Jani and the Greater Game is a good old-fashioned adventure story set in turn-of-the-century India, but it isn’t quite the world we know. Jani Chaterjee is a young woman, half Indian, half British, who finds herself in possession of an object that could change the world forever, and reveal the dark secret at the heart of the Empire’s astounding technological revolution.
This is an alternate, steampunk version of history built partly out of a solid grasp of history and partly out of a knowledge of contemporary adventure stories. Brown layers the story with historical and cultural detail and literary allusions mixed liberally with his own concepts. It is not a particularly subtle novel, especially in its depiction of racism at the time, but in a story that starts with an airship being shot down and includes mechanical elephants, battling spies, and alternate universes, subtlety is not a particularly important trait.
Jani herself is a fun creation. Unexpectedly resourceful and brave, she is trapped between two worlds and forced to unravel a decades old mystery simply to survive. The other characters are, perhaps, less well drawn. The villains are almost caricatures sketched from stock adventure story characters, but this seems more deliberate, as this is, in fact, an adventure story.
Jani and the Greater Game is a rip-roaring pulp adventure story full of steampunk imagery, and flavored with historical and political commentary. Above all this book is simply fun.
**Received copy from NetGalley for Review