2013 Get Steampunk’d Challenge

 

This challenge is one of my favorites, as I do love steampunk! Hosted by Bookish Ardour, this challenge is all about reading steampunk books.

The challenge has seven levels ranging from 5 to 200 books. I’m going to take it easy this time around and go with the Geared level, which is only 5 books. I have a lot of other reading goals this year, so I don’t want to pressure myself so much in individual genres.

Sign up here!

My list so far:

  1. Native Star by M.K. Hobson
  2. The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
  3. Wicked as They Come by Delilah S. Dawson
  4. The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
  5. Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Check my progress all year on the sidebar or on my 2013 Challenge Index.

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Review: Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Book: Airborn
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: Eos
Release date: May 11, 2004
Source: Borrowed from library

Summary from Goodreads: Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt’s always wanted; convinced he’s lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist’s granddaughter that he realizes that the man’s ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.

First impressions: Be still my beating, swooning heart! Kenneth Oppel wastes no time jumping into the action of this story, and it completely sucked me in. I so love when books do that.

Lasting impressions: Absolutely pitch perfect. Full of excitement, adventure, and mystery, this one grabs you and never lets go.

Conflicting impressions: None. Seriously.

Overall impressions: If I learned one thing from this book it’s that airships are so my thing.

Fans of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series will love this book as much as I did. Matt Cruse, our confident protagonist, is very similar to Westerfeld’s Deryn Sharp. He is so comfortable in the air he feels as if he could fly. He lost his father to a horrible airship accident. He has to take a post as a cabin boy to help pay the bills, but he also really and truly loves working on a ship. If there’s anyone who has found his place in the world, it’s Matt.

On a routine flight across the Pacific, Matt’s ship encounters an adrift hot air balloon with a few secrets contained within the pilot’s journal. On the next flight, Matt meets the pilot’s granddaughter, Kate de Vries. Kate is precocious, intelligent, stubborn, and a bit of a princess. She comes from the upper class and has a hard time taking no for an answer. Matt, as a lowly cabin boy, soon finds himself dragged into Kate’s exploits as she pursues the mysterious creatures her grandfather had discovered.

But Matt is not all passive. Part of his journey is finding his voice and learning to exploit his own capabilities in the face of hardship. Through the course of the book, Matt faces pirates (several times) and crashes and strange flying cats (oh my!), and still manages to keep his brain on straight. Younger readers will chew through this one!

If you’ve never tried steampunk, this is a superb place to start. It’s light on complicated gadgets and heavy on interesting characters and setting. Matt is brave and quick, and his story will capture your heart.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Book: Behemoth
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: October 5, 2010
Source: Borrowed from local library
Series: Leviathan #2

Summary: (from Goodreads) The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan‘s peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what’s ahead.

First impressions: This series was definitely designed to be read together. The action picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first book, Leviathan, and as with that book, we are quickly launched into exciting events. Westerfeld is a master at drawing you in.

Lasting impressions: I actually read the last 60 or so pages slower than any other section of the book, because I did not want it to end yet. I have so much fun in the world of this series that I get grumpy when I’m forced to stop reading.

Conflicting impressions: Sometimes Alek wavers in TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) territory. The fact that he can’t figure out Deryn is a girl is mind-boggling, especially as her feelings grow toward him. I was just glad that at least one character figured it out, but I think the total is still a bizarrely low 3 people that know or suspect her secret. Really? It’s that easy to impersonate a boy? It’s so easy for Deryn, in fact, that I no longer find that subplot filled with much tension.

Overall impressions: I thought I loved this Clanker/Darwinist world in Leviathan, but this book took it to a completely new stratospheric level. My god is Scott Westerfeld a genius! Everything about the voice, tone, action, setting, and characters pulls together into one cohesive whole that is so vibrant it is nearly cinematic. I can practically breathe in the Turkish air when the lady boffin leads a team to meet the sultan. I can hear the steam pistons firing in the giant walkers. I can smell the stale atmosphere deep in the Leviathan whale-ship’s core. I didn’t just read this book. I The-Neverending-Story-style lived it.

