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Genre - Steampunk / Alternate History
Rating - PG13
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By page 99 of Timepiece, Elizabeth has begun to find her feet in the strange new London she has landed in—a steampunk version of 1885 that is very different from the 1815 she traveled from. She has made the acquaintance of Katarina Rasmirovna, a music hall singer who wears trousers, carries a pistol, drinks gin, and is sharing the bed of a man to whom she is not married—each of these a greater shock than the last. A delicious shock. Elizabeth is admittedly frightened of 1885, but Katarina is intriguing. It had never occurred to Elizabeth that a woman could do the things Katarina does—but if Katarina does them, why then, perhaps they are not impossible for sheltered little Elizabeth either.
Just prior to page 99, Elizabeth talks Katarina into allowing her to tag along on Katarina’s daily routine, so that she can learn about this new London. Katarina agrees to guide her through this world down the rabbit hole—then catches herself, because of course Alice in Wonderland hadn’t been published in 1815—and amends it to “this brave new world,” since Elizabeth will recognize Shakespeare. As they walk, she asks Elizabeth about herself, and the conversation that follows serves to illustrate both women’s characters and the difference between the world Elizabeth came from and the brave new (terrifying) world she is now exploring.
Katarina turned into one of the most fun characters I have ever written—the dark aspects of her life and personality aside—and I greatly enjoyed finding the right smart, witty, sardonic turns of phrase to put into her mouth. I’d go walking through steampunk London with her anytime.
“I don’t come out until next year.”
“You’ve never even been to your London?” Katarina repeated. “Aren’t you in for an education, then. Right, well, there won’t be much reason for you to say anything at all, but if anyone asks, you’ve...just come up from the country. From Kent; no reason to invent more than you must. We work together, and I’m showing you about.”
“What, ah...” Elizabeth thought about novels, and naughtier tales of which she was supposed to know nothing. How in the world did one ask the question? “What sort of work?”
Katarina gave her a sardonic look. “Singing. I sing in a music hall. So do you.” She turned and led the way down the fog-bound alley.
Elizabeth scurried after her. “On a stage?”
Katarina flicked the look at her again. “Yes, on a stage. Where did you think?”
“I only meant...is it a respectable...I mean...I’m not trying to offend you. I just wondered if things had changed. Like the breeches. Is it a respectable profession for a respectable woman, performing on a stage?”
The fog around them whined with the same muted rat-tat-tat that characterized the corridor outside Trevelyan’s workshop. Elizabeth felt it like an itch in her eardrums, an incipient headache behind her eyes. She looked about, trying to find the source of the sound, but the mist stymied her. A few wisps blew aside long enough for her to make out tall brick buildings,
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