The Adventure of the Incognita Countess, by Cynthia Ward


The Book

The Adventure of the Incognita Countess is an enjoyable and slightly bonkers pulp adventure. We’re to understand that previous to the story, Martians launched a failed attempt to invade the earth and as a result, Britain has access to highly classified Martian technology. Our protagonist is Lucy Harker, a half-vampire MI5 agent who has been assigned a mission on the Titanic (which is powered by said Martian tech), in order to protect a set of secret plans and prevent them from falling into the hands of German operatives.

Amongst the passengers she meets on the Titanic are the famous Mrs. Brown, a British Lord who was raised by apes, and the mysterious and alluring Countess Karnstein, who Lucy suspects to be working in league with the Germans. She also finds herself deeply attracted to her, and questioning her own judgment.

What follows is a sort of comic book adventure, wild and a little bit preposterous but genuinely fun and engaging. I think it would work very well as a graphic novel. The characters were well written and the heroine flawed, which kept things interesting. The pacing is overall quite good, and while there were a lot of fantastical elements that occasionally bordered on silly, I never found myself confused or unhappy with how the story was progressing.

I do think there are a few issues, however: The plot is rather ambitious, particularly for such a short story, and at times I felt that perhaps it was trying to do too many things at once. There is a fair bit of exposition – characters frequently explain events which have already happened to the protagonist (who wasn’t present for them), and I think the story gets bogged down a couple of times in lengthy explanations of the mechanics of how Vampires and half-Vampires (Dhampirs) work. There’s also the fact that Lucy is very much a product of her time in this alternate history, which leads to a couple of dodgy moments that I think I could have done without. However, in this she is balanced out (and at one point, scolded) by other more open-minded characters, and she does grow somewhat as a result.

All said, I found it to be a likeable and overall very fun ride, and I’d be happy to read more by this author.

r/Fantasy 2017 Bingo Squares

  • Published in 2017
  • Non-Human Protagonist
  • Seafaring
  • Steampunk

The Cocktail

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The Iceberg

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