A Study in Honor
Dr. Janet Watson knows firsthand the horrifying cost of a divided nation. While treating broken soldiers on the battlefields of the New Civil War, a sniper’s bullet shattered her arm and ended her career. Honorably discharged and struggling with the semi-functional mechanical arm that replaced the limb she lost, she returns to the nation’s capital, a bleak, edgy city in the throes of a fraught presidential election. Homeless and jobless, Watson is uncertain of the future when she meets another black and queer woman, Sara Holmes, a mysterious yet playfully challenging covert agent who offers the doctor a place to stay.Watson’s readjustment to civilian life is complicated by the infuriating antics of her strange new roommate. But the tensions between them dissolve when Watson discovers that soldiers from the New Civil War have begun dying one by one—and that the deaths may be the tip of something far more dangerous, involving the pharmaceutical industry and even the looming election. Joining forces, Watson and Holmes embark on a thrilling investigation to solve the mystery—and secure justice for these fallen soldiers.

A Study in Honor Details

TitleA Study in Honor
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 31st, 2018
PublisherHarper Voyager
ISBN-139780062699305
Rating
GenreScience Fiction, Mystery, Lgbt, Fiction

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A Study in Honor Review

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)
    January 1, 1970
    “It’s not as expensive as you think.”Sara Holmes leaned against the entry to the parlor, arms folded and mouth quirked into a smile. The lace gloves on her hands were just visible, though their color had faded to a pale gray.“How did you-”“Deduction. And a certain empathy born of like experience.” god, this was so good. it's a really fucking awesome reimagining of Sherlock Holmes but they're both black sapphic ladies and also, it takes place in a post-Trump era, and also, it's a political t “It’s not as expensive as you think.”Sara Holmes leaned against the entry to the parlor, arms folded and mouth quirked into a smile. The lace gloves on her hands were just visible, though their color had faded to a pale gray.“How did you-”“Deduction. And a certain empathy born of like experience.” god, this was so good. it's a really fucking awesome reimagining of Sherlock Holmes but they're both black sapphic ladies and also, it takes place in a post-Trump era, and also, it's a political thriller. [this feels like it should be a solid recommendation all on its own.]So I have not read Sherlock Holmes, but I do know from general life experience [and from watching this hilariously dedicated literary analysis, like, eight times] that it is episodic in nature. Something this does not do, as an adaptation, is act episodic in nature. Another thing this does not quite do, as an adaptation, is give you the clues and let you figure it all out. Also, Irene Adler is a villain. I think. This is slightly disappointing. However, the element this novel chooses to adapt well is the characterization of the two leads, and personally, I thought that was pitch perfect. So I mean, the plot is fine, but the best part of the book? The characterization. I mean, first of all, there are the two lead characters themselves. Watson is super well-written and one of my new fave characters of the year. She’s the focal character here, disabled and dealing with ptsd and constantly stressed. Oh, and Holmes is this gloriously sarcastic and enigmatic character who also feels human. All of the Holmes-is-completely-a-dick narratives can go fuck themselves; this Holmes is occasionally a dick, yeah, but she's also a genuinely loving and caring person who wants to use her smarts for good.And then there’s the centerpoint of the novel, and the reason I loved it so much: the relationship between Watson and Holmes. Their dynamic is this weird in-between where they're best friends but also Watson is just so Tired™ of Holmes but also they have a vague amount of romantic chemistry, and it's kind of the best thing about the whole damn book. I still kind of want them to be girlfriends, but I… also am happy with their current relationship? Which I actually think is the authorial intent and I. Love. It. I found their dynamic so effortlessly compelling and interesting and fun.This is also the first book I’ve read that feels very much like fiction that is… explicitly a reaction to the Trump presidency. So let’s talk about that. In recent months, we have seen an incredible immigration crisis – in which children, down to preschool age – were separated from parents. This is a crisis author could have in no way known of when she wrote this book, yet the book itself is explicitly a book about an America in which political discourse has become tinged in racism and discrimination no matter which faction you belong to. Which is… harrowing. And accurate.I’m wondering how this novel will hold up in five years, but still, it’s a frightening portrayal of a world gone wrong; just not in the overt, dystopian way. It’s gone just wrong enough that people like Janet Watson, a disabled veteran and a sapphic black woman, would feel it. Would hurt because of it. But not wrong enough that it feels like a far cry from our society, which is perhaps the most terrifying thing of all. We are so complicit when we want to be. The world is horriying and the way that we as human beings use the media we produce and consume to deal with it is fascinating. Anyway. On the whole, I thought this was excellent. Like this year’s earlier Witchmark, despite my feelings that the plot was hovering somewhere around “just good,” the character dynamic is so completely 20/10, and I adored all the themes and various existential tensions so much that I just can’t not five star this. I will definitely be revisiting this when I’m sad and you should definitely pick up your copy immediately when it releases on July 31st.Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Youtube
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  • Joe Crowe
    January 1, 1970
    So cool. That's what this book is.It combines sci-fi and Sherlock Holmes in a feminist telling of the Holmes mythos with Janet Watson and an LGTBQA Sara Holmes in a future after a second Civil War. The author has created spins on the characters that are true to their origins. Clearly, author O'Dell is having a blast with the characters. This is Holmes at the Holmesiest. Beyond the Holmes stuff, the story is a frenetic, intelligent mystery. O'Dell has opened up a new world that I hope she revisit So cool. That's what this book is.It combines sci-fi and Sherlock Holmes in a feminist telling of the Holmes mythos with Janet Watson and an LGTBQA Sara Holmes in a future after a second Civil War. The author has created spins on the characters that are true to their origins. Clearly, author O'Dell is having a blast with the characters. This is Holmes at the Holmesiest. Beyond the Holmes stuff, the story is a frenetic, intelligent mystery. O'Dell has opened up a new world that I hope she revisits. Right now. Is she done with the next one yet?(Review from an early, early review copy.)
