The Golden Spider
by Anne Renwick
I think i would describe this as the kind of steampunk that definitely supports women in STEM. Kind of a weird way to characterize this, but what makes The Golden Spider stand out from other steampunkery I’ve read is not only the sexy times, but the quite thoughtful level of detail given over to the main science parts of the steampunk theme.
Lady Amanda has created a “spider” that crawls into people’s brains and rewires neurons. She did this for her brother who has damage from an accident and can’t walk unassisted. But somehow her spider gets stolen, coopted by a bad person who is kidnapping people and cutting out their eyes.
Lord Thornton, Lady Amanda’s professor at med school and secret agent of the crown, happens to be working on a project that Amanda’s spider would be perfect for.
There’s quite a lot of conversations between Amanda and Thornton about neurons and anatomy and rare metals. Its extremely convincing and much more sciencey than I was used to in steampunk– which usually focuses on gadgets rather than biomedical science.
Those parts were great. Extremely satisfying in the steampunk imagining. However, the tension between Amanda and Thornton is not as satisfying. He just doesn’t want to get married. Like that’s the whole thing. She desperately needs to be married due to parental orders, she’s a crack scientist, he’s attracted to her…but he won’t ask her to marry him…because? It just made him seem stupid. Amanda also enters into a relationship with him quite readily without any second-guessing her own ruination etc. (Or the ruination of her family due to sister Emily’s antics with her Romani lover).
So in terms of steampunk stuff, this was imaginative and fun science. In terms of romance only so-so. Still, I’d read on to the second book to find out what happens to Amanda’s somewhat whiny sister in a continuation of this world’s England-Germany spy rivalry.