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Thursday, September 21, 2017

SPFBO Review "Neferiti's Heart: The Artifact Hunters Book 1" by A.W. Exley (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo and Cindy Hannikman)

1861. Cara has a simple mission in London – finalise her father’s estate and sell off his damned collection of priceless artifacts. Her plan goes awry when a killer stalks the nobility, searching for an ancient Egyptian relic rumoured to hold the key to immortality.

Nathaniel Trent, known as the villainous viscount, is relentless in his desire to lay his hands on both Cara and the priceless artifacts. His icy exterior and fiery touch stirs Cara’s demons, or could he lay them to rest?

Self-preservation fuels Cara’s search for the gem known as Nefertiti’s Heart. In a society where everyone wears a mask to hide their true intent, she needs to figure out who to trust, before she sacrifices her own heart and life

ANALYSIS: (Mihir)  Nefertiti’s Heart is an intriguing book that popped up in Fantasy Book Critic’s lot. Firstly it was a top 3 contender with its gorgeous cover art and the blurb was exciting enough for me to get started on it early on. The book’s blurb details our protagonist’s hurry to sell off her father’s estate for reasons that become crystal clear in the first few chapters itself. Cara Devon is a person who’s been shaped by her teenage/adolescent years and those hardships have left mental, physical & psychological scars on her. These scars inform her current behavior and outlook in life wherein she has decided she wants nothing to do with her dad and his precious collection.

Cara’s struggles are further compounded when she learns that some of the items in her father’s collections are prized by similarly focused individuals who share even less morality than her recently departed father. There’s also the concern that her father’s death wasn’t a natural one and due to which Scotland Yard detectives are very much intrigued by her and her whereabouts. There’s also the Viscount who’s interested in her legacy and a Scotland Yard officer who wants the truth to be uncovered. These are the main characters in play and there’s a serial killer at work too. These are the tangled threads that author A. W. Exley puts into play in the first volume of The Artifact Hunters series. The book ends on a strong climax which solve the mystery presented in this first volume but sets up a romantic plot thread that will resolve over the series as well gives us a colorful cast of characters to follow.

What I loved immediately about this book upon starting it was the characterization beginning with Cara. She’s a formidable character who will intrigue the reader with the hints about her past and her resoluteness in her wish to be rid of her father’s legacy. I was immediately drawn to her and as the story progresses we find that there’s more to her grit. The story is almost a thriller with some solid romantic overtones to it and I felt that as a thriller lover, I was able to enjoy the story and even the romance. I can’t speak to how well the romance is crafted since I’m not that big a romance reader but the story held up for me. A word of caution though there’s some dark stuff within with regards to Cara’s backstory and it might not be palatable to everyone. Any plus point about the book was its streamlined pace and the mystery at its core. In this regard this book was a definite surprise as it managed to successfully mold aspects of the thriller, romance & steampunk genres in its fold confidently. Lastly the book cover is an eye-catching one and was in the top 3 from our lot.

The not so fun parts to this story, well there’s the whole romance buildup which takes place between our protagonist and the Viscount which doesn’t quite add up. For example our heroine doesn’t like been touched but is strangely drawn to the count’s dark brooding ways. The author explains some of this attraction later on in the plot but it didn’t quite ring much for me. Maybe for romance readers this might be a genre trope and that would explain it. For me, that was a bit of a glitch in the story. There’s also the steampunk aspect of the story which seems a tad window dressing like. Sure there’s mention of airships and other things from time to time but not much explanation is provided of how things came to be as they are.

Overall these are minor complaints from me as I still was able to enjoy the story because of the main mystery, the engaging characters (main and side cast) as well as the plot pace which makes it quite easy to want to keep on reading. I think this book definitely deserves a semifinal slot and I would be interested to see how the author develops the world and characters in the sequels. Nefertiti’s Heart is a fun but dark romantic mystery story that offers a bit of many genres and marks itself as a good read nonetheless.

(Cindy) I think I have mentioned a time or two or even more that I love reading books that take place in London. When I saw that Nefertiti's Heart took place in a Victorian-era London, I instantly had to give it a shot.

Nefertiti's Heart is a mixed bag of genres all combined into one book. There is a little bit of sci-fi/steampunk, adventure, mystery, gothic, and romance. Normally this wouldn't work out as it would seem that mixing so many different genres would cause the plot/characters/flow of the book to suffer, but it didn't.

I will admit that there is a heavier emphasis on the romance element than I am used to or really would care to read, but – for me – the mystery and steampunk elements were strong enough that I could easily look over the romance-heavy sections.

There were a lot of things that I really enjoyed about Nefertiti's Heart. It had a very fast-paced feel to it, the mystery was captivating, and I really "clicked" with the characters. Add in the fact that much of the mythology referenced and time period was very well researched and you have a solid novel that is extremely enjoyable.

While I really enjoyed Nefertiti's Heart, I will admit that it isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. The romance-heavy sections are really heavy on the romance. Not every reader is going to be able to overlook it and some may even feel it draws from the plot.

There is also another issue that really needs to be mentioned. It isn't so much an issue, but it does – I feel – need to be noted so readers can make an informed decision. Nefertiti's Heart brings up some pretty grim and heavy topics. If you are squeamish regarding abuse, especially the physical and sexual abuse of a child/teen, the entire novel isn't going to fit for you. While these topics are heavy, I felt they were handled in an appropriate manner.

Overall, I feel Nefertiti's Heart is a strong novel. It certainly isn't going to be everyone's favorite book and there are going to be a lot of things some readers don't like, but for me, personally, it worked. Give it a shot, you might be impressed.


Elisabeth Wheatley said...

Okay, but romance and steampunk and London and I so happen to have this in my Kindle guys just bumped it up on my TBR!


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