Category Archives: Steampunk

Well-characterised Steampunk: Fate War Alliance by E.M.Havens

Fate War: Alliance

E.M Havens has produced a wonderful book in the Fate War Alliance. It is the story of a couple in an arranged marriage as they get to know each other and eventually come to love each other. It is also the story of a woman blossoming through her husband’s patient ministrations and growing understanding of what has caused her reticence to be herself.

This well-characterised example of steampunk books is set in a  world of kings and nobles. Prince Cole despises their stiff etiquette, and his task is to free his new wife – who he had never met before their wedding day – from the restraints of that stifling etiquette. Samantha eventually reveals herself as an accomplished tinker and plays a major role in winning a battle.

The author takes great care in the development of the characters and their relationship, and I think I fell in love with Cole myself. By the time the threat of war looms, I was totally committed to the characters. This aspect of the novel was very skilfully done.

The plot focused on character development for roughly the first half of the book, then more action kicked in in the second half. The machines gave an intriguing flavour to the story and added a surprise element to the battle. Added to this was the underlying mystery of Jasper. The end was satisfying without being sickly sweet and left a question to be explored in the sequel. Truly, this is an excellent book in many ways.

Unfortunately, the formatting was very poor with no indents at the beginning of a paragraph, nor a gap between them. A few too many unnecessary adverbs, and passive and clumsy sentence constructions weakened the prose at the beginning but soon settled down into something more acceptable as the story gained momentum.

The story is well worth a read and with the issues dealt with, it would be worthy of an extra start and a spot on the Awesome Indies.

3 stars

 

Another good one from Kady Cross: Review of ‘The Girl with the Iron Touch’

Title: The Girl with the Iron Touch

The Steampunk Chronicles: Book 3

Author: Kady Cross

Publisher: Harlequin, Harlequin Teen

Genre: Steampunk

The Girl with the Iron Touch (The Steampunk Chronicles, #3)

The Girl With the Iron Touch delivers the same kind of good YA steampunk read as the previous two books in this series by Cady Cross. We have the same team, Emily, Sam, Griffin, Finley and Jasper, though Jasper is very much on the sidelines, taking off on his own intrigue with Wildcat for much of the book. Jack Dandy plays a pivotal role and we get to see a little of the real man for a moment when his cockney mask slips at one point. By the time we get to the finale, they also have a new member on the team, Mia, a girl who began life as a machine, but organites using flesh from no other than ‘the team’, turned her into a human.

Mia was created by Garabaldi, the mad mastermind behind their troubles in book one – I don’t remember if he had anything to do with the events on book two or not.

Garabaldi  should be dead – Griffin did bring a  building down on his head – but we soon discover that, though his body is damaged beyond repair, his machines have kept him alive in a vat of organites, or rather they’ve kept his brain alive. His body is merely managing not to decay quite as quickly as it would otherwise. That wouldn’t be too much of a problem on itself, except that he is using the ether to communicate with his sentient machines and get them to do his bidding. He wants Emily to transfer his brain into a host, which was supposed to be Mia, so he can be reborn again. The machines kidnap Emily and the rest of the story is the others trying to rescue her.

It’s a simple story, well suited to its readership,  but has a little more of the touchy-feely kind of romance than previous books in the series – some kissing, heart palpitations and so forth. It’s the natural, and possibly belated, next step in the  relationships between Emily and Sam and Finley and Griffin. It was good to see Sam smile and Griffin stop being quite so stuffy.

Anyone who enjoyed the previous books in this series will enjoy this one as well, and you don’t need to have read the prior ones to be able to understand what is going on here. The ether and the organites aren’t explained, but I don’t think that will be a problem for most readers, since what they do is fairly obvious in the story, even if what they ‘are’ isn’t.

The book is well-written and sleek, without even one extraneous word. It’s not a long novel, and is fairly light in feel, perfect for young adults.

The end is predictable and it leaves us set up for yet another story in the series. It is a good series, but I hope Ms Cady doesn’t stretch it beyond its natural limit.

