Eterna and Omega by Leanna Renee Hieber is the 2nd book in the Eterna Files gaslamp fantasy series (Available August 9, 2016).
I have been waiting incredibly (im)patiently for Leanna Renee Hieber’s second installation of her Eterna Files Saga, Eterna and Omega. Part Victorian Ghostbusters, part gaslamp fantasy—the second I had the opportunity to sink my teeth into an advanced copy, I devoured it.
I’ve long been a fan of Hieber’s work, and Eterna and Omega is no exception. It even accompanied me to the gym, and though I was not bustlin’, if could have walked on that treadmill in full regalia, I would have.
Eterna and Omega picks up where The Eterna Files left off, with our heroine Clara Templeton in dire straights. After burying crucial material regarding the key to immortality, Clara’s sensitivity to spiritual energy goes into overdrive, forcing a seizure. With the impending threat of The Master’s Society against America and England and the Eterna Commission at odds with England’s Omega Department, Clara’s decision to hide their scientists’ research could be disastrous.
The scene inside the Trinity Church graveyard in downtown Manhattan Island on this witching hour was dire, no matter if one could see the myriad ghosts gathered therein or not. A living woman shook on the ground, surrounded by a dead horde.
Louis Dupris, his phantom form floating beside the shaking body of his lover, Clara Templeton, was screaming at her, alongside the spectral spectrum of Manhattan. Not because she’d done anything wrong, but she was unwittingly drawn into a far more dangerous situation than she could possibly have known. The ghosts were unable to impress this idea upon her, certainly not in her state.
An unkindness of ravens had gathered to add to the cacophony from the tops of a nearby tree that arched over Trinity’s brownstone Gothic eaves and overlooked the graves. Everything dead and living lifted keening protest; wailing and squawking, these ravens as much harbingers as they were scavengers.
A dread power was about to unleash itself over England and America. This was dawning on those in the spirit world who remained attuned to the living. The two countries were woefully unprepared for the black tide that would rise like a biblical plague. Only in this case, the surge would be sent from devils, not from God.
With Eterna and Omega both unsure where the other stands, Spire sends his band of magicians, spies, and mystics to lure out the Eterna team. Meanwhile, Spire’s hard at work tracing a Resurrectionist ring and the source of a series of grisly murders. The deeper Spire digs, the more branches of this hellish plot he uncovers, with a shocking number of them reaching toward Queen Victoria herself.
On the American side, Clara and her team have discovered that whatever killed their team of scientists was trying to prevent their realization of localized magic, or a Ward to keep the evil out. I’ve mentioned it before, but there’s nothing I love more than the science of magic (or magic of science), and that love is doubled when coupled with logistic and, dare I say, practical thought.
Clara traced her fingertips around the edges of the diary that held the key to Louis and Barnard’s system. She and Bishop would have to put this to the test, see if they could recreate it multiple times, to protect multiple spaces. A successful Ward would need to be broadly applied.
She turned to the page of ingredients headed “The Heart of the Matter” in Louis’s neat yet flowing script. He was an artist; his penmanship spoke of dreams and brilliance.
The theory of Eterna in Spiritual Materialism is as simple as it is profound:
Seven ingredients are an ideal combination.
Combined: potentially the compound, and that which keeps this uniquely ours, American.
From these distinct, live cultures, the tether to a long life begins.
Herein are distinct examples of our localized compounds.
Several cities were used as examples; Clara and Bishop had already put Salem to the test in a spontaneous adventure of curiosity. The results had been inconclusive but encouraging.
They had yet to create the Ward for New York, but that had to be the next step, for Clara cared for her city as if it were an extension of herself.
NEW YORK— The Economy and Engine of the Matter
Take from the most charged place of the city; where the striving meet the gods.
Soil of the harbor; cross — waters of the world.
Mix with the air of the center of the city.
Find haunts. Add item from scene.
ADDITIONAL CHARGED ITEMS:
Bone shards from Potter’s fields.
Stone from Trinity churchyard.
A Wall Street dollar.
Final step: Burn elements collectively.
The Eterna Commission leans more toward alchemical composition combined with intention and personal focus. Essentially, the “magic” stems from within, mixed with vital parts of what makes any particular city that city; personal essence and external essence.
As always, Hieber masterfully details her novels, from conjuring a realistic picture of Victorian New York to outfitting her characters in dresses and frills I continually find myself coveting. The narrative is split between America’s Eterna Commission, headed in part by Clara, and Harold Spire of England’s Omega Department. I love the dynamic between these two figureheads, though they don’t meet until the last quarter of the novel. Clara’s Spiritualist beliefs and Spire’s skepticism provide a wonderful clash and compromise. Spire’s the sort of man who’d skip tea and go straight to whiskey while going over the morning’s reports of “devils” and “supernatural occurrences.”
That shot of whiskey is much needed when his team reports that their dead scientists have been found, hooked into electrical wires and reanimated by a twitchy man with an odd mastery of electrical current. This, of course, is my favorite science.
In favor of a wide and varied cast, Hieber also pulls in characters from her other series. Eterna and Omega reunites us with Natalie Stewart and Lord Denbury from her Magic Most Foul Saga, and The Guard from her recently rereleased Strangely Beautiful novel also make an appearance. I love that these recurring characters are supplementary to the narrative, without it being necessary to read their respective books.
I came aboard with Darker Still (handsome men trapped in paintings? I’m in) and was thrilled to see familiar faces. It was similarly thrilling to read Strangely Beautiful and “click” with a couple mysterious characters from The Eterna Files. It’s a bit like finding Easter eggs in a DVD.
There’s a little of bit of everything in this series, from romance to action to incredibly gruesome and horrifying dinner parties. This is the Gothic, after all. Despite the serious and dark circumstances, there’s a vast amount of humor, some of which stems from the ever stoic Spire being the butt of the joke.
My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough Lavinia in this book. Yes, I know she’s a secondary character and does not get top billing, and yes, this is me being selfish, but I can’t help it. She’s my favorite. I’ve been assured book three will remedy this.
If, like me, you can’t wait until August 9th for Eterna and Omega, Hieber recently released an Eterna novella, The Spark, which is free to read over at tor.com. I highly suggest checking into her other works as well. Happy haunting!
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Meghan Harker grew up in a small, awkwardly-named town in Georgia. She attended Brenau University, where she earned her BA in English and a minor in Graphic Design; she also attended the University of Cambridge, England, where she didn't quite master the perfect Oxbridge accent. She's an avid reader, writer, and fire spinner. She's currently working her first novel, a paranormal thriller. Visit her blog at ExquisitelyOdd.com.