Steampunk Shenanigans & a Giveaway
We’ll start off with the thing that most of you are probably interested in. I have one signed advance copy of Shadow of Nightby Deborah Harkness. My Penguin rep, Betty, is super awesome and got me a few copies to giveaway. I’ve got one for this blog and two that we’re giving away over on the Little Professor Facebook page. To get a chance to win leave a comment on this post. Winners will be chosen on May 13.
Now that that’s out of the way, on with the reviews.
So, this is a book I’d had for several months, but just never gotten around to. I think I bought it because someone said “steampunk romance” to me and I was sold. So I ordered it from the store and then it came. And the cover looked like that. Which, is… what it is. I’m not sure why he’s wearing a leather jacket with pleated sleeves and no shirt, but he is. And then there are some gears and an airship so it’s totally steampunk! Or something.
I put it on my ‘to read eventually’ pile and forgot about it. Then, I joined a book club. A book club for grown up (mostly) ladies. In point of fact, the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club. Which specializes in sci-fi/fantasy romance novels. It was started a few months ago by Felicia Day, Bonnie Burton, Veronica Belmont, and Kiala Kazabee. This was the book club read for April. And it was way better than the cover made it look.
To be honest, I didn’t absolutely love the romance parts. They were ok, but nothing super special. But the world building… The world building! So, as far as I can figure out (because unlike Tolkien, Meljean Brook does not give you the entire history of every bridge the protagonists cross) at some point far in the past the Mongol empire started to figure out technology. They swept across Europe and took over some cities and harvested the rest. They developed nanobots that they infected their subjects with. One type reacted to signal towers and suppressed emotion, sped healing, and increased strength. The other type of bots created zombies. The Hoard, as the Mongols are known as, released the zombie bugs into regions that were not worth settling. The zombies clean out resistance and the Hoard’s harvesting machines can come in unmolested.
England had remained immune to the ravages of the Hoard. The zombies cannot cross water on their own and the Hoard itself had no navy to speak of. Then they got clever. They infected sugar and tea imports with the nanobots and once the English population was sufficiently infected the Hoard turned on a signal tower and took over.
The events in the book are set approximately 200 years after the invasion. England is once more free of Hoard control. Rhys Trahearn, once a pirate, sailed up the Thames and destroyed the tower, freeing the English from Hoard rule. For that service he was made a duke. Several years later, someone drops a dead body on his doorstep.
Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth is called in to investigate. She is competent, efficient, and intelligent. She is also half Hoard. Her mixed blood create an almost intolerable environment as she faces hatred and resentment for her mixed parentage. The romance proceeds about as you’d expect. She’s resistant because she has to keep to significantly stricter standards than the average citizen, even than the average aristocrat. He is insistent and slightly unscrupulous. There are a few twists and turns along the way. Predominantly toward the end of the book where you least expect the romantic element to change. So full marks for that.
There’s nothing wrong with the romance, it just wasn’t the most compelling part of the story for me. The actual murder investigation is fairly awesome. Partly because there’s a female pirate captain. And I love lady pirate captains. I even have a shirt with one. The side characters are all fairly interesting as well. The pirate captain has her own book,Heart of Steel, which I have also read and will review in the next blog post.
#20 & # 21 The Lady of Devices and Her Own Devices by Shelley Adina
I debated making these two books one entry, but in the end, I decided that they were written separately so that’s how I would count them. Really, they’re serial novellas. They’re both fairly short, I don’t have an exact page count since I read them on an e-reader. Which is another whole topic.
I have an iPad. I love it. I don’t read much on it. I picked up the first book, Lady of Devices, on a whim because it was $0.99. I decided that even if it was horrible it cost less than a soda. And it wasn’t horrible. But it was brief. And the sequel is quite a bit more expensive. We’ll leave aside my moral stance on e-books and Amazon for right now. (I have one and it’s lengthy.)
So, I was somewhere with lots of time to kill. So I read this book. I think it was actually on my phone rather than my iPad come to think of it. The basic story is that Lady Claire Trevelyan, an atypical debutante, is about to make her debut. However, before she can her father loses most of their assets in an ill advised investment in the internal combustion engine. Unable to bear the shame, he departs this mortal coil leaving his wife, almost grown daughter, and infant son behind to deal with the fallout. The dowager countess takes the new Lord St. Ives to their country estate leaving Claire to close up the town residence and see to its sale.
Circumstances, and angry investors, intervene and Clair soon finds herself out of a home and unwilling to return to her mother. She instead, ends up taking a job as the assistant to a scientist named Andrew Malvern. She also, through no fault of her own, ends up living with a gang of pickpockets, taking over a rival gang, and setting herself up as a power in London’s underground.
Book 2, Her Own Devices, continues Clair’s balancing act between her day job as an inventor’s assistant and working aristocrat, and her night job as the mysterious Lady of Devices, underworld power. In order to stay in town and out of her mother’s reach, Claire agrees to an engagement with Lord James, the financial backer behind Andrew’s project. She soon feels unsatisfied with the arrangement. James is not at all happy that Claire has a mind of her own, despite that being his stated reason for wanting to marry her. Shenanigans are afoot in steam-powered Victorian London.
The two books are fairly well written. There are some places where the writing feels a little clunky, but nothing major. My biggest problem is that book 1 especially seems to stop rather abruptly. It felt very much like reading an installment of a serial rather than a finished product. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a serial. It’s just odd to expect one thing and get another. Book 3 is supposed to be out sometime this year. I’ll definitely pick it up.
Remember, to enter the Shadow of Night giveaway all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. You’ve got two weeks.