Deryn is still my favorite of the two protagonists, but Alek improved greatly in my esteem this time around. He was more confident and less arrogant, more careful and less reckless. He started to use his brain and consider the wants and needs of not only himself, but his people and the civilized world as well. Deryn, meanwhile, is still tough, humble, and a bit naive. They are great when they work separately, but brilliant when they work together. If only they weren’t on opposite sides of this growing war.

The politics got a bit more jumbled as the hard lines are blurred and more countries start pulling into the conflict. It’s no longer just Europe, but expanding into Asia as well. I found the Turkey setting in this one to be colorful, different, and exciting. Instead of clomping through the Alps or soaring through the skies, we see new communities and cultures and how they are affected by both the Darwinists and the Clankers. Westerfeld handles it all impeccably, and I found myself wanting to plan a trip to Turkey.

Alek and Deryn both are thrust into new levels of responsibility in this book, and we get introduced to a new beastie that should prove to be quite instrumental in the future (though I admit it was a bit of a letdown after all the book one buildup with the eggs). I loved seeing these two kids step up and experience the world in new ways. They really rose to the challenges presented to them and I look forward to seeing how they deal with what’s coming in the final chapter, Goliath, due out September 20th.

This one was full of nearly nonstop action and scheming, with a tiny hint of romance thrown in. I hope we get more than just a taste in the next one, but only because I adore these two so much and am really rooting for them. This is certainly a book that can stand on its own without the romance element, but gets an added touch of that something special when the romance comes into play.

Westerfeld is a beautifully subtle writer, never hitting us over the head with extraneous details or descriptions. Instead, his stories unfold with ever escalating urgency, perfectly timed to the events and consequences the characters face, and propelling the plot forward with just the right balance of character and plot development. Throw in the fantastical steampunk elements (which never outshine or divert from the story), and now I’m glued to the page.

I cannot recommend this series highly enough. As much as I loved the first book, Behemoth has catapulted this series to the top of my favorites list, and I promise you I will be re-reading these books for years to come.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Waiting on Wednesday – Goliath by Scott Westerfeld


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we discuss the books we’re anxiously awaiting for release.

Book: Goliath
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: September 20, 2011
Series: Leviathan #3

Summary from Goodreads: Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alekâ??s throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they werenâ??t technically enemies.

The tension thickens as the Leviathan steams toward New York City with a homicidal lunatic on board: secrets suddenly unravel, characters reappear, and nothing is at it seems in this thunderous conclusion to Scott Westerfeldâ??s brilliant trilogy.

I fell absolutely in love with book one in this series, and you can read my five star review of Leviathan to see why. Well, Monday night I stayed up late finishing book two, Behemoth, and it likewise blew me away with its originality and incredible setting (look for my review on Monday!). I can say without hesitation that this is my favorite series this year and I am so anxious to read what is sure to be an epic conclusion to Alek and Deryn’s story. It’s a good thing Galley Grab came through last month and that I can dive in right away!

Have you read this series yet? (If not, WHY NOT?!?!) What books are you waiting on?


Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

Comic Books – Yay or Nay?

It’s all Lia Habel’s fault.

I was happy with my comic book ignorance up until yesterday. I didn’t need to know about the vast array of characters, plots, and settings they explored. I was blissfully unaware that comic books had anything to offer other than superheroes and skintight clothing. If you had told me that I was missing an opportunity to experience an exciting genre of literature in comic books, I’d have told you that if I wanted my stories envisioned for me I’d watch the movie.

Oh how I have been humbled.

On Tuesday, Lia Habel tweeted her enthusiasm for Ruse. Perhaps “enthusiasm” is the wrong word. More like “rabid fangirly devotion.”