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  • KP
    January 1, 1970
    (Review originally posted on the John H Watson Society website.)General ReviewI think most people could guess by now that I love twists on the classic Holmes story. While I do enjoy the more traditional pastiche—give me a Lyndsay Faye story any day!—there is something that continues to intrigue me about pastiches that do something different to our characters. Holmes and Watson were, after all, men of their time, even if they were eccentric. Pastiches that throw them into different times, differe (Review originally posted on the John H Watson Society website.)General ReviewI think most people could guess by now that I love twists on the classic Holmes story. While I do enjoy the more traditional pastiche—give me a Lyndsay Faye story any day!—there is something that continues to intrigue me about pastiches that do something different to our characters. Holmes and Watson were, after all, men of their time, even if they were eccentric. Pastiches that throw them into different times, different genders, different sexualities, different abilities help shine a light on what makes a Holmes and a Watson intrinsically Holmes-and-Watson, in my mind; they are conductors of light.One can imagine my sheer and utter excitement when, while doing my monthly search for upcoming Holmesian novels, I found A Study in Honor on the list. Holmes and Watson in the near (somewhat dystopian, utterly plausible) future, as Black queer women? I am pretty sure I screamed myself hoarse, and then proceeded to digitally scream on my twitter and Facebook and tumblr. I hopped right over to Edelweiss, which had ARCs available, and requested it. When I didn’t hear back right away, I requested it again. And also reached out to the author to squeal at her. Thankfully, Edelweiss came through, and I soon had a fresh, shiny ARC on my Nook.I plowed this book in a day. I considered savoring it, taking my time with it, but I just couldn’t. The characters were too fascinating; the plot was too intense. O’Dell has created an amazing pastiche, and I cannot recommend it enough.The worldbuilding is, in some ways, sparse—O’Dell doesn’t spend a lot of time providing an info dump, especially given the book takes place in the near future. Yet despite the sparse worldbuilding, it all works, because of how close it takes place to our present. The things described are all too plausible, all too real, for better or worse. A second Civil War is happening when the book opens. Janet Watson is a veteran of that war, her arm destroyed in the fighting and fitted with a prosthetic that feels only one generation removed from current prosthetic advancements (and, in many ways, doesn’t quite live up to current prosthetic science, as Janet is given one that doesn’t quite suit her; much of her struggle throughout the book is navigating the VA, trying to get a prosthetic that actually works correctly for her, something we’ve all certainly read about or perhaps personally experienced). Sara Holmes has a device that allows the Internet to be downloaded right into her brain, something that seems too real as things like Google Glass come onto the market; it’s not too far a stretch to imagine that soon we’ll just have implants in our head.Sara Holmes herself is an enigma, at times frustratingly so. I wish there had been a more explicit conversation about what, precisely, she does, as I found the secrecy around her work confusing for the reader, and not just for Janet, but despite that issue, I found her utterly charming. I can easily see someone falling under her spell and being endlessly intrigued by her. I loved the updates to the classic Holmes; I can absolutely see Victorian Holmes wanting implants that would give him access to all the information in the world. I was tickled by the fact that Sara Holmes plays the piano, rather than the violin. Her solicitous nature with Janet was adorable. Though Watsons are always intrigued by Holmeses, it’s so rare to really see, in depth, a Holmes intrigued by a Watson, as Sara clearly is with Janet. And her masterful quality was hilarious, especially since it always put Janet on her back foot.I will fully admit that I found the plot somewhat convoluted at times. I think a second read through would make things clearer to me, and others may not have that problem; as I said, I read this book so quickly, I could easily have missed things. Despite knowing that I missed things, I found the mystery absolutely heart-wrenching. I don’t want to get into it much, as I feel like anything I write about it leads to spoilers, but the victims are what drive the case, and drive Janet the entire time. Her determination to give them justice drove the story. It was wonderfully done, and I still tear up when I think of Belinda Diaz.I would like to add in a good word for the secondary characters as well. Jacob Bell, RN Roberta Thompson, Saul Martinez, even the weasely Terrence Smith, are richly drawn. I would love to see some of them become recurring characters, because I loved them as much as I loved Janet and Sara.There are two particular things I want to mention about this book that might give people pause. It is a very political book, and if you are looking to escape politics for the time being, you may wish to consider this; and most importantly, this book about two queer Black women is written by a white woman. As a white woman myself, I do not feel qualified to say if she did well by the characters in terms of their race. However, here is what I do know: O’Dell’s editor is Amber Oliver, a Black woman; she lists having taken a Writing the Other workshop in her acknowledgements; she had many readers look over her book. It does appear she has done some work in trying to avoid stereotypes and poor representation.I am very much looking forward to owning a copy of this book when it comes out in July. I suspect it will take a place of honour on my Sherlock Holmes shelves, as it’s certainly one of the most ambitious and intriguing pastiches I’ve read in a while.What About Our Watson?This is entirely Janet Watson’s book. I have read a number of fine Watsons in my goal of providing reviews for the Society. Some of them have even been excellent. But Janet really takes the cake, because she isn’t a strong-willed narrator of Holmes’ adventures, as so frequently happens. Instead, Janet is entirely her own person, with her own hopes and dreams and loves and history outside of Holmes, and the book focuses on her struggles and desires as she steps into a realm that has always been helmed by a Holmes.I want to spend a moment on Watson as a war veteran. One of my ongoing… I won’t say frustrations, but