About the author:

In her other life, Kady Cross is a USA TODAY bestselling author of more than twenty books. She is lucky enough to have a husband who shares her love for the slightly twisted and all things geek, and a houseful of cats with whom she shares her darkest secrets. When she’s not listening to the characters in her head, she’s either trying to formulate the perfect lip gloss or teaching herself to solder. She has a weakness for all things girlie, sugar skulls and boots. Her love of books and makeup borders on addiction-of which she never, ever wants to be cured.

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Steampunk time-travel romance review: Asher’s Dilemma by Coleen Kwan

Title: Asher’s Dilemma

Author: Coleen Kwan

Publisher: Carina Press

Genre: steampunk time-travel romance

Asher's Dilemma by Coleen Kwan

Asher’s Dilemma is a clever story about the inventor of a time machine who, with some metaphysical intervention, discovers that misuse of his machine has caused the love of his life to cease to exist. He finds himself eight months in the past, trying to convince his earlier self to destroy the machine before the woman they both love disappears and they forget she ever existed. Someone in their future must use the machine to go into the past and erase her. But why would anyone want to do that to such a sweet girl? The answer is shockingly close to home.

The story brings us the most unusual situation of having two versions of the same character, past and present, in one room. They are the same person, but not the same because the future Asher has experienced a world without Minerva. The plot is totally unpredictable and ends up poignantly tied up in accordance with the parameters of time travel. The characters are well drawn and likeable, and the relationships extremely well handled. I found the men’s relationship to each other at the end quite moving.

This novella length story is skilfully written with a bittersweet flavour and a hauntingly beautiful aftertaste caused by one word, sweetling.

5 stars. Highly recommended.

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Steampunk review: The League of Illusion: Legacy by Vivi Anna

Title:The League of Illusion: Legacy

Author: Vivi Anna

Publisher: Carina Press

Genre: steampunk

 Legacy by Vivi Anna

The League of Illusion, Legacy is a fairly typical steam punk novel set in a world of  dirigibles and steam cars where magic exists unknown to the majority of the world. The story is about a sorcerer, Jovan and a Druid tracker, Skylar who are on a mission to find Jovan’s older brother, so he can take over their dying father’s place at the head of the council of magic. Skylar and Jovan were lovers once and the attraction hasn’t gone away, but past hurts must be faced and forgiven before the two can resume their relationship. That’s the gist of the romance.

Of course, every story must have an antagonist, and this one has Darin, a sorcerer who tries to stop Jovan from finding his brother so that Darin can take the seat at the head of the council for himself.  Perhaps I have read too many stories like this, but Darin seemed a little too much the stereotypical evil sleaze bag.  Not only does he want the seat on the council, he wants Skylar and doesn’t care whether she wants him or not. I found the interactions between Skylar, Jovan and Darin, just a little too predictable and somewhat reminiscent of other such stories. The sex scene felt unnecessary, more an addition to the story than an integral part of it, and the prose could have been better.

The story is tight, the plot solid and the pacing good, but the end comes a little too easily. Overall, it’s an entertaining enough read, but, for me, it lacked substance and originality. Carina Press churns out stories like this and I’ve read quite a few of them, so perhaps it’s not surprising that this one felt like more of the same, but others have the sparkle of  inspiration behind them that this one lacks.

I received this book free from the publisher in return for an honest review

3 stars

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Steampunk review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz

Title: A Conspiracy of Alchemists

Book One in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow

Author: Liesel Schwarz

Publisher: Del Rey, Random House Publishing Group

Genre: Steampunk romance

A Conspiracy of Alchemists (The Chronicle of Light and Shadow, #1)

My Review

I loved this book. It had everything I need for an enjoyable read, a plucky heroine, a handsome warlock with an air of mystery, a cute small helper—in this case a fairy—and a great story full of action, intrigue and surprises.

How well we like the characters often makes the difference between liking and loving a book, and the characters in this were the kind I love. Elle wasn’t going to let anyone push her around, or wait for a rescue that might never come. Her stubbornness was both a flaw and a strength.  Hugh—handsome, of course—was charming and somewhat conflicted about where his allegiances lay, until the end when it became obvious. Instead of the usual powerful hero, he was a man whose power, like all the warlocks in this story, was on the wane. This gave him a vulnerability that he had to work around, but he showed us that even as an ordinary man, he was highly resourceful.