If you are a #steampunk or into comics drop everything NOW and GET THEM. It was the best series EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER. –via @LiaHabel

What else is a girl to do on her lunch break besides search Google for more information on this series? You say steampunk, I come running.

Image courtesy Marvel Image Gallery

Ruse is a Victorian-era comic that follows renowned detective Simon Archard and his partner, Emma Bishop. The book is told from Emma’s spunky perspective, which allows us to admire Simon’s intellect and problem-solving while feeling her frustration over being called the wrong name and getting ignored by society and the press for her contributions. She’s also hiding a secret from Simon about some mysterious powers she wields…

Ruse originally ran from 2001-2004 and in March, Marvel issued 4 new books (this was the news that got Ms. Habel so excited). The series sounded cool and with such a glowing recommendation I decided I’d check it out. After work I headed to a nearby comic book store for the first time. I was quite nervous, worried the fanboys would peg me as the outsider I am and chase me off with pitchforks.

My fears were unfounded. The store was busy (Just after working hours in the Loop? You don’t say!) so I was able to wander and browse free of any hairy eyeballs or raised brows. As luck would have it, the store had not only all four issues of the Ruse new release, but issues 1-12 of the original run. At about $3 a pop, I figured I’d just buy them all. I spend that much on books all the time without batting an eye, so why not comic books as well?

When I got home, I read numbers 1 and 2 of the original and number 1 of the new series. And I was shocked to find I actually really enjoyed them. Like, really enjoyed them. Instead of being annoyed at the lack of words, I let myself relax and get into the illustrations and see what wasn’t being said. Normally I despise having words interpreted for me, and prefer to put my own slant on things (see: why I hate movie adaptations; why I like reading plays instead of going to the theater) but in this case, it was an entirely new experience.

I’ve read a couple of graphic novels in the past, usually because they had been or were going to be turned into movies (300, V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) and I had the hardest time getting into them. Maybe it was the length that was the problem. Maybe I just wasn’t reading the right story for me. Whichever it was, my attitude toward the genre has undergone a complete 180 degree shift. I went to another store near my house last night and picked up a few new books that caught my interest. I’m even considering starting a collection of a series that is adapting the L. Frank Baum Oz books, which I already collect and adore.

I’m so new to this that I’m kind of stumbling around in the dark. Other than Alison Can Read’s Manga Mondays feature, I’m not aware of any bloggers focusing on graphic content. Do you read graphic novels, manga, or comic books? Would you be interested in hearing more from me as I explore this genre? I’m curious to hear what you think about it.


Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

Waiting on Wednesday – Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we discuss the books we’re anxiously awaiting for release.

Book: Dearly, Departed
Author: Lia Habel
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Release date: October 18, 2011

Summary from Goodreads: Love can never die.

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupidâ??s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the deadâ??or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoriaâ??a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her countryâ??s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune, and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horribleâ??until sheâ??s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, sheâ??s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting â??The Laz,â? a fatal virus that raises the deadâ??and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, thereâ??s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, steampunk meets romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.

I have been excited about this book since December, when I saw an interview with Lia Habel on Badass Bookie’s blog. She is seriously the coolest up-and-coming writer (in my humble opinion) and to top it off, she is seriously nice and talks to people on Twitter. I heart her, and I desperately want to read this book. Is it October yet?

And seriously? That cover makes me swoon. I love the color scheme, the font, the parasol. Someone buy me a parasol! I need one. STAT.

What do you think of the cover? The summary? What books are you waiting on?


Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

Review and Giveaway: Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: Sapphique
Author: Catherine Fisher
Publisher: Dial
Release date: December 28, 2010
Source: ARC received from Tabitha at Writer Musings
Series: Sequel to Incarceron

**NOTE – Spoilers are hidden**

Summary: (from Goodreads) The only one who escaped . . . And the one who could destroy them all.

