Genre: historical fiction, gothic fiction, some science fiction, some mystery
Setting: the UK at the time of the Napoleonic Wars
Themes: Ambition – sacrifice – morality – the question of where the moral event horizon is – temptation – corruption
Ernst Leitner is an ambitious and promising young doctor fresh from medical school who, looking at the world where people can die of a slight fever and doctors won’t stop killing people, is determined to make a change. His anger at the world of Napoleonic medicine propels him on a quest to raise the dead, which leads him to negotiate a contract with English politician Lord Tateley, who is willing to sponsor him in this endeavor. He moves to London, where he ends up the leader of a small group consisting of acrobat and criminal Sylvia Pernet, whaler and grifter Francis “Monty” Carter, mysterious and alluring waif Deirdre Mannick, and cut off rich lawyer Oliver Harris, all of whom are motivated to help him seek out his cure for death. Eventually, through much trial and error, this impossible task is managed, but increasing recklessness towards death quickly leads to Oliver’s irreversible death, and with that the tangling-up in a scheme involving the kidnapped son of a recently dead MP. Powerful figures quickly become interested in Ernst’s actions, including, most pressingly, a young criminal who was also involved in the kidnapping, and is very eager to keep all of this covered up. This also leads to significant trouble with Tateley, who seems to have his hands right in the pot of the conspiracy, and who would quite clearly not hesitate to kill for what he wants.
Ernst Johann Leitner
An ambitious young doctor, who is mainly motivated by how much he really does just want to stop all the horrors he sees around him. It’s his idea to raise the dead.
A mysterious young woman who is involved with what is ambiguously a Lovecraftian horror. She’s very quiet but can become suddenly ruthless and tends to latch on to people.
Leonard A.W. Tateley, 16th duke of Calitern
A powerful politician who is implied to be Leader of the Opposition. He wears being an asshole on his sleeve and wants you to think that’s all there is to him.
Francis S.B. “Monty” Carter
An American transmasc who used to be a whaler but now makes all of his money cheating at cards. He’s irreverent and lazy, but much more clever than he gives himself credit for.
A French acrobat, who lives with her father and owns the flat Deirdre and Oliver also live on. She only looks out for herself, and maybe Deirdre and Monty.
Oliver James Harris, esquire
The youngest son of a wealthy family, who has been thrown out by his mother to fend for himself. Typical lazy idle rich boy, but he does want to get elected to Parliament.
Lavinia “Vinney” More
A society lady, who has been Tateley’s best friend since childhood. She’s 100% committed to the bit and literally couldn’t care about anything other than having fun.
One of Tateley’s cabinet members, a Jacobin who violently cares about the working class. He’s passionate and often quite strange, and involved in every
Another one of Tateley’s cabinet members, a bigoted asshole who doesn’t think working class people are people. He’s detested by friend and enemy alike.
“With all that his patron had given him, he now had the power to reshape the world. He could destroy the incorrect notions of ‘science,’ he could revolutionize medicine, he could save as many lives as he wanted— or he could do none of that, and leave the world to wallow. He held the entire world in his hands. It was a kind of power he had never tasted before, and he felt that he liked it.”
Ernst Leitner, chapter two
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