Review: The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber

Posted February 11, 2015 by Jessica in Alternate History, Jessica, Reviews / 54 Comments

Review: The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber
The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber
Published by Tor Books
Published on: February 10 2014
Genres: Alternate History
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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London, 1882: Queen Victoria appoints Harold Spire of the Metropolitan Police to Special Branch Division Omega. Omega is to secretly investigate paranormal and supernatural events and persons. Spire, a skeptic driven to protect the helpless and see justice done, is the perfect man to lead the department, which employs scholars and scientists, assassins and con men, and a traveling circus. Spire's chief researcher is Rose Everhart, who believes fervently that there is more to the world than can be seen by mortal eyes.

Their first mission: find the Eterna Compound, which grants immortality. Catastrophe destroyed the hidden laboratory in New York City where Eterna was developed, but the Queen is convinced someone escaped—and has a sample of Eterna.

Also searching for Eterna is an American, Clara Templeton, who helped start the project after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln nearly destroyed her nation. Haunted by the ghost of her beloved, she is determined that the Eterna Compound—and the immortality it will convey—will be controlled by the United States, not Great Britain.

wellwritten CRIME freaky cliff

Do we have any Anne Shirley fans out there? Me, I love Anne Shirley. I loved her when she first arrived at Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert’s farm, and asked them to call her Cordelia. I loved her when she broke her slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head for calling her “carrots.” I loved her when she gave that hilariously honest apology to Rachel Lynde . . .

But it wasn’t just the early years, I loved Anne’s adult years too.

Do you remember when Diana sent Anne’s short story (Averil’s Atonement) to that (Rollings Reliable) baking powder company?

If Anne Shirley were a real person alive today, and had an interest in paranormal alternate history, this is the kind of book she would write:

“Is that all, milord? I’ve left my dear wife anxiously awaiting her surprise: a trip to Paris. She’s impossible when she’s impatient . . . and she’s never patient,” he added with a smile that spoke of the throes of young love.”

The Eterna Files was resolutely Victorian, at times being whimsically funny, floridly embellished, and frustratingly redundant on points of feminine equality.

I feel like it’s important to say that this book was well-written and entertaining enough that I didn’t lose my patience with it until the very end.

What was so dreadful about the end?

*harrumphs* Only that it ended mid-climax. That’s all. No big. *shrieks* *gnashes teeth* *glowers*

I kept pushing the arrow button, over and over, half a dozen times, thinking my kindle had chosen an inopportune moment to go wonky, before I realized that, NO, it was over.

The. End.

*flares nostrils*

And ending mid-crisis highlighted how, for more than one reason, it felt like half a book.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Steampunk is not a genre that I’ve had much success with. There have been a very few exceptions, but mostly I’ve found it to be tech-heavy and plot-lite, and I assumed that was what prevented me from enjoying it more.

But here’s the thing—The Eterna Files is not steampunk. In fact, it’s so absolutely not steampunk that I had to add “alternate history” to our genre list. But still . . . I found my eyes glazing over in the manner to which I’d become familiar, b/c bored with the flowery descriptions of corsets, petticoats, and fascinators.

And while I am (of course) sympathetic to the plight of women who had yet to be seen as equal and independently worthwhile human beings . . . finding new and creative ways to highlight that point every few pages became tiresome.

There. I said it. All the “woe-is-me, corsets” and “unfair, unfair, unfair” got tiresome, I was tired. *straightens backbone* (b/c no corset).

And b/c of the era’s preoccupation with ghosts and communicating with ghosts, nine times out of ten any paranormal elements in this type of book are going to be in relation to that obsession, which in turn lends a gothic feel, neither of which am I very fond. *sighs*

So that’s something to take into consideration—if you like Victorians and Victorian things, there’s a strong possibility this book will go much better for you. I consider it a lesson well-learned.