Incarceron, the living prison, has lost one of its inmates to the outside world: Finnâ??s escaped, only to find that Outside is not at all what he expected. Used to the technologically advanced, if violently harsh, conditions of the prison, Finn is now forced to obey the rules of Protocol, which require all people to live without technology. To Finn, Outside is just a prison of another kind, especially when Claudia, the daughter of the prisonâ??s warden, declares Finn the lost heir to the throne. When another claimant emerges, both Finnâ??s and Claudiaâ??s very lives hang on Finn convincing the Court of something that even he doesnâ??t fully believe.

Meanwhile, Finnâ??s oathbrother Keiro and his friend Attia are still trapped inside Incarceron. They are searching for a magical glove, which legend says Sapphique used to escape. To find it, they must battle the prison itself, because Incarceron wants the glove too.

First impressions: I just adore how well Catherine Fisher creates the worlds of Incarceron and Outside. She definitely pulls you in, and the opening chapter here does not disappoint. We follow one of our main characters from inside the prison, attending a magic show that quickly evolves into something more. The dark, oily world of Incarceron is absolutely compelling.

Lasting impressions: This book lost me at a couple of points, where the action slowed and I wasn’t sure where the story was going so I almost gave up. It’s sad because the characters and world here are so incredible that it’s truly a shame that the plot wasn’t equally as brilliant.

Conflicting impressions: Like the first book, this one left a few too many gaps for my taste. I felt like Fisher didn’t explain things as fully as she could have in order to ease our understanding of what was going on.

Overall impressions: It’s hard to say much about this book without giving away the ending of the previous book, Incarceron. The important thing to know is that Incarceron is a living prison, and some of the prisoners inside are still trying to get out. They have to battle the prison for control of a glove believed to reveal the way out. Meanwhile, Outside, the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter, Claudia, is trying to lead a revolt against the Queen and free the prisoners of Incarceron.

Catherine Fisher writes dark, complex, complicated novels, so I had a very hard time deciding what kind of rating to give this book, or even processing how I really felt about it. The world Outside the prison, and the prison Incarceron itself, are not good places to be. As such, there are no easy answers about where one would prefer to exist, or whose life is truly better. Because of this, I had a hard time deciding who to root for.

Do I root for the death of Incarceron, and with it the millions of prisoners still trapped inside? Or do I root for the prison to open, freeing the prisoners but unleashing them on a dying society?

I couldn’t really answer those questions, which I think explained my confusion and uncertainty with the book. This was equally balanced, however, with beautiful prose and colorful characters. I loved the people, and while all the main characters are back from the first book, we got some interesting new ones as well.

One of the best things about these books is the simple fact that Fisher writes so beautifully. It took me longer than usual to read this book because I wanted to savor every word and phrase. Even though I got a little frustrated at times that I didn’t quite know what the overarching goal of the story was, I really enjoyed the journey because of Fisher’s gift with words.

Despite the lack of details that I like, and the seeming lack of a fully realized direction for the story, I did enjoy this book a lot. The fantasy steampunk world of Outside coupled with the dystopian prison is fascinating and unlike anything else I’ve read. Fisher wins major bonus points for originality and writing style. I recommend both books if you’re looking for something different, challenging, and thought-provoking to read.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system
Want to read my take on the first book? Click to read my review of Incarceron. Fun fact: it was also my very first review!



As part of the All Male Review Challenge, I am giving away my ARC of this book to one lucky winner!

This contest is open to ages 13 and up with a U.S. mailing address. To enter, leave a comment on this post, along with an email address where I can contact you. The contest will close on June 3, 2011 and the winner will be announced on the 4th. Good luck!

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: Leviathan
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: October 6, 2009
Source: Borrowed from local library
Series: Leviathan #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected wayâ?¦taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

First impressions: The opening scenes are quite intense, especially since we know the fate of the archduke, Alek’s father. Still, I found this one slow to get into, just because I had to wrap my head around the world and its rules. The payoff of this extra upfront effort was fully realized by the end.

Lasting impressions: My goodness. I would follow these characters in this world to the end of the universe and back. Strange? Yes. Disarming? Oh, yes. But fantastically amazing as well.

