Two words: parasol dueling. If that phrase fills you with joy, you will almost certainly love this book. I really enjoyed the first Maddie Hatter adventure, Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond, and the follow-up was just as enchanting. Maddie Hatter is the alter ego of Madeleine Main-Bearing, the daughter of a Steamlord and fashion journalist. Hemmed in by her sex and social standing, she seeks freedom under a new name and disguises, thirsty for juicier stories to tell. She’s enticed to the parasol dueling academy by the promise of a scoop by the mysterious Emmy Gat. Scenes of parasol dueling absolutely steal the show here. Barnard’s descriptions of the moves from various dueling disciplines and their fanciful names are a delight. Emmy Gat’s scoop is initially a bust, but Maddie starts an acquaintance with Emmeline Gauge, daughter of an American steamlord, which gives her an interesting job as a bodyguard and a front-row view of some mysterious happenings. Complicating matters is the arrival of her father to the Gauge home.
Maddie is again a delight, and the new locale and mystery serve her well. Barnard makes the differences between American and English technology and social norms fascinating, and did I mention the fabulous parasol dueling? There are plenty of plot twists to keep Maddie busy and the action moving along, and new and familiar supporting characters round out the cast. My only complaints about this book are that it’s too short and I have to wait too long for the third in the series.
Source disclosure: I purchased this book.