Born to privilege and gifted in languages and spells, Neil Franklin has planned his brilliant future well. From academic accolades to finding a proper marriage he is intent upon upholding his family name and honor. The sudden death of his parents shatters all of that, leaving Neil and his younger sister beggared and orphaned.
When Neil's estranged uncle offers him a bargain that will save him and his sister from debtor's prison or exile, Neil eagerly agrees. Handing over the family grimoire as collateral for his debt, Neil devotes himself to working as a teacher for wayward youth at a boarding school high in the clouds.
But Highfell Hall is not the charity Neil imagines it to be and the young men there aren't training for the dull lives of city clerks. Amidst the roaring engines and within the icy stone halls, machinations and curious devices are at work. And one man, the rough and enigmatic Leofa, holds the key to both the desire that Neil has fled from all his life and a magic as dangerous as treason.
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first fell in love with steampunk while studying at Oxford University. There she divided her time between reading about alchemy and heresy in Duke Humfrey's Library, and visiting London to gawk at Babbage's Difference Engine. Her hobbies include making wire sculptures, talking to cats, and wearing tiny hats.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Hanging midair, the gravity-defying vessels called aetheria still filled me with awe. Powered by the invisible current of aether, the great floating ships' upper decks supported educational institutions and the wealthiest peerage show homes.
Although I had no iolite lens with which to see it, I knew that the unprocessed aether gusted and rolled around us, scentless and intangible. The current running along the River Wyrd was among the most powerful in Higher Eidoland.
Like navy vessels on fleet review, the great ships pivoted in unison so that their prows faced into the air stream. The massive chains that anchored them to earth glittered with frost.
Gliders, their silk wings glimmering metallically in the sunshine, scudded around the aetheria like skiffs.
Higher aetheria, outfitted with belowdecks boilers and adorned with promenade-level gardens, held marble institutions of higher learning. Our craft plunged past their stained glass windows, gilded domes, and fluttering pennants. As we descended past the upper aetheria's hulls, palatial residence halls and half-domed astronomical observatories gave way to varnished wooden hulls studded with massive intake fans. These drew in aether along with atmosphere, through wind tunnels lined by copper wires inscribed with aetheric trapping spells.
Steamy exhaust from the turbines gusted around us. It smelled hotly of metal and was edged with an iron tang reminiscent of blood.
Positioned between the mooring chains of higher aetheria and caught sometimes in their shadows, the lesser institutions hovered. These were dingier, their gardens less extensive. Although I had often viewed them from above, never in my life had I thought I would step foot on one in any capacity. As we dropped into their midst, anxious determination as well as curiosity coursed through me. I would make the best of it.
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