perhaps disappointments, is that pastiche writers don’t do more with Watson post-war. I have always wanted to see a Watson with a more consistent war wound than ACD gave him, one that impacts him in a real way. I’ve also always hoped that some writer (whether of a book or a film/TV show) would explore the idea of Watson having PTSD, as there is certainly fodder for such in canon. I’ve seen the occasional pastiche or adaptation make an attempt, but across the board, it’s been rather half-hearted. A Study in Honor, though, stares unflinchingly at Janet Watson’s war wounds, both physical and mental. Much of Janet’s internal conflict comes from her struggles to get a prosthesis that actually works, and her turmoil over losing her arm and learning to adapt in a world that has little interest in adapting for her. Her PTSD is visceral, in a way that I finally recognize, with certain sounds, phrases, smells, triggering flashbacks and memories. She regularly sees a therapist, and opens up to her, attempting to heal and thrive, rather than remain stuck in her survival instincts. The depiction of trauma in this book, with Janet and with others, is raw and hard and beautifully done.Janet is also a woman who takes no shit from her Holmes, which everyone knows I’m a sucker for. I like a Watson who is willing to push back, to demand respect, to even yell at times at a Holmes. I like a Watson who won’t be steamrolled. Janet is that kind of Watson. While she concedes certain battles (I teared up about the journal), she is also willing to fight back against Holmes and her casual acceptance that she’s in control at all times. I loved the ongoing sneakiness over the text device, for example, and Watson’s dismissal of the gifts that Holmes continued to offer. I laughed heartily over her continued rejection of Holmes’ pet names for her. Janet Watson clearly trusts Sara Holmes, but also refuses to blithely accept her word; she wants answers and explanations, and demands them when Sara is less than immediately forthcoming.Janet is deeply loyal, to her patients, to her military comrades, and Holmes, as well as compassionate; she is also tenacious and stubborn, qualities I do love in a Watson. Her determination to heal, to solve the case, to bring justice to the victims is present throughout the entire story. I can think of nothing better to sum it up than to provide a quote from Janet’s journal (journaling is important throughout the entire book; we frequently get to read Janet’s journal as she writes it): “I WILL HAVE MY VICTORY. I WILL HAVE MY LIFE BACK. I SWEAR IT.”I really can’t ask for more from my Watsons. Janet is an absolute treat, and I think any Watsonian will love her.You Might Like This Book If You Like:Dystopian futures; recovery stories; tough yet vulnerable women protagonists; conspiracy theories
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  • hj
    January 1, 1970
    Wow, I finally got around to writing the review, haha.I am always a fan of new takes on classics and it is utterly delightful to read a novel that goes beyond the usual. My favorite so far has been (and still will remain a favorite) the television series, Elementary, taking place in modern day NYC. It certainly caused some displeasure for fans of the iconic duo, to discover that Watson would be portrayed by an Asian woman. Whatever the case, I’m truly happy that Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller did Wow, I finally got around to writing the review, haha.I am always a fan of new takes on classics and it is utterly delightful to read a novel that goes beyond the usual. My favorite so far has been (and still will remain a favorite) the television series, Elementary, taking place in modern day NYC. It certainly caused some displeasure for fans of the iconic duo, to discover that Watson would be portrayed by an Asian woman. Whatever the case, I’m truly happy that Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller did a phenomenal job with their roles, truly showing the complexities of their characters.The reason I start this review with Elementary is because A Study in Honor reminded me of the television show. In fact, it went above and beyond by casting the roles of Sherlock and Watson to queer black women going by the names of Sara and Janet, respectively. There are also many twists on secondary characters who are also fleshed out and memorable, many of them turning into people of color (which we all know is my jam, haha). I appreciate the fact that O’Dell remains true to the original characterizations despite this. In addition, she just adds all these little details that show how headstrong, queer black women would navigate different spaces. This is especially the case of Watson.In fact, we can just say that A Study in Honor is a Janet Watson special; we truly see through her eyes and I think brings more attention to a character who is often shadowed by the enigmatic genius. Sherlock actually doesn’t make as much of an appearance, which may disappoint some, but I think having Watson take the spotlight is a welcome change. That said, the interactions we see between the two are absolutely charming and hilarious. I love that Watson takes no shit from Sherlock because God only knows we need more of that. We’re also made aware of Watson’s discomforts and frustrations of how she is perceived, especially with very visible disability, a prosthetic due to losing her arm in the war. That’s another thing I really appreciated: the frank approach of a postwar life as a veteran, struggling with PTSD and attempting to assimilate back into society. I bring this up because virtually no other adaptations ever discussed in detail and it’s a huge deal.Speaking of society, the novel also takes place in a future dystopian United States that entered a second Civil War. While this may ruffle some feathers, the not-so-subtle criticisms of the American political climate over the last decade or so is a necessity that O’Dell handles wonderfully to pair with the plot. Though with regard to plot, that is one not-so-positive aspect that I need to note. It’s not as clear and it definitely does not feel like the focus of the novel. It doesn’t deter me all that much since I’m quite fond of character development and worldbuilding. A Study in Honor fits the bill in this regard and I’m willing to accept the plot sacrifice. However in the defense of the not-so-apparent plot, I think it adds a lot of intrigue to what is to come in the next novel.Note: This is an ARC that I received from the author a few months ago. I also refrain from leaving an actual star rating due to potential biases but even without, I do think I would have enjoyed this just as much.