Conflicting impressions: I found Deryn to be the much stronger character. We could have dropped Alek’s perspective entirely and I wouldn’t have cared.

Overall impressions: Once I got comfortable in this strange Clanker vs. Darwinist world, it didn’t matter what the story was or where it was going. I can’t remember the last time a fantasy setting so fully transported me as this book did. The Clankers favor steam-powered machines and the Darwinists favor engineered beasts. Both sides use their preferred methods to create huge fighting vessels which they start to use more frequently as World War I breaks out around them.

Deryn Sharp is a Darwinist in Britain who desperately wants to be an airman. The trouble is she’s a girl. Off go the locks and on goes the restrictive and baggy clothes, and voila, a boy is created. She winds up on an air beast called the Leviathan, which is like a large zeppelin…if zeppelins were made out of living things. In this case, it’s a whale.

The Darwinists’ ecosystem machines were a bit hard for me to swallow. It wasn’t that I couldn’t fathom a world where scientists cobble together various life forms to create a new animal that serves their purposes (because really, are we that far off?). No, for me it was the incredulous idea that a large animal could be mutated into some kind of non-sentient creature that wouldn’t mind its body used as an airship. The thought of traipsing around inside of a whale was really bothersome to me. Every time Deryn said “Poor beastie” I thought that if she really felt sorry for the blasted thing she’d stop stomping through its innards. But I realize the point of steampunk is not to break down every detail. I decided to go with it, accepted the beasties as a part of this world, and moved on.

On the Clanker side of things, we follow the Austro-Hungarian heir, Alek, as he escapes his home country and flees to Switzerland in a giant metal walker. His team of mentors accompany him, and there is not much love lost between them. Alek is a haughty, naive, and self-entitled prince, but he is also respectful of duty to country. He is perhaps more complex than Deryn, which meant we didn’t get to know him quite as fully, and the coldness he has with his team didn’t improve his warmth with the reader.

Once Alek and Deryn meet, however, things really start to get interesting. They race to get off a glacier where the Leviathan has crash landed near Alek’s hideout, and by the end of the story these natural enemies are forced to form a somewhat shaky truce. It will be interesting to see how these two accomplish their individual goals while staying loyal to their respective causes.

This trilogy definitely needs to be read together, as this book ends just on the cusp of a new adventure for Deryn and Alek. It felt very “To be continued…” while still wrapping up nicely. That said, I won’t die if I never get around to reading Behemoth. The motivating factor isn’t the plot, here. What ultimately sets this book apart is its incredibly well developed setting, and the glorious dialogue Westerfeld built. My new favorite curse word/adjective is “barking.”

I highly recommend this book to fantasy fans who have an interest in steampunk, particularly if you enjoy YA. I should also point out that the book is beautifully illustrated by Keith Thompson, which enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this review by Books Turn Brains.

Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Book: Boneshaker
Author: Cherie Priest
Publisher: Tor Books
Release date: September 29, 2009
Source: Borrowed from local library

Summary: (from jacket copy) In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaskaâ??s ice. Thus was Dr. Blueâ??s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blueâ??s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

First impressions: This book had me hooked straight through to Chapter Four. We are introduced to Briar Wilkes and her son, Zeke, both of whom are captivating. They live a hard life in 1880s Seattle, and there is some controversy around Briar’s father and her ex-husband. Cherie Priest drew me into this world right away and I was totally absorbed…

Lasting impressions: …and then it screeched to a halt. It took me 10 days to get through this book, because there was no urgency to the plot whatsoever. The characters have no internal conflict or growth. Every element of the story seemed held at a distance, so I could never invest in any of it. I don’t remember the last time reading a book was so painful.

Negative impressions: Beyond the aforementioned pacing problems, this book had too many characters that served no function. Once Briar and Zeke enter the walled-off portion of the city, where zombies (here called “rotters”) roam hungrily about, you expect some action. Instead, we get lots of scenes where they stumble across interesting and colorful characters, who help them get from one place to the next, and then disappear–only to then jump out at you in surprise later on, when you have already forgotten about them because you’ve met 14,527 new people since then. It was maddening.