Back to the earlier point, two stories are taking place simultaneously, one in New York, the other in London. In both places a team of scientists trying to find “a cure for death” have gone missing. For some reason, the London powers that be believe the Americans have greater and more extensive research on the subject, so they dispatch a spy to recover said information, b/c much like the Space Race of the ’60s, both countries are determined that they be the one to succeed, this time in thwarting death, a concept that I found completely ludicrous. I mean, how can you even say, “a cure for death,” without Phantom of the Opera-like organ music blaring in the background?

I do not know. Like I said, not for me.

Regardless, the teams are working in tandem, each trying to beat the other, each trying to discover what happened to their scientists, a circumstance that cannot be unrelated, so you know that they will eventually, inevitably overlap . . . but it never happens. Just before the end (mid-crisis, and NO, I will not let that go), plans were finally in place for the English to cross the pond, but this was not a particularly short book, and I can’t help but feel that ultimately . . . not much happened.

Overall, not for me, but maybe for you. If you prefer Ann Radcliffe or the sisters Brontë to Jane Austen, I say give it a shot. Likewise, if you like ghosts and melancholy, or you think stealing (or making) corpses for nefarious experiments is deliciously creepy, rather than grotesque, The Eterna Files by Leanne Renee Hieber could very well be your next great read. However, if you are like me, and all of those things are at best “meh” and at worst “ick” then I would move on to less dreary cityscapes. Recommended, with qualifications.

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.


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54 responses to “Review: The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber

  1. How do I not know who Anne Shirley is?

    Wonderful review Jessica! I don’t think this would be the read for me either but I appreciate all that this book has to offer genre wise. It is nice to see something different even if it didn’t quite pay off.
    kindlemom1 recently posted…WoW Pick of the Week!

    • I do not know! Perhaps you know her better as Anne of Green Gables?

      And that’s an excellent attitude, and also accurate. Despite my issues and newly discovered lack of interest in books of this nature, I did LOL more than once ;_

  2. Besides the Fact that it has that sort of cliffhanger ending, it sounds like something I might (Though I must admit I had to look up who Anne Shirley was cause I didn’t know the name and well that’s cause I haven’t read that So I put this one on my maybe maybe when it goes down in price..LOL 😉

    • Yeah, it turns out a LOT of people haven’t read Anne, which was kind of a shock b/c I’d always thought she was up there with Tom Sawyer and Old Yeller. Only in my world, apparently 😉 But I think most people who like steampunk and/or gothic lit, etc. will really like this book. I’m just not one of those people *shrugs* And yeah, I’d wait. Even if I did like this kind of book, that ending would have killed me. GAH.

    • And yet . . . I think I prefer “not steampunk,” LOL. Apparently gaslight fantasy is also an option 😉

      Well, at least you knew who she was once you looked it up. I’m thinking I was naive in my belief that EVERYONE had read these books . . .

  3. I’ve yet to give steampunk a try, Jessica. I’m leery for whatever reason. But then you said this is more alternate history…and I’m not sure that’s for me either. The Eterna Files, on the surface, sounds fascinating. But I’m not sure I could handle all the issues you’ve laid out…particularly the ending mid-crisis. What?? I did adore your references to Anne of Green Gables and Austen. 🙂 (I’m absolutely more of an Austen fan than a Bronte fan…the Brontes are so somber)
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…Blog Tour Review & Giveaway ~ All Fired Up ~ Madelynne Ellis

    • Somber and RIDICULOUS. Which, when you think about it is a really bizarre and not at all appealing combination. I just took a “Which Literary Hero blah blah something” internet quiz yesterday, and that stupid thing gave me HEATHCLIFF. Even Catherine wasn’t happy with HEATHCLIFF. *flares nostrils* Anyway, yeah, I doubt you’d like this too. *stalks off still mad about HEATHCLIFF*

  4. Canadian here! Being a fan of Anne Shirley is kind of a pre-requisite. 😉 I did find her writing pretty hilarious, though! I love the sound of a paranormal investigation squad in Victorian London, but everything else sounds…slightly less than appealing. I’ve decided not to jump into this series unless the second book gets better reviews!
    Danya recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: Vol. 30

    • Probably a good plan. Despite my lack of Victorian love, I still enjoyed parts of this book, and if it hadn’t been for that ending . . . something about backs and straw and camels.