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  • Starr
    January 1, 1970
    I was given a copy of this book, free, in exchange for my honest opinion. This is a gender and race flipped Sherlock Holmes retelling. Though I was interested in it, I have to admit that I ended up enjoying it a lot more than expected. Dr. Janet Watson was a surgeon in the army, on the front lines during the new civil war. She was discharged when she was shot and lost her arm during one of the battles against the New Confederacy. Now that she is back in DC hoping to get her metal prosthetic repl I was given a copy of this book, free, in exchange for my honest opinion. This is a gender and race flipped Sherlock Holmes retelling. Though I was interested in it, I have to admit that I ended up enjoying it a lot more than expected. Dr. Janet Watson was a surgeon in the army, on the front lines during the new civil war. She was discharged when she was shot and lost her arm during one of the battles against the New Confederacy. Now that she is back in DC hoping to get her metal prosthetic replaced for one more fitting for a surgeon, she realizes that things are not going to get any better anytime soon. Once she realizes that the VA has no immediate plans to replace her metal arm anytime soon, she decides to stay in DC. All she needs is a job and a place to stay. She finds a job with the VA and then a friend introduces her to Sara Holmes, someone she is not sure she can stand. As Watson gets comfortable with her new job, new roommate and new routine, she uncovers a mystery that doesn't make sense, someone is killing civil war veterans. The first third of the book is getting to know the characters, Watson in particular but also Holmes. While it seems like a big deal that civil war veterans are being killed, that mystery doesn't really start until a third of the book. While I wouldn't say that this is a slow book, it is not fast paced either. There were parts of the book that I felt i was making progress only because I continued to read, there were other parts that seemed to fly by. Somehow it works for this book, it fits with Watson's style. The ending was explosive with the action that was happening on the page, but not with the resolution of the mystery. That was a bit more subdued, happening as Watson recovers in the hospital. There were small things that I enjoyed, like the nod to Octavia Butler that occurs once or twice throughout the book. The way that Holmes hair is described in locs and another character's hair is described as being in boxed braids. The way people either see them or overlook them in different situations. Those are the small things that make it apparent that the characters are black. But there was still something that was a bit off, as if the characters were black because the author wanted them to be black and not because they actually were black. I am not sure if that even makes sense.  I really enjoyed this book. It was quiet with its observations even though what was going on around inside the book was very loud. I am definitely looking forward to continuing on with this series. 
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  • Lexie
    January 1, 1970
    I went into this book intrigued for three reasons:- Claire O'Dell is the (open) pseudonym for fantasy author Beth Bernobich, who's works I adore- Female Sherlock Holmes and Watson!- Near Future/quasi-scifi leanings!The fact both of them were black and queer didn't even register with me - I saw the cover (which of course features two Black women - also I love this cover), but I hadn't read the backcover before I was requesting the book.This is a compelling read. Yes, I used the word compelling an I went into this book intrigued for three reasons:- Claire O'Dell is the (open) pseudonym for fantasy author Beth Bernobich, who's works I adore- Female Sherlock Holmes and Watson!- Near Future/quasi-scifi leanings!The fact both of them were black and queer didn't even register with me - I saw the cover (which of course features two Black women - also I love this cover), but I hadn't read the backcover before I was requesting the book.This is a compelling read. Yes, I used the word compelling and yes I meant it. While the bare bones of the well trod Sherlock mythos are here, O'Dell gives us a new take that grounds the story in a very real sense of the world. We're not given the exact year this is set, but its after the current presidency and its explicitly stated that the war Watson fought in is a result of the world this presidency encourages. (view spoiler)[but I won't get into my own politics - cause I agree with a lot of the conclusions drawn and implied here as well as can easily see this sort of thing occurring in the real world (hide spoiler)] It gives this an undercut of tension while I was reading, a sort of fear that "holy shit this is all too true" feeling. It made it hard at times to read as fast as I wanted. Emotionally I got overwhelmed; with how Watson felt, with how she reacted, with how the world was. But I needed to know what was going to happen. I needed to know how the puzzle pieces fit together, why it all mattered. So many things that on the surface amounted to very little - the death of a veteran who was obviously haunted by the demons from the War, a military Doctor who disappeared, a squadron who disobeyed orders - these are all so mundane, so common, but Watson felt it was imperative to dig deeper. And that urgency, that drive, made me feel it too.Holmes, Sara Holmes, is both every frustrating characteristic of Sherlock Holmes and all the best parts amplified. She is not written more "feminine" or in any fashion that would pigeon hole her as "oh she's just a female Holmes" and easily dismissed. She's fascinating because honestly her behavior is so gender non-specific. She's not warmer because she's female nor did it seem to give her any special insight. Her calculations and intelligence are genderless; her motivations and her actions equally so. If Watson didn't remind us that Holmes was female, I'd be hard pressed to find any where in the narrative (that isn't a physical description of her) that points to that conclusion.In the end, like most Holmes' tales, the mystery has a very common place motivation. And for me, this book became way less about the mystery then it did about who Watson would be at the end. Would she still be the bitter, veteran who just wanted a device that would allow her to reclaim a part of herself she considered essential? Would she recapture any of the idealism she had before she joined the War effort 3 years prior? Or would she, like so many of her comrades in arms, succumb to the misery the world was forcing onto the broken and discarded in the name of progress?
