Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Romance
About The Book
Some fight evil with swords and force. Evie and Hesta stand against evil with no more than their will and a song.
In a series of violent and horrific murders, The Butcher of Bristelle, strikes terror into the heart of the city. No one is safe. When Evie Chester encounters the remains of one such victim she knows that this is the work of no ordinary killer.
With mistrust of the gifted rising, can Evie and Hesta solve the case and keep the city safe. Will their wits and their gifts be enough against brute force?
This is the third in the Evie Chester fantasy series, set in the same world as the Towers of the Earth.
This review contains spoilers for Lost and Found and Sirens and Syphons. If you haven’t read the first two books in the Evie Chester Files yet, and you’re interested in steampunk/fantasy, then check out my reviews for those books first.
Fur and Fangs, the third case in Nita Round’s imaginative steampunk/alternate reality fantasy series, kicks off with a quick and engaging hook. There is a serial killer, nicknamed the Butcher of Bristelle, on the loose in the city, and the constabulary aren’t interested in doing anything about it… until the murders start happening close to the wealthy side of town. Little is know about the monster, whether it is a man or a beast. The only thing the protagonists and the readers know to begin is that the victims’ bodies are left mangled, torn from limb to limb.
Evie and Hesta have other matters on their minds, however. Hesta is coping with the death of her brother, the series’ anti-villain Godwyn Bethwood, at the end of the previous book. He has left his estate and business network to her, but Hesta, despite her business-savviness and sharp social talents, is feeling out of her depth with the task.
Evie, meanwhile, is continuing her research and training to explore the true extent of her syphon’s powers. Though still illiterate (but learning quickly), she is commencing training as a nurse under the guidance of Dr Montgomery and the no-nonsense Matron Davids, while hiding her unique Gift. This portion of the book was probably one of my favourite segments. As the daughter of a surgeon, and having a keen interest in c.1860s-1900s medical practices myself, I was particularly thrilled to see the non-magical medical side of this world. I was delighted by the attention to detail, particularly with regards to proper handwashing techniques, practices, and the visit to the morgue, so in a way I felt Evie’s enjoyment of her medical education almost as my own.
It is in the morgue, learning about the stages of death, that the main plot collides with Evie and Hesta once more. Evie immediately knows there is something concerning about the latest body, another victim of the Butcher of Bristelle, getting rolled into the morgue; it looks wrong from a medical standpoint, and it feels wrong from a magical one. The mystery deepens further yet when Evie and Hesta receive an ominous warning from a seer-like character: to kill the beast, someone must die, and it’s somehow related to Evie’s “sponge” abilities… and the difficulty she has controlling it.
In this installment of the Evie Chester Files, Evie continues to develop as a character. She is able to show off her street smarts in this case, proving that one doesn’t always need a formal education to have keen observation skills and common sense. She has come a long way from the dejected girl in chains in the first book, to a more confident young woman, while still dealing with her insecurities from trauma and her fears about the dangerous extents of her magic.
Her relationship with Hesta remains a steady slow burn romance. The chemistry between the two continues to take its time drawing them ever closer together. Evie and Hesta care deeply for each other, acting as one another’s emotional support and strength when they both need it the most. Their friendship has developed naturally over the course of the series. They work well together not just as friends and love interests, but as partners – Hesta with her education, connections and experience, and Evie with her street smarts, quick learning, and powers. In Fur and Fangs, the readers learn more about the women’s pasts, receiving both answers and some shocking new revelations that will no doubt set the stage for future installments.
The mystery around the Butcher of Bristelle is the weakest aspect of the book. The journey it took the readers on was intriguing, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite come together for me at the end, and the resolution feels a bit too random. I would have loved to see more set-up and pay-off to really tap into the detective genre, to have allowed both the characters and the readers an opportunity to solve the mystery.
Nonetheless, Fur and Fangs is a fine addition to the Evie Chester Files with its engaging narrative, integrated worldbuilding, and solid progression for the characters. Nita Round’s writing becomes more refined with each installment, and I’m terribly invested in a happy ending for Evie and Hesta. I keenly await the next book in the series.
I recommend these books for readers who are seeking a female- or lesbian-driven alternative to The Dresden Files or Rivers Of London.
H. L. is a Australian writer of LGBT+ fiction. She holds a Master of Arts in International Relations (2015) and a Bachelor of Media in Communications and Journalism (2012), both from the University of New South Wales.
She is a lesbian of Jewish and of Middle Eastern (Egyptian) heritage and is an #OwnVoices writer. She has been writing stories since she was old enough to hold a pen. She is the author of M/M fantasy romance novels Heart Of Dust and Soul Of Ash, Books 1 & 2 of the Death’s Embrace series.
She has had two speculative short stories published: “The Collector” in the 2014 Future Times Award Collection A Tick Tock Heart, and “Entente” in the 2020 Twisted Stories Award Collection Just Alice.