Received: Publisher (Open Road Media)
Publication Date of Book: August 2015
Murder, betrayal, and power . . . Welcome to the Wildenstern empire. The slow collapse of the British Empire in the nineteenth century meant opportunity for anyone with ammunition and wit. Now the Wildensterns are by far the most powerful family and the most ruthless. Trained from childhood in the arts of assassination and conspiracy and endowed with the supernatural ability to live for more than a century, the clan has grown rich, vicious, and seemingly invincible.
After nearly two years away, eighteen-year-old Nate has returned. But his homecoming is shattered when his eldest brother, Marcus, is mysteriously killed. Following the Rules of Ascension, which allow one male family member to murder another, Nate is being blamed. Nate knows he isn't the murderer, but who is? With the help of his sister-in-law, Daisy, and his cousin Gerald, Nate intends to find out. Their investigation brings them into the underbelly of the Wildenstern empire, where living machines, conspiring relatives, and undercover mercenaries do their dirty work. But when a disaster uncovers the ancient remains of Wildenstern ancestors, the lives of the family members and their struggle for power will take a bizarre and gruesome turn.
Number One: The Act of Aggression must be committed by the Aggressor himself and not by any agent or servant.
Number Two: The Act must only be committed against a man over the age of sixteen who holds a superior rank in the family to the Aggressor.
Number Three: The Act must only be committed for the purpose of advancing one's position and not out of spite, or because of insult or offence given, or to satisfy a need for revenge for an insult or injury given to a third party.
Number Four: All efforts should be made to avoid the deaths of servants while committing the Act. Good servants are hard to find.
Number Five: The Target of the Aggression can use any and all means to defend themselves, and is under an obligation to do so for the good of the family.
Number Six: Retribution against the Aggressor can only be carried out after the Act has been committed. Should the Aggressor fail in his attempt, and subsequently escape to remain at large for a full day, only the Target of the Aggression and no other person will be permitted to take Retribution.
Number Seven: No Act of Aggression or Retribution must be witnessed or reported by any member of the public. All family matters must be kept confidential.
Number Eight: Any bodies resulting from the Act must be given a proper burial in a cemetery, crypt, catacomb or funeral pyre approved by the family.
Edgar Wildenstern, the current patriarch, has approximately four children: Marcus, Roberto, Nathaniel, and Tatiana. However, with the untimely death of Marcus, the eldest son and heir, the next in line is Roberto, the kindhearted polar opposite of Edgar. In his father's eyes, Roberto's lack of cruelty and aggression makes him weak. Thus, most of the duties and running of the family's American businesses fall upon Nathaniel's shoulders. Neither Roberto nor Nathaniel have any desire to run their horrendous family, and Nathaniel will stop at nothing to apprehend his brother's murderer. However, their are still relatives who are plotting to advance their positions, and Roberto isn't the man he appears to be. Consequently, Nathaniel may have to confront an extremely dangerous killer and four ancient ancestors who were unearthed and brought back to life.
The era in which this novel takes place is absolutely fascinating. So many books that are labeled as being part of the steampunk genre take place in a Victorian era London that's been depicted far too many times. This mold is fabulously broken with McGann's Ireland-based family feud. Some readers may complain that the story doesn't contain enough features of the steampunk genre, but I'm satisfied with the engimals and the odd, "supernatural" qualities of the Wildenstern bloodline. Plus, many steampunk stories are way too complicated with their politics and technology, and I love the fact that Ancient Appetites wasn't over-complicated in these aspects. McGann did a superb job in creating an awesome, unique, and interesting family whose problems only escalate in countless fashions as the story progresses.
The mystery within the novel also wan't cliche, easy to figure out, or boring in any way, shape, or form. The plot kept twisting and the characters often came to an absolutely incorrect conclusion. It was nice that the story didn't abruptly end with a simple solution and actually continued to advance. Resurrecting ancestors was also a nice touch and added a bit more danger and obstacles for the main protagonist, Nathaniel.
I like the fact that Nathaniel wasn't the only main focal point of the story. There were several interesting supporting characters that added flare. Gerald, Roberto, Daisy, and Tatiana all received their fair share of character development, and they each possessed distinct personalities. When writing from multiple points of view, it isn't always easy to make each character perfectly unique, but McGann seemed to have no problems in this department! There was also a moral to the story. Nathaniel started out as a privileged teen who had absolutely everything handed to him. He even ran away to Africa in order to get away from his father's influence. However, he had to learn that you don't magically receive a position. It takes hard work, determination, and the gaining of respect in order to attain both a title and power. Plus, being cruel and heartless doesn't get you very far and pretty much destroys the lives of everyone else around you.
In the end, Ancient Appetites provided a whirlwind of a ride that allows the reader to explore a family governed by cruel endeavors. The characters are surrounded by deadly plots, deceit, and recently awakened ancestors that will disrupt the entire household order. Simply put, the reader is in for one hell of a ride!