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  • Alice, as in Wonderland
    January 1, 1970
    Oh yeah, so I'm biased. Holmes and Watson have been reincarnated a thousand times over, and I lap it up every single time, but so rarely have they been women of color, let alone woc AND queer. If there was a button that decided if this book could enter the world, I might have broken it through sheer force of want. This is a Watson book. You know, it's a little weird to say that, because many adaptations of Holmes do a great disservice to Watson. He's been an idiot, pointless to the plot, or stra Oh yeah, so I'm biased. Holmes and Watson have been reincarnated a thousand times over, and I lap it up every single time, but so rarely have they been women of color, let alone woc AND queer. If there was a button that decided if this book could enter the world, I might have broken it through sheer force of want. This is a Watson book. You know, it's a little weird to say that, because many adaptations of Holmes do a great disservice to Watson. He's been an idiot, pointless to the plot, or straight up excised from the story. Even Doyle never seemed to want to put much thought into his character. The man just arrives from a war, and the stories rarely touch upon any turmoils that might be left over from it. I'm a big fan of Elementary, but when they announced Lucy Liu and her role, they also left out Watson's military background, unfortunately dispensing with what could have been a discussion of women in the military (let alone woc in the military; an even rarer topic). I've always hated this, because Watson is very beloved to me, and a much more interesting and vital character than adapters have given him credit for. So he's not some brilliant detective. But without him, stories of Holmes would never have been so evocative, or structured, or interesting. We only have Holmes because of Watson, Holmes' friend, confidante, and respected colleague. (Do you goddamn hear me, Moffat? RESPECTED.)But as different as Janet might be to her original counterpart, she embodies so much of him that I would almost consider this book a Watson character study. Not a Janet Watson character study, but a Watson character study. She returns from a war a broken person with a mechanical arm that isn't quite made for her, and she deals with this chronic pain and condition through the whole book, fueling her PTSD and depression and turmoil. Watson in this book is in a recovery that is nowhere near stability, but because of that I felt like I was getting the character development and discussion I never got reading Doyle's works. I mean, fair enough. He wanted to write a mystery series and didn't care enough to keep track of his own timelines and even where Watson's injuries were. But if that's something you wanted out of those stories, Study in Honor by god delivers. Watson is rich and real. It is also refreshing to read a futuristic take on disability, which doesn't cure her of her pain because we live in the ~*~future~*~. Watson replaces her arm, yes, but the book asks you to consider the upkeep, the maintenance, the pain of a hunk of metal attached to your shoulder. And the constant fight with the underfunded VA.The downside to this is that I feel like Holmes became an unexplored character. There's a part of me that says "well, for ONCE", but if putting aside my adoration of Watson for a moment, that's a bit of a problem for any adaptation of Holmes. I ended the book not really knowing if Holmes and Watson liked each other at all, who Holmes was and what she was doing. I don't need an elaborate backstory, but I did think she was underdeveloped. I also wasn't sure how I felt about Holmes being part of an agency - likely this will come to a head later in the series (WHICH I ALREADY WANT RIGHT NOW) but considering Holmes is often a free agent, I felt confused and conflicted that she was representing a shadow-y organization that, though she messes around with at her leisure, didn't feel quite true to the character. However, I feel that there's no way that this won't be elaborated on in future writing, and have I mentioned that THANK GOD THAT WATSON GETS SOME CHARACTER ANALYSIS?????I did feel the plot was a bit sacrificed for the characters as well, but I'll always pick characters over a flashy plot (having been burned one too many a time by scifi writers writing flash plots that don't make sense to character narratives *COUGHSTEVENMOFFATCOUGH*). But I adored the post-post-current administration setting, which had my brow in a sweat and me awkwardly laughing while loudly whispering "that would be absurd" and shifting in my seat. It's a shame to say I thought the New Confederates were lacking in three-dimensions as well, but also worth it to mention that the name "New Confederates" essentially says everything there is to say about them. They're a part of this new-but-absolutely-awkwardly-familiar world that O'Dell has placed these characters in. So Watson and Holmes aren't at the front lines of the New Civil War - but they don't avoid the racism of places that don't think they're racist but totally are. Everything is different enough that it can't be 2018, but certain things are painfully similar enough that it's definitely not that far flung.The science fiction is more of a setting than something that the book really embraces, but that's just a warning for those expecting lasers. There's plenty in this book that I had moments of "that could be improved" but the parts that it does well had me screaming "OH WHO CARES" because I loved it. I hate reading books early. Now I have to wait longer for the sequel.