Secondary characters were also delightful. Elle’s housekeeper was a beautifully rendered character as was her father, though we only met him briefly, and the fairy’s perspective added a unique and charming touch. The Nightwalker Elle meets on the train was another terrific character and I hope we get to see more of her in future books in the series.

The concept of the book, the balance between the worlds of light and shadow, and the role of the Oracle in maintaining that balance was interesting, if not entirely comprehensible. It wove ancient history into this alternate steampunk reality where shadow creatures (warlocks, fairies, vampires etc) are recognised by the general population and live within normal society.

Ms Schwarz writes well, but I do wish that the major publishers would save their ARCs (I got this one through Netgalley) until they have been copy edited. I get sick of the errors that, though we are assured will not be in the final publication, make the book feel tacky.  The structure and pacing are excellent, however as is the quality of the prose. The descriptions of the ‘otherworld’ experiences were highly evocative.

The end is everything I wanted, and the epilogue opened the story up for another installment. I certainly could do with seeing more of Elle and Hugh.

5 stars.

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Description

It is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural.

Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spell-casting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret.

But when they come after Elle, they get more than they bargained for. This enterprising young woman, the daughter of a scientific genius, has reserves of bravery and determination that even she scarcely suspects. Now she is about to meet her match in more ways than one: a handsome yet infuriating Warlock named Hugh Marsh, whose agenda is as suspect as his charms are annoyingly irresistible.

Liesel Schwarz is a lifelong fan of nineteenth-century Gothic literature. She is also a hopeless romantic who loves Victorians, steampunk, fairies, fantasy monsters, the fin de siecle, and the correct way to drink absinthe. She also likes medieval things, pirates, zombies, space operas, and all subjects in between.

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Review: Pilgrim in the Sky by Natania Barron

Title:Pilgrim of the Sky

Author: Natania Barron

Publisher: Candlemark & Gleam

Gebre: Contemporary /metaphysical fantasy

Pilgrim of the Sky

Description

Just when Maddie Angler thinks she’s over the death of her longtime boyfriend, Alvin, she discovers that he’s not only alive, but he may just be part god. And a killer. Now it’s up to her to unite Eight Worlds she didn’t even know existed in the first place, before chaos reigns.

My Review

Pilgrim in the Sky is a surprising, gripping and somewhat profound contemporary fantasy. It begins in our world, takes us on a shocking journey to another, and just when we think we have it all sorted it, we find ourselves one level deeper again.

I loved it, not only because it’s a very different story but because it stretches your mind with metaphysical themes—alternate worlds, beings that are connected, the same yet different, linked, like the eight points of a compass through time and incarnations. Pilgrim in the Sky takes you on a journey that gets deeper and more fantastical the further you read, but at its core is the simple but profound premise that love is strength in times of darkness and despair, and that one should never underestimate those we consider challenged.

There’s little I can say about the story without spoiling the surprise, so I will instead simply assure you that it is riveting, unpredictable and has a deeply moving end. The pacing is excellent, drawing you seamlessly from one scene to the next but with enough breathing spots to enjoy the scenery. And what wonderful scenery it is, described in evocative detail but never overdone. Second world is like and unlike our own. Imagine a Victorian style America with their own Queen Victoria, an America where the west wasn’t won and where the rich have mansions that float in the air held aloft by huge balloons. Yes, the visuals are stunning.

The characters are all richly drawn and Maddie is as gutsy as we want our modern heroines to be. Luckily, she learns quickly.

It’s well-written, well thought through and tightly edited, structurally speaking, though it could do with another pass by a proofreader.

I recommend it for all contemporary fantasy fans especially those who like a touch of the metaphysical in a story or who are into Greek mythology. 4 stars (I took one off for the proof errors)

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Review: Automatic Woman by Nathan L. Yocum

Title:Automatic Woman
Author:Nathan L. Yocum
Publisher:Curiosity Quills Press
Category: Action & Adventure

Automatic Woman

I ordered Automatic Woman from Netgally because I thought it was steampunk, and I like steampunk, but I didn’t like this very much, possibly because it wasn’t really steampunk, just an action story with a murderous automaton. It also had a little too much gore for my taste. After setting the events in motion, the automaton pretty much disappeared from the story, and we were left with a man playing a pawn in a deadly game between Charles Darwin and his nemesis.

