June 14, 2014

Lumière (The Illumination Paradox, Book One)

by Jacqueline E. Garlick
Amazemo Books
458 pp.
Ages 12+
December 2013

"How much do you trust me?"

When you have a secret that could lead to your hanging from the gallows, dipped in hot wax, or discarded with criminals and the Infirmed to a societal wasteland, you're very careful with whom you place your trust.  But at some time, everyone needs a little (or a lot!) of help and you need to trust someone.  

Fortunately for Eyelet Elsworth, her father, a famous inventor, who perished the Night of the Great Illumination, and her mother, who is put to death on the charge of being a shape-shifter and killing the royal baby, always looked for ways to protect her and even reverse her affliction.  Sadly, she lost her father when she was but eight years of age, and her mother nine years later.  Now at 17, Eyelet is running away from her home in Brethren, where she attends (attended!) the Academy of Scientific Delves and Discoveries, pursued by Professor Smrt and soldiers called Brigsmen.  Challenged as exhibiting madness but really hunted for her father's notebooks, Eyelet only has her mother's necklace with an hourglass-shaped vial containing an emerald light, and the location where her father's invention, The Illuminator, is stored.

Though Eyelet may not believe it, she is fortunate to discover her father's invention being  removed from the warehouse.  Grabbing hold on the carriage in which it's been taken, Eyelet is taken by Urlick Babbit to the safety of the home he shares with his father in the Ramshackle Follies, a scorned land beyond the limits of the Commonwealth.  Though Urlick is perennially focused on his face of raised purple scars and blemishes that he believes marks him as a monster, Eyelet sees beyond this, curious about the plethora of gadgets, the restrictions he places on her if she is to stay, and the location of her father's Illuminator. 

But both Eyelet and Urlick are keeping secrets and unknowingly creating misunderstandings that may put their relationship and even their lives in danger.  Neither can guess the other's intentions but each is convinced that they do. Readers will celebrate each forward step of Eyelet and Urlick's adventures, all the more so because they demonstrate great strength of purpose but are emotionally weakened by their perceived debilitations.  Fortunately, the intervention by a secondary cast of characters and a little honesty go a long way in bringing Eyelet and Urlick together, emotionally and strategically, to achieve something grand. Urlick's simple kindnesses towards Eyelet and Eyelet's disregard for his facial features will have you cheering for their inevitable romance so charmingly evoked by Jacqueline E. Garlick's rhythmic imagery.
"All the blood in my body tingles.  Not in the cool metallic way it does when I'm falling into an episode, but warm and cursive, like fancy handwriting over fine parchment paper, all loopy and beautiful, seeping in and out of every pore." (pg. 373)
The plot developments in Lumière will keep readers riveted, as will the imaginative gadgetry–a cigarette holder and flame thrower, for example–that enriches the steampunk genre. But, for me, sharing Eyelet's and Urlick's perspectives, usually in alternating chapters, and their witty repartée took me from beginning to end in two short readings.
"Ohmilord, ohmilord, ohmiLOOORD!" I scream.
"What are you doing?" Urlick shouts.
"Saving you?" I gulp as I swing past. "What does it look like I'm doing?"
"Have you lost your mind?"
"No, not yet. But soon, I suspect." (pg. 345)
Book Two in The Illumination Paradox series is set to be titled Noir (another title based on Eyelet's father's notebooks) though there is no ETA for it yet, though I will continue checking Jacqueline E. Garlick's website at http://jacquelinegarlick.com/, as I recommend you do, because Lumière leaves Urlick just about at his end.  And we wouldn't want anything to separate them when he's just found the "only girl I ever believed could understand me" (pg. 204), would we?

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