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  • Eric
    January 1, 1970
    TL;DR A Study in Honor by Claire O'Dell is the gender-flipped twist on the Holmes icon that I didn’t know I needed. Highly recommended! Review To paraphrase Heraclitus, you can never step into the same stream twice. This simple saying occupies a Schrodinger’s version of truth because you both can and can’t. The stream itself is the collection of water, land, stone, and geographic marker while at the same time each of those are undergoing micro-changes. While the phrase is typically used to mean TL;DR A Study in Honor by Claire O'Dell is the gender-flipped twist on the Holmes icon that I didn’t know I needed. Highly recommended! Review To paraphrase Heraclitus, you can never step into the same stream twice. This simple saying occupies a Schrodinger’s version of truth because you both can and can’t. The stream itself is the collection of water, land, stone, and geographic marker while at the same time each of those are undergoing micro-changes. While the phrase is typically used to mean that we cannot return to the past, it’s also a useful phrase to show that change is continuous whether we see it or not. While writing this review of A Study in Honor by Claire O’Dell (a pen name of author Beth Bernobich), I couldn’t help but see Dr. Janet Watson in light of this. She, a wounded veteran, returns to DC, but it is not the place where she grew up, and she is not the young woman that shipped out from there. But as she adjusts to her new life, she seems stuck in a holding pattern, but when we look close, we can see the changes in her as she slides further into depression. As a mysterious stranger pops into her life based on the recommendation of a friend/fellow soldier, the stream of her life picks up speed. Story A Study in Honor takes place in the near future United States. One that with each passing day becomes increasingly plausible. Dr. Watson, an injured veteran, returns to D.C. in hopes of getting an adequate replacement for her mechanical arm that would allow her to return to the life of a surgeon. The life she trained for prior to enlistment. While adjusting to current circumstances and waiting on the bureaucracy of the Veteran’s Administration to work, Watson deals with PTSD, heartbreak, and loss. While putting her civilian life together, she becomes roommates with the eccentric, potentially dangerous Sara Holmes. During the course of her new job, Dr. Watson stumbles upon mysterious deaths of soldiers. From there, the game, as they say, is afoot.While this is very much an SFF mystery, I appreciated it more as the character study of Dr. Janet Watson, surgeon, veteran, queer woman of color. Her return from the front lines, her daily care of her prosthetic arm, her search for a job, all worked for me. It’s a slow burn where I felt her anger, her despair, her hopelessness. The mystery begins to be introduced about a third of the way in and doesn’t really take off until halfway through the novel. This is not a criticism. Reading how Janet navigated post-service life had me turning the page. I could have done with a whole novel of character study, but it wouldn’t have been a retelling of Sherlock Holmes without the mystery. Writing A Study in Honor is an exquisitely written book. Ms. O’Dell gets deep into Dr. Watson’s head, and we get to know this woman well. I enjoyed the use of journaling throughout, especially as it’s a near future novel but Watson prefers pen and paper. (Side note: I agree; there is something much more enjoyable about journaling on actual paper.) Dr. Watson is a fully three dimensional character, and her experiences with PTSD feels right. It’s approached with care, not simply as a plot point. PTSD is not a character trait, like preferring vanilla to chocolate ice cream. It is character; it is deeply part of a person’s make up and can’t be ditched for plot expediency. Ms. O’Dell gets it right, in my opinion.Because of the intimate exploration of Watson’s character, Holmes seemed painted with broad strokes throughout the book. She was detached, aloof, and in control of more than we understand. She’s a powerful woman with hidden depths that will hopefully be explored in future volumes. Holmes is very controlling with respect to Watson in both the micro – food, drugs, journaling material – and macro – job, prosthetic – of the doctor’s life. Though Holmes is in control, her presence makes Watson’s life chaotic. I feel this story through her point of view would be very different and much less mysterious. She knew more throughout than she let on, which to be fair is very Sherlockian, and I don’t know what to make of her yet. BUT I want to know more. Thoughts Sequels please. This felt like an introduction, an origin story, and I’m ready for the further adventures. Ms. O’Dell has created a world worthy of exploration. This mystery felt rushed to me; it exists as a setup for future volumes. Although the plot went by fast, the whole book was paced excellently. The beginning, as I said, was a slow burn, and as Holmes came into Watson’s life, the pacing increased with the drama and action. It very much felt like Watson’s life was spiraling out of her control even more as Holmes’s presence increased in it. I believe there’s an argument to be made that her life in DC was already out of control, but Watson didn’t acknowledge that. She is stuck in a holding pattern that unfortunately anyone who has dealt with or watched a loved one deal with the Veteran’s Administration will recognize. Watson imbues that hope/pessimism of believing that help exists just out of reach behind gatekeeping bureaucrats.The label feminist and the description ‘gender flip’ will turn off some to this unrepentantly left leaning novel, and those people will lose out. This is a good story. Period. For me, literature and SFF, in particular, are a chance for me to find a connection with people different than me, and the characters of this book are as different from me as can be. Yet, common ground is easy to find because of the care given to the PTSD, to finding a job, to worrying about being homeless. I’m not a feminist scholar; so, I probably missed a lot more in this novel. And I’ve probably got other things wrong. But as a straight, white, male, I have to remain stereotypical and march forth with my uninformed opinion. The truly radical thing here is making these characters and their very human struggles visible.I loved this book, and there’s a lot more that I could write about it. It lends itself to close reads, interrogations, and discussion. Even though the mystery is solved by the end, this is a book for re-reading. Its Place in the Sherlockian Tradition Confession time: Other than A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman, this is the only bit of the Holmes shared world that I’ve read. Sure, I enjoy the movies and TV shows, but I just haven’t ever picked up a book in the universe, nor an audiobook. So, I cannot place this for you in the Sherlockian literary catalog. But in terms of Sherlock pop culture, Sara Holmes is close to the Benedict Cumberbatch version yet with more depth, more control. Sara Holmes seemed like a puppet master in this story. Dr. Janet Watson is a version that I haven’t seen before, and I like this interpretation. I’m interested to see how others place this in the shared world. Other reviewers, like Dr. Liz Bourke, say these characters are close to Doyle’s originals. Conclusion A Study in Honor exceeded my expectations. Frankly, I read the description, saw the cover, and requested an ARC as soon as I could. It’s a story of the horrors of war on a personal and national level without being didactic. Claire O’Dell has created a world that begs for more exploration by these flawed, heroic women. As a novel, it’s great. As a character study of Dr. Janet Watson, it’s superb. Read it. Read it as soon as you can.9 out of 10!
