Philip K. Dick Award 2011.
When one man changes history, history changes everyone!
Sir Richard Francis Burton – Explorer, linguist, scholar and swordsman; his reputation tarnished; his career in tatters; his former partner missing and probably dead.
Algernon Charles Swinburne – Unsuccessful poet and follower of de Sade; for whom pain is pleasure, and brandy is ruin!
They stand at a crossroads in their lives; and are caught in the epicentre of an empire torn by conflicting forces: Engineers transform the landscape with bigger, faster, noisier and dirtier technological wonders; Eugenicists develop specialist animals to provide unpaid labour; Libertines oppose repressive laws and demand a society based on beauty and creativity; while the Rakes push the boundaries of human behaviour to the limits with magic, drugs and anarchy.
The two men are sucked into the perilous depths of this moral and ethical vacuum when Lord Palmerston commissions Burton to investigate assaults on young women committed by a weird apparition known as Spring-Heeled Jack, and to find out why werewolves are terrorising London's East End.
Their investigations lead them to one of the defining events of the age; and the terrifying possibility that the world they inhabit shouldn't exist at all!
"This is an exhilarating romp through a witty combination of 19th century English fact and fiction. Mark Hodder definitely knows his stuff and has given us steam opera at its finest. ...A great, increasingly complex, plot, some fine characters, and invention that never flags! It gets better and better, offering clues to some of Victorian London's strangest mysteries. This is the best debut novel I have read in ages." – Michael Moorcock