The story is unusual, one where we’re not quite sure who Jolly should be siding with. It’s well-structured and well-paced with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. I had to keep reading to find out how Jolly was going to get himself out of his double bind. Mary’s presence was a welcome addition. Without her and the touch of love and humanity that she brought, it would have been a barren story indeed. As it was, their relationship provided a way for Jolly to develop as a character.

My favourite scene is the debate between Darwin and an American Christian determined to prove his theories wrong. The frustration Darwin felt at having logic and reason denied by ignorance masquerading as faith came across very clearly and allowed us to understand the motivation behind Darwin’s actions.

If you enjoy murder mysteries and don’t mind a nit of gore, you’ll might enjoy this one. It’s got the fighting, the thugs (Jolly is one himself) and the bosses who pull their strings, making them dance to their own personal tune.  3 stars.

Description

The London of 1888, the London of steam engines, Victorian intrigue, and horseless carriages is not a safe place nor simple place…but it’s his place. Jolly is a thief catcher, a door-crashing thug for the prestigious Bow Street Firm, assigned to track down a life sized automatic ballerina. But when theft turns to murder and murder turns to conspiracy, can Jolly keep his head above water? Can a thief catcher catch a killer?

 

Review: Moonlight and Mechanicals by Cindy Spencer Pape

Title: Moonlight & Mechanicals

Author: Cindy Spencer Pape

Publisher: Carina Press

Genre: Steampunk romance

Description

London, 1859

Engineer Winifred “Wink” Hadrian has been in love with Inspector Liam McCullough for years, but is beginning to lose hope when he swears to be a lifelong bachelor. Faced with a proposal from a Knight of the Round Table and one of her closest friends, Wink reluctantly agrees to consider him instead.

Because of his dark werewolf past, Liam tries to keep his distance, but can’t say no when Wink asks him to help find her friend’s missing son. They soon discover that London’s poorest are disappearing at an alarming rate, after encounters with mysterious “mechanical” men. Even more alarming is the connection the missing people may have with a conspiracy against the Queen.

Fighting against time-and their escalating feelings for each other-Wink and Liam must work together to find the missing people and save the monarchy before it’s too late…

My Review

Moonlight and Mechanicals is a light, fun read with a great story, delightful characters, wonderful automaton pets and creepy mechanical men designed by an evil mastermind. I enjoyed it immensely.

I met the characters in this book when they were children in the book ‘Steam and Sorcery’ by the same author. Like that book, this is a lovely combination of adventure, mystery and romance.  Wink has grown into a young lady since I saw her last. Then, she was a street urchin adopted, at the end of the book, into a family of descendents of the Knights of the Round Table. Now, she is a beautiful, intelligent and gutsy young lady.

Wink is the usual kind of steampunk heroine, one with the elegant manners of Victorian England and the sensibilities of a modern woman. No one is going to tell her what to do, and when her brothers and Inspector Liam begin investigating the strange mechanical men, Wink is right in there with them. And Liam is smart enough not to try to stop her.

All the men in Wink’s life (apart from the bad guys) are handsome, charming and caring, but Liam’s the only one she feels more for than a brother or a friend. I guess she just can’t resist his raw animal magnetism J Like the best romantic heroes, he struggles with his demons, but luckily Wink isn’t one to let life get away from her, and she draws him out. The story ends with the inevitable fight to save the monarchy and everything is elegantly and satisfyingly resolved.

I recommend it for any time you’d like a light story with a dollop of sex and a happy ending.

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Review: Courting Trouble by Jenny Schwartz

Title: Courting Trouble

Author: Jenny Schwartz

Publisher: Carina Press

Gennre: Historical/steampunk romance

Courting Trouble is a delightful romance with wonderful characters and plenty of action set in Swan River Colony, Australia, in 1895. Next time you’re thinking of watching a movie, pick this up instead. It’ll take a similar amount of time and it’s great entertainment. Unlike many romances, the story doesn’t revolve completely around the issue of two people getting together. This one has a plot which makes it suitable for a much wider readership. The romance is not cloying, and is chastely in tune with the era.