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  • Megan
    January 1, 1970
    Sherlock Holmes has never really been my thing. My sister stole the big collected Arthur Conan Doyle stories from our dad's shelves and then she read all of them, and Holmes became her territory. I could have encroached, but she and I--every once in a while--decide to differentiate ourselves, so that maybe, just maybe, people will stop thinking we're twins. So Sherlock was my sister's thing, and I enjoyed the idea of it but generally stayed away.Until, of course, Claire O'Dell made everyone ladi Sherlock Holmes has never really been my thing. My sister stole the big collected Arthur Conan Doyle stories from our dad's shelves and then she read all of them, and Holmes became her territory. I could have encroached, but she and I--every once in a while--decide to differentiate ourselves, so that maybe, just maybe, people will stop thinking we're twins. So Sherlock was my sister's thing, and I enjoyed the idea of it but generally stayed away.Until, of course, Claire O'Dell made everyone ladies instead of dudes and set it in near-future alternate-state Washington DC instead of Victorian London.O'Dell re-imagines Dr. Watson's war as the New Civil War; in a not-so-far-in-the-future America directly worst-case-scenario'd from today's political issues, Captain Janet Watson suffers from a brutally and realistically portrayed case of PTSD. She meets a Sara Holmes looking for a roommate in between mysterious clandestine operations and they draw each other into a case worthy of Conan Doyle. Their unlikely friendship develops under pressure, until it's one of the most compelling parts of the book. Watching these two very different women discover that they share a drive to do the right thing, a drive to survive even though the world keeps trying to kill them off.Admittedly, the worldbuilding and the characters are what really shine in this book. The plot is excellent, but it's not hard to figure out the mystery as soon as the first few clues are revealed. But even knowing what the cause of the mysterious deaths was, I found myself on the edge of my seat, urging Holmes and Watson to please, please figure it out before any one else gets hurt. There was tension in the characters, tension in the relationships, tension in the world around them that made up for the simplicity of the mystery. And honestly, I would have read this for the worldbuilding alone--I'm a sucker for near-future anything suffering the consequences of the current world but to the worst possible outcome. It was a fascinating and slightly disturbing look into a world that could technically happen, if the world-state as a whole is followed to the ultimate in terrible conclusions.The characters shine, too; diverse and fully human, both Watson and her mysterious Holmes are incredibly refreshing takes on their literary predecessors. They are cast from a similar mold, but with enough variances to be absolutely new and interesting. And the portrayal of Watson's PTSD is honest and real, a little uncomfortable--as it should be--and left me with a sense that this character is more than just a character. She is a person. And she shone.This book is not for the faint of heart, but it's immensely satisfying. For lovers of the original Conan Doyle, it's got a similar vibe--the mystery, the attitude of both the story and of Holmes herself, the delectable tease of an Adler, a Mycroft. For people who have never read any version of Holmes, it's bright and fresh and fierce, full of action and a simmering unknowableness. For people who just love a good near-future dystopia with brilliant characterization, it's amazing.
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    Fast, interesting read. Lots of fun twisty layers. Good set-up to what looks like the beginning of a series.Own voices for PTSD and bisexuality. Not own voices for amputation or race. Set in a near-future, post-Trump dystopia. The heroine is a queer, Black, disabled woman, so... read between those lines. The politics in this will not be comfortable for everyone. If you don't like overt feminism or books that call out antiblack racism, you won't enjoy this.It's being marketed as science fiction, Fast, interesting read. Lots of fun twisty layers. Good set-up to what looks like the beginning of a series.Own voices for PTSD and bisexuality. Not own voices for amputation or race. Set in a near-future, post-Trump dystopia. The heroine is a queer, Black, disabled woman, so... read between those lines. The politics in this will not be comfortable for everyone. If you don't like overt feminism or books that call out antiblack racism, you won't enjoy this.It's being marketed as science fiction, but it reads far more like a mystery to me. And the characters and worldbuilding heavily reference Sherlock Holmes, which makes it more of a puzzle that the mystery aspect isn't being talked up more. Unless Harper Collins thinks SFF fans are more open to Black main characters than mystery fans are? *brief moment to consider popular and award-winning titles in each area* Ok, yeah, I can understand this marketing strategy, I guess. (Speaking of marketing, the back blurb describes one of the characters, Sara Holmes, as a "LGBTQA woman." Really? One woman is all of those things? That sounds amazing! And unlikely! A more accurate description might be "bisexual woman" though?)Since I'm reading an ARC, I'm not sure whether the final version will include passages written in a cursive font. It was hell on my eyes though, so I'd recommend checking reviews for that when it comes out, if you're thinking of buying a print copy.
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  • Joan
    January 1, 1970
    I love Sherlock Holmes and mysteries, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. I loved the twists on the original story. Watson and Holmes are both black females and their characters are fleshed out and believable. The story takes place in a dystopian future where the USA is in the midst of another civil war and reflects some of the current political turmoil. The writing was superb as well, so why isn't this a new favorite book? In spite of all of the things that I enjoyed, the actual un I love Sherlock Holmes and mysteries, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. I loved the twists on the original story. Watson and Holmes are both black females and their characters are fleshed out and believable. The story takes place in a dystopian future where the USA is in the midst of another civil war and reflects some of the current political turmoil. The writing was superb as well, so why isn't this a new favorite book? In spite of all of the things that I enjoyed, the actual unfolding of the mystery wasn't that exciting or interesting. In fact, it was kind of dull and the ending involves an overused theme. I didn't find myself surprised and only mildly curious as the story unfolded. I think I was expecting something more clever, intriguing and surprising...some of the aspects I love about the original Sherlock Holmes. I think that Sherlock Holmes fans will enjoy the same aspects of the story that I did, but if a reader is interested in a thrilling mystery, pass this one up.Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the digital advanced review copy of this book.