Overall impressions: The only reason I finished this book was so I could give it a proper review. Though the process was like pulling teeth, there were portions of this book that were quite entertaining. The world was interesting, and I loved the idea of the rotters developing after a mysterious gas leak. The hidden society that Briar and Zeke stumble upon behind the wall is mildly interesting, but the ongoing is-he-or-isn’t-he surrounding Dr. Minnericht as possibly being Briar’s dead husband was more annoying than intriguing.

There is a big reveal at the end, but by the time the plot meandered its way to that point, I was so beyond caring that it hit me about as forcefully as a shrug. You ever see a movie where each scene is kind of exciting, and just enough happens that you don’t turn it off because you’re curious what will happen next, but when it’s over you realize that every scene had exactly the same intensity? That’s how this book was for me. Flat as a pancake, straight through. No real rise or fall to the action. Zero heartbeat. Flatlined.

The book is saved from one-star doom because there were flashes of light hidden away from time to time. I just wish overall there had been more of them, and they had been a thousand watts brighter.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Want a different perspective? Check out this Boneshaker review by Day to Day. It’s also worth mentioning that this book was named Steampunk Book of the Year 2010 by Steampunk.com and won a Locus Award for Best Sci-Fi Novel 2010. Perhaps steampunk isn’t my thing after all?

Get Steampunked!

Review: The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

Book: The Alchemy of Stone
Author: Ekaterina Sedia
Publisher: Prime Books
Release date: July 4, 2008
Source: Local library

Summary: (from Goodreads) Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets – secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. However, this doesn’t sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart – literally!

First impressions: I read the first half of this book without stopping. This world is so rich and different and mysterious that I had to keep reading to figure out what was going to happen next. If you like sci-fi or steampunk even in the slightest, you will be hooked from the get-go.

Lasting impressions: The gargoyles were fascinating. Mattie is the heart of the book, but the gargoyles are the soul. I didn’t quite understand them, but their presence was always lingering at the back of my mind. The characters and the story are dark, dirty, and complex, but definitely compelling.

Negative impressions: There were a few missteps. I wasn’t a fan of the love interest for Mattie, and the “sex” scene between them was awkward at best. I just couldn’t get into a man and machine hookup. I also had a hard time following the action at times. I don’t know if it was because I am new to the genre or if some scenes were intentionally vague, but I didn’t always grasp everything that was happening.

Overall impressions: The best way for me to describe this book is strangely beautiful. Mattie is an automaton, considered a lesser class, despite her emancipated status from her creator. She works as an alchemist and is quite good at what she does, which is what earns her a special benefactor who employs her for complex tasks. It is through this relationship that Mattie is drawn into the political upheaval happening between the alchemists, mechanics, and gargoyles in this world.

Mattie is also recruited for a task by the gargoyles, and maintains a relationship with her creator and mechanic friend, so is necessarily involved with all of these rival factions vying for control of the city. The more she’s drawn into the politics, the more involved her assignments, and eventually she has to make difficult choices about who she truly serves. The story unfolds quickly, and I finished this book in two sittings.

I thought Mattie was sweet and different, and tried to suspend my disbelief and avoid asking too many questions about how she was able to think and speak and remember (particularly when her memory becomes an important plot point later in the book). Instead, I just accepted the world as I was reading about it, and it became a really fascinating story.

This was my first exposure to steampunk, and I loved it. This tale was dark, dealing with issues of slavery, class struggles, independence, and abuse. Yet it also had touching moments between friends, and showed the value of sacrifice. Mattie has to endure cruelty and hardship, but she is self-assured and never gives up on herself. Though this certainly isn’t a book for everyone, if you’re looking for something different you should give it a try.

Rating: 4/5 stars