Book Review

The Power of Red Ink

“The Crimson Inkwell: A Gaslamp Trinkets Novel,” by Kenneth A Baldwin

I was introduced to this book when working on a panel with the author at LTUE (Life the Universe, And Everything: a Sci-Fi/Fantasy conference). He reached out to me after the panel, saying he was interested in my book (which always flatters me). I likewise looked up his book with a personal fascination with anything set in England and steampunk themed. Add a little police work, a love pyramid (not just a triangle), and some magic, and you have my attention.


We’ve seen the love triangle (been there, done with that), but “The Crimson Inkwell” takes it a step further and makes it a pyramid. Luella’s engaged to Byron (her publisher), but swoons for Edward (a detective who provides her stories), and is fascinated by Bram (her teacher in magic). Each man has definite reasons for Luella to love them, but also major flaws or reasons to stay away. To quote Laurey and Ado Annie,

Well, which one d’you like the best?
Whutever one I’m with.

– “Oklahoma,” the musical

I found “The Crimson Inkwell” pleasantly tricky to predict as I expected it to go one way and it took an alternative route. Ironically, the most predictable part of the story was the big “oh crap” moment, but that could be because I’m a skeptic and know all will go wrong when characters say they’ll be done with magic after “one last time.”

The magic system is one I haven’t seen before. Anyone can use the magical artifacts, but they work like an addiction. While the positive effects are obvious and immediate, the negative effects are slow and growing. There isn’t a lot explained about it in the first book, though based on the set up for book 2, I assume it goes deeper.

Speaking of book 2, this book can be a stand-alone, but there’s a main hole to lead into the next book. By the title, it’s listed not only as the first book in The Luella Winthrop Trilogy, but also A Gaslamp Trinkets Novel. So, there will be the trilogy about Luella (two of three books already released), but I wonder if there will be more books based in this same alternate and magical history? I would be a-okay with that.


Set in historical England, you have the regency standards of a Proper Romance. There’s some kissing, but the most scandalous part is Luella going into a man’s tent (to do magic, not romance). Kenneth Baldwin does a fairly good job of writing a woman’s perspective who’s professional and gets frustrated with the fact that she’s frustrated. It was only in the moments as Luella wandered into questionable places by herself where I recognized the male author.
Dude, women who value their safety and pure reputations don’t do that.

Otherwise, PG rating for some violence and lots of suspense (supernatural, social, romantic, countdown…).


In the end, it surprised me multiple times as the characters acted on their own and the plot twisted appropriately. I enjoyed it and was eager to jump into book 2. *****4.9 Stars*****

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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