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  • Beej
    January 1, 1970
    *spoilers*The characters in this book were for the most part phenomenal, I loved Janet Watson. I wasn't quite as sold on Sara Holmes but she was written rather well as well. The world building was done fantastic but there were times where I wish it'd be scaled back to focus on the mystery because that's really what I pick up reimagined Sherlock Holmes books for. The mystery in this was also a little disappointing and took half the book to get to before someone died and even then I wasn't even su *spoilers*The characters in this book were for the most part phenomenal, I loved Janet Watson. I wasn't quite as sold on Sara Holmes but she was written rather well as well. The world building was done fantastic but there were times where I wish it'd be scaled back to focus on the mystery because that's really what I pick up reimagined Sherlock Holmes books for. The mystery in this was also a little disappointing and took half the book to get to before someone died and even then I wasn't even sure if we were going to get in to it. That's really my only complaint for the book though because the rest of it was fantastic. With Janet as a black woman it took a depth of the character that I haven't seen in many adaptations (Elementary being the other one I can think of that develops Watson as a full character on their own without Holmes) and there were a lot of political issues brought up that weren't just glossed over and you could feel the significance of them.
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  • Ashley P
    January 1, 1970
    This is a futuristic sci-fi/dystopia genderbent and relatively awesome book. Watson is more cynical than ever within this book, and if possible even tougher than in the originals. She is a woman who is near broken but still refuses to give up. She's got gumption, shall we say. Holmes is a little more...blase in this novel than in other Holmes novels or reiterations. I did wish that more of her was seen in this book as I did not really get attached to her in any way in this novel because to be ho This is a futuristic sci-fi/dystopia genderbent and relatively awesome book. Watson is more cynical than ever within this book, and if possible even tougher than in the originals. She is a woman who is near broken but still refuses to give up. She's got gumption, shall we say. Holmes is a little more...blase in this novel than in other Holmes novels or reiterations. I did wish that more of her was seen in this book as I did not really get attached to her in any way in this novel because to be honest she wasn't in it too often.That being said I don't think this book lacks because of the lack of Holmes, as Watson's introspection, and the characterization of her is enough to satiate me as a reader.The nature of this book is woven in mystery and questions, and not all of them get answered, but not in a bad way, just in a way that definitely made me want more of this book so I do hope it may be the beginning of a series. Received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
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  • Martin
    January 1, 1970
    A very solid entry in the Holmes pastiche canon. In fact, it would be an excellent novel without the Holmes connection, that is to say it does not depend on the history of the names of the characters to have kept me turning page after page until the early morning. I'll definitely be facing it out in the mystery section, and I'm also very much looking forward to the next novel by Claire O'Dell
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  • Katelyn
    January 1, 1970
    An incredible portrait of PTSD, framed as a Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson story. Told in the not too distant future during a Civil War. Both Holmes and Watson are black women, and Watson's point of view as a black woman who often feels eyes on her is powerful.Ultimately, the storyline didn't keep me interested, but I loved the set up.
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  • Nightwing
    January 1, 1970
    Is this an alternate world Holmes/Watson story? A semi-typical mystery with a lesbian protagonist? A nre future look at a world we might want to visit? Yes and yes and yes, but also no and no and no. Say what? You will have to read it and find out! But, that's OK, you will love it! Be forewarned though, you *will* want more!
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  • Ashley Smith
    January 1, 1970
    ARC Review: this sparked my interest quite a bit once I read the back blurb. A futuristic LGBTQA black female Watson and her Sherlock Holmes; or, in this case, Sara Holmes. I liked the changes made to the story of Sherlock and Watson to fit this future but you could still have the elements of the original stories. Will be writing a full review to come.
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  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    4.25 stars
  • Alyson
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed the Janet Watson character but didn't like the Sara Holmes character as much. Loved the premise but terrified the near future might be accurate!
  • Glennis
    January 1, 1970
    This is set in a future America that is in the middle of a second civil war and uses some of the framework of Sherlock Holmes to talk about it. Watson is a disabled army doctor missing one arm and her prosthetic arm doesn’t work well enough to allow her to work as a surgeon. Sherlock and Watson are introduced to each other by a mutual friend that does show up again and again in the story. Sherlock is moodier in this one and Watson is dealing with PTSD and underemployment at the VA. The story wor This is set in a future America that is in the middle of a second civil war and uses some of the framework of Sherlock Holmes to talk about it. Watson is a disabled army doctor missing one arm and her prosthetic arm doesn’t work well enough to allow her to work as a surgeon. Sherlock and Watson are introduced to each other by a mutual friend that does show up again and again in the story. Sherlock is moodier in this one and Watson is dealing with PTSD and underemployment at the VA. The story works well in the framework of the Holmes type of setting, but things are changed to fit the new setting and even by the story the mystery is solved but the societal things have not been changed that much. A decent SF near future dystopian story that uses the Holmes and Watson motif but doesn’t slavishly follow it to the letter. Digital review copy provided by the publisher through Edelweiss
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  • ♠️ Tabi = 타비 ♠️
    January 1, 1970
    My longtime adoration of anything Sherlock Holmes tells me I need to read this . . . plus it looks pretty fascinating on its own, too!
  • ellie w.
    January 1, 1970
    TWO MORE DAYS until one of my most anticipated books of the year drops!!!!
  • Tina
    January 1, 1970
    Futuristic Washington DC setting with black female Sherlock and Watson Oh HELL yes!!
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