All Men of Genius

Tor. Oct. 2011. c.416p. ISBN 9780765327949. $24.99. FANTASY
Scientifically brilliant yet socially awkward 17-year-old Violet Adams aspires to attend Illyria College in London, the preeminent school for scientists in Victorian England seeking to build a better automaton or improve creatures' genetic potential by splicing their parts across species. Since the school does not admit women, Violet plots with her twin brother, Ashton, to attend under his name. "Ashton" is accepted and quickly comes to the attention of the headmaster, Ernest, the son of the late Duke Illyria, and his ward, Cecily. Violet's friend Jack is aware of her ruse and her growing feelings for Ernest, while Jack's own feelings toward Cecily are thwarted by her obsession with Ashton. While Shakespeare's Twelfth Night inspired the use of Illyria as a setting and the conflicting gender identities, and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest inspired the dual identity roles and several character names, Rosen blends his own voice into a steampunk comedy of manners featuring not-so-petty jealousies, killer automatons running amok, genetic tinkering, blackmail, and a final exam involving the Queen.
VERDICT This debut literary steampunk novel fits well on the shelf with Gail Carriger's "Parasol Protectorate" series (Heartless), with broad crossover appeal to fans of sf, historical romance, and young adult fiction.
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