      Glad you hear you love Anne too. A surprising number of people didn’t get the reference o.O

    • Yeah, steampunk is weird. Unfortunately, for some reason, I seem to be fascinated by it (in theory), so I keep falling into the same trap. ALSO unfortunately, there have been a couple of books that I did really like . . . so I keep falling into the same trap. Which is a good illustration, LOL, but . . . *sighs* Blast my hard headedness.

    • I was like a KMM cliffhanger. If you don’t know what that is, I’m not going to explain it, b/c hopefully you’ll find out one day, but suffice it to say that it’s a cliffhanger so far beyond the terrible abruptness of most cliffhangers that it has its own separate category.

  5. I have been wavering back and forth on my decision to purchase this book. I just can’t decide if it is worth the money. I do love melancholy, and this book sounds gorgeous. However, the “cure for death” aspect and the cliffhanger are pretty big deal – breakers.

    *sigh* I’ll probably skip on this one. You posted a great review, though!
    A. P. Bullard recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: Lust, Money, & Murder (Book 6)

  6. I loved that rendition of Anne of Green Gables. Only reason I watch Reign is because of the person who played Anne. LOL

    I agree with your assessment of the book. While I did like parts of it, I wasn’t thrilled by it. I have read this author before and I usually become more enthralled with a series as it goes along. Not always with the first book.
    Melissa (Books and Things) recently posted…Blood Cross by Faith Hunter

    • MEGAN FOLLOWS!! I haven’t watched Reign, but I know the actress, LOL.

      Well, that’s good to know, b/c I really was surprisingly entertained more than once. Hieber is very clever. Maybe I’ll give the next book a shot if it gets better reviews.

    • YES. I hate cliffhangers too. HATE them so much that if an author has ended books in other series with cliffhangers—even if I love the series overall—I will still wait until a new series is finished before starting it For example, Karen Marie Moning. I have both Iced and Burned, but I will not read either of them until Feverborn is released. *thumbs nose at KMM*

  7. I’m glad I read your review before I committed myself to this one. I’m a cover ho and I found the cover very interesting when I saw as a future release. A 3 star rating is scary to me, more than 1, but sometimes I can find something in the review that didn’t work for the reviewer bu it might work for me, in this case I didn’t, so it’s a no go 🙁
    Thank you Jessica.
    Lupdilup recently posted…Beg Tease Submit Audiobook – Sequence One by CD Reiss (Review)

    • I can definitely relate. On both counts. I’m always careful to search out the whys in a 3 star review of a book I’m interested in, and I get pulled in by pretty, shiny covers all the time. SO. Happy to be of service 😉

    • I just read a discussion post somewhere that talked about the multitudes of sub genres that keep popping up in fantasy. And “gaslight” didn’t even make the list, LOL.

      I hope you like it more too. And I’m pretty sure you will 😉

  8. I was quite like you about this one I confess. It sounded so good at first and well finally the story doesn’t deliver what I wanted. I wasn’t interested in both parts and in the end it was a little boring. But well maybe the following book will be better? I’m curious to see that.

    • I might be the tiniest bit curious about the next book as well, but not curious enough to read it before I see some of the reviews. I’m sorry that you were disappointed by it too 🙁

  9. Oh Anne – with an e!! – I loved her. Disney (I think) had a really good tv movie that was super super long (6-8hours) for both Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea and that’s how I found the books. I liked them, but I watched the movie over and over and over (so much that the tape in the video – yes this was back in the VCR days- broke). Because of her I read the Lady of Shallot and The Highway Man.

    Anyway I’m on the fence whether I would like this – I do prefer Austen to the Bronte sisters, but Jane Eyre is also a favorite of mine. *shrugs* I guess it will go on my maybe list for now.

    Oh welcome back btw – you were missed 🙂
    Berls recently posted…Invaded by Melissa Landers

    • You’ve never read Anne of Green Gables?! *gasps in shock* LOL. As it turns out, not everyone has 😉 Anyway, yes, it is very hard to get around a book ending mid-climax. The mind boggles that an author would actually do that.