In the year 1882, Clara Templeton has lost everything. Her secret lover, Louis Dupris, has died in a horrific accident involving the Eterna group in the United States and she must find those reponsible for the murder of all the operatives. Meanwhile in London, Queen Victoria has heard word of a secret plan by the Americans to discover immortality and she wants to make sure England discovers the secret before ‘The Colonies’ get a chance. She appoints Harold Spire, a well-seasoned member of the Metropolitan Police, to head Omega- a small of mediums and scientists working to discover the secret of the Eterna Group. This is no small feat, as little to their knowledge the Eterna Headquarters in America has been destroyed due to a horrific betrayal. While each side works to spy, detect and fight off the forces of darkness to find the secret of immortality, is it possible another figure has been playing both sides?
Leanna Renee Hieber’s The Eterna Files is a twisted fare with a story of magic, science and the world beyond. The book begins with a memory of Clara Templeton attending to Mary Todd Lincoln after her husband has been shot, then is immediately followed up with Spire discovering dismembered childrens’ bodies in a hidden occult sanctum in England.
The Eterna FIies also incorporates fantastic elements of steampunk and Victorian, not to mention late 1800’s US History to tell the story two sides at war. Clara Templeton is a strong character with a bright mind. However, her physical vulnerability is highlighted a great deal in the text. After all, it is hard to navigate a seizure disorder and connection to the beyond when you’re struggling to breathe in your fashionable corset. Her English counterpart, Rose Everhart is an eerily similar character and that appears to be no accident, if the foreshadowing in the book by psychics along the way is to be believed. The love story of Louis and Clara is told in bits and pieces, but it’s easy to fall for the familiar story of secret love between two people who have been forbidden to know each other.
There are, however, a few complaints in reading The Eterna Files. The story is well told, but the number of characters in the short work reach almost Dickensian levels. Some characters are available for only a brief time before the book comes to a rather sudden and unrevealing ending. There are so many questions left at the end of The Eterna Files that is seems almost certain a sequel is to follow. The story at hand also is told in segments that are sometimes hard to piece together due to the similarities of characters across the pond. While one should be paying close attention while reading The Eterna Files, it can become confusing to sort out who is who until the final pages.
Overall, The Eterna Files is an enjoyable read for lovers of Victoriana, alternate history tales and steampunks across the world. It will make a good real for those struggling with a broken heart come Valentine’s Day.
The Eterna Files is available February 3, 2014 from Tor.