It’s an open, airy room that Leanna Renee Hieber enters on the sixth floor of the Crowne Plaza hotel. The group waiting for her is small, but nevertheless enthusiastic at her arrival. It’s only 11:30am at Templecon, a Rhode Island-based convention that becomes significantly more active in the evening. Regardless, us early birds are in for a treat. Ms. Hieber’s the kind of person who captivates a room the moment she walks in. Her black corset and bustled skirt are a sharp contrast to the hotel room’s pastels, but more enchanting is the way she speaks and moves. Even before she’s launched into the main topic of The Eterna Files, we’re hooked.
Brianna: Having only known of Hieber from the guest post she wrote for us, I had no idea what to expect from her when she began talking to us about her journey as an author. She describes The Eterna Files as a culmination of everything she’s done thus far: not only does it feature the same universe as her prior works (keep an eye out for character cameos!), but it encompasses her in the conceptual sense. Hieber lives and breathes Victoriana, from death culture to fangirling over Edgar Allen Poe. To her, that time period is “Home.”
An early section of her book features a supernaturally-sensitive woman seeing her past lives. Hieber admits she believes in such a thing herself: she’s certain she lived in the 19th century at least three times, and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th.
I can’t remember at what point during the salon I decided that I was definitely going to buy this book. However, there’s something very powerful about hearing an author read her own work, especially one with theatrical training. Hieber slips into each character’s voice fluidly; one would be deceived if they think changing from a grieved Mary Todd Lincoln to young Clara Templeton is effortless. Questions raised after the reading allowed us to better understand the writer’s position when it comes to publishing. I find myself fist-pumping the air a la The Breakfast Club when Hieber mentions arguing with her editors because she prefers British English spellings. Then there’s the Chrysler story – when presented with three possible covers for The Eterna Files, Hieber was horrified to see one with New York City’s Chrysler building, which wasn’t erected until 1930.
Kayla: The Eterna Files takes place in the late 1800’s and features two stories occurring simultaneously. In the U.S. and England, two teams searching for the key to immortality have both disappeared. In New York City, Clara Templeton heads the investigation to find the missing team, using her paranormal skills as well as her keen intellect. In London, Her Majesty, Queen Victoria has created a new team with members ranging from magicians to complete skeptics. Harold Spire, a police detective and the most skeptical person on the team is determined to discover what happened to the previous two teams and what the American team is up to, as well as to keep his own new team safe.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think Hieber’s first book under Tor Publishing has something for all types of sci-fi/fantasy fans. It’s a thriller, a mystery, a little bit of a romance, historically accurate, and has well-thought-out magics and some science. I personally love that this book includes people from all walks of life, including heavy topics for the time period such as homosexuality and passing for white. Her women all exhibit different strengths and are very often fearless.
One of my favorite moments is when Clara is told a nosy reporter wants to take her to the opera and she replies harshly. Clara’s friend tells her to be kinder and she responds, “When men start affording more rights to women, maybe we’ll be nicer to the ones we don’t like. But for now, I know that I am too busy trying to preserve my rights and faculties to take care of a man’s fragile ego.” After reading that quote, which is sadly still relevant today, I had to stop reading and immediately share it. Out of all the wonderful aspects to this book, my favorite is Clara’s refusal to accept the status quo for women, in a rapidly changing society for men.
I could gush about this book for hours. As Brianna noted in the first half of this article, Hieber is so full of passion and it shines through in The Eterna Files, which hit shelves yesterday. The writing is spectacular, with every word chosen meticulously, the characters are delightfully quirky, and the stories flow flawlessly.
Bri and I were lucky enough to get our copies of Eterna from Miss Hieber herself, and both strongly recommend you go get your own. Right now. Here. And keep an eye out for the sequel!