Inspired by two of the most beloved works by literary masters, All Men of Genius takes place in an alternate Steampunk Victorian London, where science makes the impossible possible.My Review
Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a widely renowned school for the most brilliant up-and-coming scientific minds, founded by the late Duke Illyria, the greatest scientist of the Victorian Age. The school is run by his son, Ernest, who has held to his father’s policy that the small, exclusive college remain male-only. Violet sees her opportunity when her father departs for America. She disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, and gains entry.
But keeping the secret of her sex won’t be easy, not with her friend Jack’s constant habit of pulling pranks, and especially not when the duke’s young ward, Cecily, starts to develop feelings for Violet’s alter ego, “Ashton.” Not to mention blackmail, mysterious killer automata, and the way Violet’s pulse quickens whenever the young duke, Ernest (who has a secret past of his own), speaks to her. She soon realizes that it’s not just keeping her secret until the end of the year faire she has to worry about: it’s surviving that long.(From GoodReads)
I'm in love. Yes, in love. I didn't think it would happen again so soon. But then, I am sort of easy when it comes to a fabulous book. I found All Men of Genius to be an insanely clever, delightful and captivating book, worthy of a spot on any book lover's shelf.
My love for All Men of Genius happens to be of the "At First Sight" variety. When I eagerly opened the package from Tor, and slipped the book out, I sighed. Yes, I happen to be a cover snob. I'm not ashamed of that. I thought the cover was beautiful, with a picture of Violet as Ashton with the gears placed behind her.
Then, I actually opened the book. When I read Lev Rosen's author notes and acknowledgements, I knew I would adore All Men of Genius. Honestly, when an author writes such witty lines there, you know the book will be brilliant.
And it was. I can't think of one single aspect of All Men of Genius that I didn't love. The characters were radiant, courageous and charming. The main character, Violet was fabulous. She is a feminist way ahead of her time. She is fully committed to showing the world that women have a place in the scientific community. Violet is willing to do whatever is necessary to prove her worth, knowing that abuse, prison or death may await.
Ashton, Violet's twin brother whom she impersonates, is what in late-1800s England, called a "dandy", a gay man. Rosen took a character who could have become a caricature a wrote him brilliantly. Here's why. Ashton is not exactly flamboyant, but he doesn't hide his true self, either. In fact, Ashton's orientation isn't an issue at all amongst his family and friends. Even when Violet inadvertantly catches him in compromising positions, she is embarrassed only because she caught him in general, not because she saw him with another man. Ashton is completely devoted to Violet and her cause, helping her in any way he can.
I want to include all of the many characters I loved in my review, but I simply cannot because the list is long. There are so many characters in All Men of Genius. In another author's hands, the amount of characters would be too much. But Rosen managed to subtly weave new characters into the story, bit by bit. There's Jack, Ashton and Violet's best friend and confidante, who plays an integral part in the story. Ernest, the head of Illyria, and his cousin Cecily, Toby and Drew, Mrs. Wilkes, the many professors, Marion (perhaps my favorite character) and Fiona. See what I mean? All of those characters deserve a place in this review, but I'm sure you don't want to read a book about a book!
I read that All Men of Genius was inspired in part by The Importance of Being Earnest. The book is full of mistaken identities, gender confusion, comedic situations and misunderstandings, so I definitely picked up on that. I happen to love that movie (check out the version with Rupert Everett and Colin Firth, my favorite).
Besides being a completely delightful and thoroughly entertaining book, All Men of Genius does, in it's own clever way, touch on serious issues. Even though the book is set in 1880s England, I found the themes regarding sexual orientation and gender roles and discrimination to still be shockingly relevant today.
And though All Men of Genius is considered a steam punk novel, it's a must-read for anyone who loves witty, funny and thought-provoking books. And really, who doesn't?
On a side note, I adore author Lev AC Rosen's writing. He is an outrageously talented author who I can't wait to read more from in the future.
I usually quote passages from the actual book, but I loved the Author's Note so much, I had to include
a few lines from that.
"Furthermore, I don't recommend emulating the behavior of any of the characters contained within.
They're all quite mad.
The truth is, I have no idea what I'm talking about.
Except about love. We all know a little about that. Or nothing at all."