Blurb: Ella Rosenfeld is a lunatic. Locked away in the remote Auttenberg Asylum, she undergoes torturous treatment to cure her hallucinations. Yet the longer she remains within Auttenberg’s austere halls, the more gruesome her visions become, until Ella is sure she’s seeing ghosts and Auttenberg’s doctor knows it. He doesn’t plan to cure her; he wants to study her ability by dissecting her.
Ella refuses to accept her fate. She assaults her captors, scales the asylum fence, and finds sanctuary in the castle of Baron Viktor Szarka. Young and arrogant, the baron offers her protection, but he’s rumored to have locked a woman in the asylum to hide his dark past. Unable to trust him, Ella must uncover the conspiracy surrounding the asylum, her visions, and the baron’s secret…or join the rest of Auttenberg’s ghosts.
The Ghost Machine is a deliciously creepy blend of Gothic horror and romance with steampunk technology and sensibilities.
Here are dark, brooding castles, secret candle-lit passages and heroines fleeing in high-necked nightdresses. Here also are airships, clockwork and automatons. Chilling medical and supernatural horror, interspersed with some light banter and sweet, clean courtship.
The light, witty touch with characterisation and dialogue reminded me very much of Elizabeth Peter’s Peabody series (one of my personal favourites), although the plot content is far darker than those Egyptological cosy mysteries!
Kristen Brand has created some fantastic and memorable characters here. Obviously Ella is a favourite, as a main character so strong, determined and enterprising that she makes an excellent role model and inspiration. The side characters are also beautifully layered. I especially enjoyed the relationship building between Ella and András.
I was less keen on the side plot of Jakab and Ilona, as I felt that the motivations were weaker than in the rest of the storyline and the resultant actions seemed out of character in places.
Still, the story as a whole is well-paced and packed with action, terror and adventure. I literally could not put it down and had to finish it all in one big glomph! Kristen Brand has captured a heady blend of humour, horror and the terribly, terribly sad which is both gripping and memorable.
Recommended to all who can handle some good old ghostly horror!
It was a woman. But then it wasn’t, not really. Women weren’t eerily transparent. Something that looked like both smoke and light composed her body, and she was right next to the bed, her feet hovering just inches in front of my face. At first I thought she was floating, but I was wrong. A rope made of the same wispy, glowing substance as her body was fastened to the pipes in the ceiling. It ended in a noose around her neck. My mouth opened in a voiceless scream, but that wasn’t the worst of it.
– Kristen Brand, The Ghost Machine
The Ghost Machine is available on Amazon right now!