Why hire mercenaries to kill an innocent family just to obtain one little key? That question haunts Jacquie Renairre for six years as she hunts down the people responsible for murdering her parents.
Not even accepting an assignment to investigate a conspiracy that aims to start a war can keep her from searching for the key. Armed with her fathers guns and socialite Clay Baneport, she continues her quest for answers abroad.
With the world edging closer to disaster, Jacquie is running out of time to figure out how the war, the key, and ancient legend are intertwined. The fate of the world hinges on her ability to unravel both mysteries before its too late.
The Exile's Violin has the following tropes:
- Badass Army: The air fleet wins the battle against the Big Bad's dreadnaughts, follows him to his secret base and then steadily plows through his defenses to reach him personally. Jacquie and Clay do nothing but watch them work. Then Max activates the Exile's Violin and they all die like so many Red Shirts.
- Big Damn Hero: Gunslinger incites a crowd to riot in order to rescue Jacquie and Clay from a public execution.
- Character Development: Clay moves from Upper-Class Twit to Knight in Shining Armor.
- Demoted to Extra: In-universe example. When a battle between airships breaks out, Jacquie acknowledges that she is useless because she is neither a soldier nor a sailor. She watches the fighting as powerless to affect it as the audience.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Clay volunteers at Jacquie's detective agency because he has nothing to do and it was driving him crazy. Before that all he did was waste time and money at auctions he didn't care about because of his family's status dictated he do so.
- Doing In the Scientist: Despite all the talk about how alchemy is nothing more than chemistry+mysticism and general disbelief in magic the Exile's Violin has real magic power and the 'alchemically enchanced' swords that previously defeated it are the only weapons that can stop it.
- The Dulcinea Effect: Clay meets Jacquie when she's in the process of stealing from an auction. After she explains herself he says (paraphrased) "I'll help you." This is because he is bored but later he becomes genuinely protective of her and she finds this smothering.
- Evil Plan: Max plans to Take Over the World with a magical relic and ancient war machines. To find both he exploits a corrupt political system to create a personal army made of criminals.
- Fanfic Fuel: There is a Time Skip between Serge adopting Jacquie and his death. It lasts for years and is the time when Jacquie learns how to be a detective. There's so much fuel it could fill a midquel novel.
- Genre-Busting: We have a detective-intrigue story mixed with a military-adventure story and a heroic fantasy story in a Victorian Steampunk setting.
- Guns Akimbo: Jacquie always has a pair of revolvers at her side.
- Gunslinger: Jacquie is a terrific shot but Jean de Roix is so good he has this as a nickname.
- Hero of Another Story: Serge has gone on many adventures with Jacquie's father and one of them involved finding treasure that is relevant to the main plot; the key that unlocks the chest containing the Exile's violin. He made a lot of friends that look down on Jacquie for lacking his experience.
- Heroic Fantasy: A hero armed with mystical weapons that fights a power mad Evil Sorcerer doesn't sound like the kind of thing that would happen in a Steampunk detective story but it happens.
- Indy Ploy: Jacquie knows she should have a plan before taking action but she's no good at planning so she wings it instead. This gets her in trouble during a infiltration and on another occasion she regrets her habit of having goals instead of plans.
- Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Defied. When Jacquie goes undercover as a socialite she picks a dress that is simple and has a knee-length skirt so this trope wouldn't be an issue.
- Made of Iron: Averted. Jacquie gets bruised, splinters, hurt by the loud noise of cannon fire, etc. However, After she is tortured with regular beatings for several days she is back on her feet at full capacity quickly.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Clay thinks Jacquie is one of these for him; an exciting and risk taking woman that enrichs his dull and unfulfilling life, but personality wise she's nothing like the standard. Ultimately, the trope is genderflipped because it is Clay that helps Jacquie loosen up and enjoy life, and his personality as a thrill seeking happy guy fits the standard personality.
- Master-Apprentice Chain: At the start of the story, Jacquie is a rookie under the wing of a veteran detective, Serge. At the end of the story, she has become the veteran and has her own rookie in Clay.
- The Mole: Gunslinger was hired by Max to keep an eye on Jacquie and betrays her when max tells him too.
- Morality Chain: Clay's character development involves becoming one of these for Jacquie; he keeps her darker anti hero aspects in check.
- Not a Game: Jacquie tells Clay repeatedly that detective work is dangerous but it doesn't sink in until they are captured and tortured under suspicion of spying.
- Non-Idle Rich: Clay volunteers at a detective agency because his family is so rich he doesn't have to work.
- Ordinary High-School Student: When the story begins, Jacquie is on her way home from school. The school itself is never seen because her life is blown up and she goes straight to vocational training, so to speak, under her foster father. Occasionally she'll reflect back to this time with regret and lost opportunities.
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
- King Shaun II of Kenesta doesn't squash civil unrest with a heavy hand. Instead, he asks them to select a spokesman to send to an audience with him the next day so he can address their concerns. In the audience itself it crosses into Only Sane Man because he is the only one that recognizes the stupidity in declaring war against a country that they just lost against to reclaim land that never wanted to be part of them.
- General Colborough is calm, rational and Jacquie notes that when he initates his coup that he is not doing it out of ego or warmongering but because he believes it is the best course of action. When one of his subordinates claims that Jacquie and Clay are spies from another country simply because of a family squabble, he says the idea is ridiculous but still wants them questioned because they shouldn't have been in a meeting that was arranged solely for locals.
- Admiral LeBlanc isn't keen on listing to a strange detective saying treasonous and unlikely things, but, given to the strange circumstances and other things that Jacquie points out, she is willing to listen.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: Clay is suspicious of Gunslinger because he sees the man as a rival for Jacquie's affection, instead of genuinely believing him to be untrustworthy.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: When Clay encounters an obstacle to Jacquie's investigation, he pays it "an exorbant amount of money" to convince it to get out of her way.
- Security Cling: Jacquie will grab Clay's arm when feeling unsure or vulnerable.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Square in the middle.
- On one hand, Jacquie's home country is rife with corruption in the political system, crooked cops, gangs warfare and extortion as a fact of life, and The Protagonist herself is a type IV Anti Hero because of the above.
- On the other hand, corruption isn't everywhere, some police are honest, all but one of the authority figures are reasonable, and the Big Bad himself is a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
- Thou Shall Not Kill: Jacquie is a downplayed example; after killing her father's murderer she swore to herself that she would never kill again but kills mooks when there is no other option. At the climax she kills Gunslinger because her rule is not a unbreakable rule.