My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’m always on the prowl for good steampunk (having read plenty of stuff that just didn’t capture me) and The Gilded Scarab really fit the bill. I almost stopped reading early on, not because it was bad, far from it. I had become too close to the main pov character, aeronaught Rafe Lancester who has just been forced to muster our of the military because of a job-ending injury and man, I’ve been there (It’s how I lost my surgical career) and I have trouble reading books with that plot. I had no trouble picking up on Rafe’s sense of loss, of anger of what the hell do I do with my life now. Butler does a great job with this.
What Rafe doesn’t want is to be tied to tightly to his House. There is an oligarchy going on here with the Houses with a great deal of Machiavellian twists and turns. Rafe just wants clear and clean of them but realizes that might be impossible given the size of his pension. He’s interested in pursuing his civilian pilot’s license once he fully heals.
Rafe eases back into life hanging out at a coffee shop with an old man he takes a shine to and attending a high end molly house where he meets Ned on his first night there. Brief but intense, they have the one night and soon afterward Rafe hooks up with Daniel, Aegyptologist, who turns out to be clingy and jealous. But Ned returns with secret of his own, dangerous secrets.
I loved all the characters. Rafe and Ned are wonderful as is the host of secondary characters. Will and his wife are great as are Hawkins and Mr. Pearse, the coffee shop owner. You’ll probably want to punch Rafe’s family in their collective faces. The one thing that surprised me a bit, bemused really, was what Rafe settled on for his new career. It felt slightly out of step with the beginning (or maybe my expectations were skewed especially since it’s in the blurb….which I apparently had forgotten by the time I read this). But he did take to it well and it worked. The world building is excellent. It’s a fun alternative universe. Rafe’s voice is great, funny and snarky without being unduly mean. I know there is more of this coming so I’m excited to read that too!