Blurb
All suffragette Esme Smith wants is respect. Her beau, American inventor Jed Reeve, may be more enlightened than most men, but lately his need to protect her is at odds with her need for independence. Esme begins to wonder if a modern woman can share her life with a man without losing some of herself.

With his courtship of Esme stalled, the last thing Jed needs is the pressure of saving the Prince of Wales. But when blueprints for a sonic destroyer fall into his hands, he uncovers an anarchist plot that could have deadly consequences.

While investigating the threats, Jed is determined to keep Esme out of harm’s way, despite her protests. But when the terrorists capture Jed and demand a priceless emerald in exchange for his life, it’s Esme who must draw on all her strength to save the day.

I met these characters in Wanted, One Scoundrel and was delighted to have them back again. Esme is a wonderful combination of sweet and tough, and Jed has all the qualities us woman love in a hero—handsome, strong, intelligent, protective, has a good sense of humour and, most important of all, is passionately in love with the heroine.

Once again, Jenny Schwartz shows that she can tell a good story, one with all the elements to keep you engaged. This is a book that I couldn’t fault. It even raises a question. Does committing to love means a loss of independence? And if so, for someone fiercely committed to independence is it worth the pay off? I think Esme got it right in the end.

5 stars. I recommend it to historical fiction readers who like a touch of romance.

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Review: The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

Title: The Girl in the Clockwork Collar
SubTitle: Book 2 in the The Steampunk Chronicles series 
Author:
Kady Cross
Publisher: HarlequinTEEN
Pub Date:
May 29, 2012
Category: Young adult steampunk

The Girl in the Steel Corset was an excellent novel and this, the sequel is quite possibly even better. It certainly has all the wonderful characters and great action of the first and it’s not too heavy, depressing and relentless like a lot of the young adult books coming out these days. Thank you, Harlequin Teen.

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar is set in an alternate version of Queen Victoria’s era where steam power and mechanics became the pervading technology, not electricity. Steampunk is the name of this genre which could also be thought of as science fiction as people in the Victorian era might have imagined it.

The beauty of this genre for modern readers is that it brings together the best of that era without the worst of it. Women wear Victorian era clothes with the addition of trousers added to their wardrobe, so we get corsets and fabulous dresses but aren’t limited to them. The female characters in Steampunk are also as gutsy and intelligent as their modern counterparts, though, as in this one, there’s usually a frivolous Victorian woman somewhere in the story.

The men have the wonderful manners and elegant speech patterns of the era but without the derogatory opinions of woman that were rife in that age in our history. So it’s a win win situation. In Cady Cross’s Steampunk Cronicles we Griffin King an English duke with enormous power due to his ability to use the ether,  Finley Jayne, a rough & tumble girl who tries not to be in love with him because she isn’t of Griffin’s class, Emily is an engineering genius and her beloved Sam is just a very large, very strong boy with some mechanical body parts.

Then there’s Jasper, the American cowboy, who at the end of the last book got taken back to the US to face murder allegations. In this book, we discover that the men who took him away weren’t US marshals as they said, they were members of Jasper’s old gang, a very nasty bunch who want him to return a machine he stole for them before he left for England.

The reason he hit it –in pieces –was because he figured it was something dangerous and he didn’t want it getting into the boss’s hands. However, the gang has his old girlfriend and if he doesn’t do what they ask, she will die.

Griffin and his motley crew of teens with supernatural abilities can’t believe that Jasper would murder anyone, so they follow him to  New York City in 1897, discover what’s going on and must rescue Jasper and stop the gang boss before he  kills Jasper and uses the device for whatever evil purpose its intended.

From the blurb
Now, to help those she’s come to care for so deeply, Finley Jayne must infiltrate a criminal gang. Only problem is, she might like the dark side a little too much….

It’s a top quality book, that I can’t imagine any young adult reader not liking. I give it 5 stars and highly recommend it.

Buy on Kindle: The Girl in the Clockwork Collar (The Steampunk Chronicles)