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****** (6 out of 6) ,
Cover - I love this cover. It has a gothic feel, and you can see the steampunk elements and - is that a huge gun in her hand? or is it...? See her hair? yep - she's from Africa, and not only is she from Africa, but HER HAIR looks like it- I love it, when it's true to life. See the Ferris Wheel? In the story. See the Planes? In the story. See the buildings? From Paris to alternate history Chicago's world fair. Oh yeah.
Camera Obscura is actually the second in a trilogy - The Bookman Histories. I did not read The Bookman (1st), but it did not take away from the experience, as it seems this can be read as a standalone novel.
The main character is Milady DeWynter - aka Cleo. Milady is pretty mysterious, and even after reading the novel, you don't know much more about her than when the novel began - bits and pieces, but she remains fairly mysterious with some questionable past actions. For now, she is working for the Quite Council. They are a mix of beings.
This is a steampunk novel, there are mechanical men, with clockwork innards, there are Lizard People (I had a good chuckle here, because when my kids were growing up, we used to tease them, watch out for SnakeMan and LizardWhip - we weren't always the nicest parents-kept our kids on their toes!*g*), and a few other strange beings. In fact, I could see a nod to quite a few historical fantastical figures in this book. Mr. Holmes, a Victor who uses a Hyde formula, a man who has a tendency to cut up...well, you probably get the point.
The story begins with a murder investigation. Milady comes in to take a look at a corpse, and then she has her mechanical .... cockroach?... dispose of the body. She then reports to the council, and is led on a merry goosechase, sometimes as bait, from Paris to the New World (named Vespuccia here), with a side trip to the deep - leagues under the sea. There is an amazing about of references to past story figures. And from the very first page to the last, I was enthralled with the story. Every little bit was interesting. No huge infodumps (hurray!), mysterious dialogue, interesting characters and some very horrific happenings. Tidhar does not treat Milady very well. She is abused and goes through more than your average book character.
I'm going to pick up the first of the series and the third whenever I can. Lavie Tidhar has a real talent for writing a steampunk novel with a grand array of characters. There was even some science fiction elements mixed in. Camera Obscura is definitely a book I was happy I bought. I will be reading more from Lavie Tidhar.