Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales
By Karen J. Carlisle
Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales, by Karen J. Carlisle, is a steampunk novel that details the continuing adventures of Dr Viola Stewart – optician, scientist and sleuth. The main story, Eye of the Beholder, follows Viola through a harrowing tale of mystery, myth and murder as she struggles against the power of an ancient Egyptian curse.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The first three short stories, A Present for Viola, Point of View and Mars Ascending, establish the world in which Viola has her adventures, the characters with whom she explores that world, and the relationships she shares with them. There was a certain lack of substance to the description of the world and characters, but I think that is likely to be because this collection of stories is actually the second book in the “The Adventures of Viola Stewart” series. I imagine that the characters are more thoroughly introduced at the beginning of said adventures.
Carlisle dealt extremely well with the steampunk element of the stories by making them a part of the fabric of the world’s reality, rather than letting it overwhelm the story as some authors have. In Viola’s world, a mechanical appendage or steam-powered plectocycle were seemingly as everyday as a carriage or a cane.
Once the initial three stories have set the stage, Eye of the Beholder lends a touch of the feminine Gothic to the reading experience, leading the audience to wonder on the nature of myth and its power over the scientific world. A compelling read with only one real fault – not long enough!
I would love to read a full novel woven out of Eye of the Beholder. Carlisle built the tension well in this story, but I think she lacked the room to really screw every last drop of suspense and anticipation out of it. Chartha has great potential, Professor Fosse is pure fodder for the Gothic author, and Viola’s journey offers a wealth of opportunity to explore the path she is forced to walk (That’s vague, I know, but I DON’T DO SPOILERS!!!).
There’s not much more I can say about Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales. All I have left is that “The Adventures of Viola Stewart” series is now on my shopping list and please, Mz. Carlisle, ma’am, can we have an Eye of the Beholder novel?