The Eterna Solution by Leanna Renee Hieber is the climactic third installment of The Eterna Files series, delivering a delightful Gaslamp fantasy set in 19th-century New York and Washington D.C. that is rich with detail and embroidered with a cast of captivating characters.
The coolest part about being a reviewer is getting to read books I love and being able to share that enthusiasm with the rest of the world. When a copy of Leanna Renee Hieber’s The Eterna Solution landed in my inbox, I could not have been happier. For a lot of the creatively minded people I know, this year has been a struggle in terms of producing art, and for me, even enjoying it felt like pulling teeth. The sheer joy of reading Hieber’s work reminded me of what I strive for as an artist and the power that love and friendship have in fighting against the darkness—which, incidentally, is the culmination of her Eterna Files series.
The Eterna Solution is the final book of the series, and it does not disappoint. Picking up where Eterna and Omega left off, our assemblage of Sensitives along with the lone resident skeptic return to America where the Society’s dark magic continues to scar New York. A new heir to evil has risen, and it’s up to the Eterna and Omega teams to derail her. And I mean this quite literally—where Moriel had taken to stealing souls, Lady Celeste harnesses the power of industry, drawing her brand of magic from Edison’s new electrical grid and dynamos as well as the rails and waystations.
I know I’m not supposed to like the villain, but Lady C’s up there on my list of favorites. She’s as clever as she is awful, perverting the energy of industrialization to increase her power. During an investigation of one of Edison’s dynamos, Omega’s Rose and Spire make a particularly disturbing discovery:
They stopped in front of a door that was built into the stone structure of the bridge. Mosley held out his hand and there was an odd snapping sound, a small spark leaped into the air. The key had just been a prop to convince Bill. The door swung open to reveal an unadorned innerchamber that held a huge, round turbine—a squat, vast sentry within the bridge. The dynamo was a silent behemoth, rooted to the floor by metal bolts the circumference of a wide hand. On top of one of these bolts sat a black box. The three investigators entered the room, their eyes adjusting to its dim interior.
Mosley walked quickly to the box, then turned back to face Rose and Spire. In the dimness the alien nature of his eyes was fully apparent—they sparked like tiny Tesla coils, fascinating and terrifying.
“Mr. Spire, Miss Everhart,” he began quietly. A gust of wind made the bridge sing behind him. “I know you have seen terrible things. This is no different. I beg you, brace yourselves.”
He opened the box. Rose covered her mouth both to block the smell and stifle a cry. Spire turned his head away with a cough, then steeled himself and brought his gaze back to the horror.
The container held a large, severed hand with an eyeball implanted crudely into its palm. Runes and numbers had been carved into each digit. Somehow this isolated body part was more disgusting than the patchwork corpses they had helped put to rest just hours ago. Rose forced herself to inspect the awful offering. Though on first look it was as terrible as anything she’d seen in Tourney’s cellar of torture, this seemed a more dreadful innovation, bearing a horrid symbology.
The hamsa had been utilized by many cultures and traditions for centuries, merging a symbolic eye at the center of a hand as an icon of protection against curses, warding against the “evil eye.”
As usual, when it came to Master’s Society work, what could be considered of faith and tradition was made disgustingly opposite, creating the evil eye, not protecting against it; feeding on sacrilege by direct perversion.
“There is no way this contributes in any way to the electrical route,” Mosley said, staring into the dead eye as if trying to glean some meaning from it. “What a terrible thing to mix with such beautiful, clean current,” he continued mournfully, then closed the lid.
“Do you have any idea as to why? Why this?” Rose asked, gesturing to the box.
Mosley shrugged, setting the box down, not wanting to hold the thing any longer. “Someone may be trying to lay their own energy on top of the network Edison is creating.”
“Building a conduit for evil?” Rose posited.
“I have no other explanation,” Mosley replied. Taking in Spire’s skeptical expression, he shrugged again. “You don’t have to believe it, but if this has a result, you’ll feel it.”
“Since you once worked for the Edison Company, can you help us find who is doing this? Can you help us look into the company further, see who in its employ might be turned or outright possessed by demons?”
He stared at the hand. “If this unholy box, like that dormant dynamo, is a booster for some dark energy, then there must be a greater source somewhere. Perhaps below the Pearl Street plant.I will try to root out that source, and to assist you. Provided you don’t find me suspect in all this,” Mosley clarified.
“We do not,” Spire reassured. “And I’ll be honest with you if that changes.”
An expression that might pass for a smile appeared on the young man’s face. It was unnerving. “So, then, will I.”
The horrors don’t stop there, and it’s a race against the clock for Clara and her friends to undo all the wickedness Lady C’s designed. As I said above, the magic of the Eterna and Omega teams lies in love, friendship, and devotion. They’re stronger together, harnessing hope and light in an effort to defeat the darkness threatening the world.
And on a personal note, I finally got the wedding I’ve been waiting for—and it doubles as a cover for reburying bodies. Someone knows how to throw a party.
Like the rest of Hieber’s work, The Eterna Solution has a little bit of everything: romance, horror, a wonderful cast of intelligent, witty, and brave characters, and a nice helping of humor—all led by fierce ladies who embody vast and varied forms of strength while refusing to let a society that finds women inferior hold them back.
If you enjoy Gothic Romance and Gaslamp fantasy, I highly recommend The Eterna Files saga. I’m sad to see it come to an end, but I am very much looking forward to the next adventure.
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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.