply an attempt) to do this, it normally ends up as an overcomplicated mess. Hodder, however, has the chops to make it work. Burton & Swinburne are a buddy team, and they are hard not to compare to Holmes and Watson. Same country, same time period, same amount of epicness. It is hard not to compare most detective teams to Holmes and Watson, so I don’t feel that this is a ding on Hodder. I do feel that Hodder did a good job of making this novel feel more like an ensemble cast rather than just Burton and Swinborne.

The ensemble cast left a good deal of room for Hodder to not only develop the principle characters, but to develop minor characters that, as a reader, I enjoyed getting to know and would have loved to hang out with. Having not read the previous books, I know there were some nuances that I missed, but they were so subtle that unless someone had pointed them out to me I never would have known I missed them. Hodder makes this book easy to step into, but rewards his loyal readers with the punch lines to some “inside jokes” that are so inside us noobs don’t even know that it is there or that we are not “in” on the joke.

Most people will classify this novel as a Steampunk novel but, as you can see above, it is so much more. The act of getting good advice from the afterlife qualifies this as a supernatural novel. There are, as one would expect, Steampunk elements. I was pleased that Hodder gave me a real understanding of how Steam technology had changed world history and how it was integrated into everyday life, without getting into college professor lecture mode. Most of these effective descriptions were worked right into the story, as they should have been. This book paid homage to two of the great classic horror novels, one involving a construct and the other a blood thirsty night dwelling shape shifter. I was surprised at how quickly these subplots played out and how full they felt. I could see what Hodder was doing, but at the same time, he didn’t overplay it and turn it into just another shtick.

I could fill several more pages with comments about this book, how well it was done, and all the things I liked about it, but I think you get the idea. This book is like a meal at a fine dining establishment; the portions are served in such a way that you don’t leave full and bloated, but sated and smiling. There are parts of this book’s mystery that you will figure out, but when you do it, it only makes you want to read more to find out exactly what is going on and how the characters are going about making them happen. This book works well as a standalone, but I can’t wait to re-read it as an installment of the Burton & Swinborne adventures.

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About Cape Rust

Cape has led a life of adventure and excitement. Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas he joined the Army where he served six years as a Military Policeman and six years as an All Source Intelligence Analyst. He served in such diverse places as South Korea, Germany, Bosnia, Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Kansas, Alabama, Kentucky and Arizona. After leaving the Army he spent 4 years training African Soldiers for peacekeeping missions. After visiting ten different African nations (some several times) he developed training materials for counter IED training. He now builds web sites for the Army. He enjoys PC Gaming, Table Top RPGs, reading and shooting. He has been married to his wife Laurie for almost 18 years and has two daughters Mallie and Megan. He is currently the caretaker of one of the world’s largest corgis Truman and a clowder of cats that includes Midnight, Smokey and Tum Tum Monster Destroyer.