Review: The Osiris Ritual by George Mann

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Author: George Mann
Genre: steampunk, historical fiction, mystery
Series: Newbury and Hobbes Investigations #2
Pages: 319 (paperback version)
Published: September 2009
Source: bought
Rating: 3/5

The erstwhile Newbury and fiery Hobbes are back at it again in this second volume of Mann's series. Confronted with a murdered lord, two rogue agents in London and a string of missing young women from London's East End, the two have their work more than cut out for them. Though this book could be read as a standalone steampunk novel, I highly recommend reading the series in order. Set a few months after the events of The Affinity Bridge, it is a new year in London and things are not as they seem. It's now February of 1902 and with the revenant plague still terrorizing London, it is not a peaceful time.

Within the first ten pages, Newbury is sent on a mad chase after a rogue Crown agent from before his time named Ashford - a reconstructed man. While I liked that the steampunk elements Mann creates weren't exclusively limited to such thing like automatons and groundcars, I couldn't fully get behind a man so reconstructed his skeleton is completely metal. The descriptions of Ashford and his "improvements" could be a bit stomach-turning and unsettling. For a novel and series advertised as mostly steampunk, be warned thesebook can be a bit gory and bloody (especially the revenants' attack on the carriage in The Affinity Bridge). I would also like some real resolution/understanding or even a real reference to the plague in London - something that dire and drastic enduring for months with no action from the Crown?

Newbury himself continues to lose his war against laudanum and now, opium. His habit is taken to new heights (or lows) in this book, much to my chagrin. I do love a complicated, conflicted hero but Newbury was a quietly, ineffable assiduous man and I fear for what will happen to the character. The deadly addiction seems to have increased its sway over the investigator in the intervening months - perhaps this is in part due to the revelation about his assistant in the epilogue of The Affinity Bridge. Indeed, even hints of distrust and wariness now undermine and plague the formerly carefree partnership between the two main characters. Hobbes' ongoing subplot with her sister is one of the more truly compelling plots of the novel - the cause and reason of Amelia's infliction, Veronica's obvious distress over it and Amelia's hosptialization- and make for genuinely moving and saddening scenes between the sisters.

Another aspect I wasn't too keen on in this second volume is the separation of Newbury and Hobbes. For the firs tnovel, they were constantly in the thick of things as a unit; this time around they hardly share they same pages or adventures. The camaraderie and ever-so-slight romantical (I made that word up) tension between the two Londoners is the highlight of the series. By separating key players Newbury and Hobbes, eliminating most direct interaction and witty repartee, and undermining their basic relationship, Mann diminished what I loved most in his work. Another oversight I lamented throughout: Charles Bainbridge's much reduced role. Though a softer, kinder side is shown of the grizzly Inspector, this background character was so instrumental in the first one I genuinely missed his presence beside his friend. The addition of George Purefoy was one I supported however - though I wished it could've been a Georgia Purefoy. The abundant maleness of these books is prevalent and obvious.

The tone of this novel feels a bit flat, due mostly to the separation of Newbury and Hobbes - the novels work best when the two principles are working together. The atmosphere that was so enveloping in the first is sadly much diminished in the second foray of the series. The ultimate villain, also, is identified almost immediately and thus the fun of deduction and sleuthing were less than before. Though the characters of Newbury, Hobbes, Charles and Amelia were each allowed to grow and develop more in this second novel, I felt mostly let down by the final page. I will continue to read this series for the aspects I love and hope my issues with this volume are not present in the upcoming third novel of the series,  The Immortality Engine.


  1. I really hope the third book gets better. Huh, never heard at all of this series and thanks for bringing it to my attention. Just found your blog.
    -New follower
    Follow mine.

    Book & Movie Dimension

  2. I like stories about Egypt, so it's too bad this one only received 3/5. Bummer!

    Also, I’m a new follower—wonderful blog! Stop by my blog and follow me too? :)

  3. Hmm. I haven't heard of this book either, and I' like Egypt-related books, so this one goes into my maybe pile. I'm a new follower :)

  4. thanks for stopping by, ani! I will go check out your blog now:)

  5. I've meant to read this series for forever and a day -- I definitely want to now after your excellent reviews. Middle books can be disappointing, I've found (I hated Changeless, the 2nd in Carriger's Alexia Tarabotti series). Hopefully the next book will pick up!


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