Highfell Grimoires (HG) is a fantastic steam-punk experience, which is the beginning of Langley Hyde's hopefully long writing career.
In a world where a source of energy named aether runs abundant in the world's atmosphere, humanity has learned to harvest it in everyday technology and spells. Among this are the aetheria, which are floating colossal structures that functions as academies, research facilities and other important units. Spells are found in grimoires, which are inherited within bloodlines, where they can be put to both good and bad uses.
It's within this very constructive and fascinating world, where Neil and Nora Franklin are met with ill fate. With the recent death of their parents, the family debt is picked up by their uncle Gerard, who inherits the family grimoire. In exchange for dealing with the Franklin family's debt and for taking care of Nora, Neil has agreed to teach at the Highfell aetherium (owned by said uncle). It is there, that Neil discovers that things are grossly different from his expectations. Something's amiss in the aetherium, and with the unsuspected help from the gardener/mechanic Leofa, Neil is about to learn just how out of hand things really are.
HG exceeds in its construction of a very original world. I easily lost myself among the high altitudes of the aetherium, the science of aether, the mechanics of the grimoires, and the political structure and caste system in this world. The book also had a very nice cast of secondary characters - from the boys that Neil teaches at Highfell, the staff that works there, and Nora herself. The adventure aspect of the book was also done very well, as certain scenes were very exciting and fitting for this steam-punk world.
Unfortunately, there were a couple things that didn't work well for me. First was the proofreading. While I wouldn't let this be a deal breaker for grammar Nazis or people who just dislike mistakes, it was definitely a problem sprinkled throughout the book. In terms of content, I had to say that the romance was good, but I felt lacked some depth. It's difficult to explain: it was slow-burn and sweet, but I felt like it fell kind of flat in terms of an emotional punch.
Overall, HG is a great debut novel by Langley Hyde. While it lacked a strong romance element, it excelled as a steam-punk experience for those looking to escape reality for a good handful of hours. I would definitely recommend it to friends who are open to reading this genre.