Yup, you read that right. The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber is a Victorian paranormal spy drama—and so much more! This book has been sitting at the top of my to-read list for a while, and I’ve mentioned several times how excited I was to read it. Leanna Renee Hieber is one of my absolute favorite authors, largely because her aesthetic tends to line up perfectly with my particular brand of gothic tastes. Well-researched gaslamp fantasy with dark paranormal elements and nuanced feminist characters who kick ass in their fashionable Victorian finery? Count me in! Darker Still, one of Leanna’s previous books, was one of the first books I reviewed on this blog and it still holds the title of my favorite. But The Eterna Files did not fail to live up to my high expectations. Be sure to read through to the end to find out how you can enter to win a signed copy of The Eterna Files for yourself! Also, make sure you tune in next week to see Leanna answer some of my burning questions on behalf of her characters.
The Eterna Files is the first book in a new series by Leanna Renee Hieber. The second book, Eterna and Omega is being released in August, so now is the perfect time to hop on the bandwagon. There is a lot packed into this rather average-length novel. With a heavy cast of characters and a complex plot with dual storylines, it can take some work to follow along—but trust me, it’s worth it. The story is set on both sides of the Atlantic, with a clandestine government agency trying to unlock the secret to immortality for America on the one hand, and a British counter-team and spy ring bent on beating the Americans to the punch on the other. Mixed in are some mysterious murders, mad scientists, sensitive psychics, secret twins, and lovelorn ghosts.
One of my favorite things about The Eterna Files is the way it incorporates a number of gothic genres. Of course there are shout-outs to the classic Gothic novel and elements from ghost stories and other horror genres. But there is also a strong flavor of the classic detective story—a genre popular with many gothic authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Wilke Collins. One of the many characters in The Eterna Files is Harold Spire, an honest British policeman eager to solve the mysterious murders plaguing London but skeptical of the paranormal. He reminds me of the heroes of the classic detective stories of the early twentieth century like those of Edgar Wallace.
My other favorite thing about this book is the way that Leanna avoids the common pitfall of over-romanticizing the Victorian era. While Leanna herself is known for dressing in Victorian garb and having a particular fascination with the era, she is not blind to its flaws. The Eterna Files depicts a nuanced account of Victorian society in both London and New York City. The characters reflect the diversity of these two major cities, which is often forgotten in many modern depictions. Issues of gender inequality, tension between social classes, and the complexity of race are important to the plot and often discussed openly, both within the narration and in the dialogue between characters. I’m pretty sure almost every female character has an outburst of frustration about social restrictions on women and their lack of rights at some point in the book. Leanna excels at writing outspoken feminist characters and incorporating their critiques of the society in which they live in a way that feels organic and germane to the plot. Other hot topics addressed in The Eterna Files include interracial relationships, mixed race and “passing” for white, religious differences and prejudice, and the English class system.
This post has already been quite long, so suffice it to say that The Eterna Files is a great book, and you should definitely check it out! If you’re interested but reluctant to spend money on a beautiful hardcover like the one I have, then you’re in luck—The Eterna Files is being released in paperback on February 2nd! (It might make a great Valentine’s Day present if your lover is of the dark and Victorian persuasion…) You can find it in your local bookstore in February or preorder it now from Amazon.
If even the thought of buying yet another book makes you wince and glance guiltily at your wallet, then you may still be in luck! Leanna has graciously agreed to sign one of her shiny new paperback copies of The Eterna Files for The Gothic Library and send it to one of our loyal readers. Just enter the Rafflecopter giveway below before Sunday for a chance to win! The winner will be announced next week.