Tag Archives: steampunk

Retro Review: Magic Under Glass (2010)

Jaclyn Dolamore

Bloomsbury (2009)

ISBN: 978 1 4088 0212 0

This is an impressive debut from first-time novelist Jaclyn Dolamore, but it certainly had a journey and a half on publication. After the cover debacle that raged on the Internet over Justine Larbalestier’s novel Liar, it was quite unbelievable to most that publisher Bloomsbury could turn around and make the exact same mistake AGAIN. The international version of the book originally showed a very light-skinned model on the cover, despite it being made very clear in the book that the protagonist Nimira is “dark and foreign” (p. 5). Furore erupted once again, and once again Bloomsbury pulled the cover, replacing it with a more appropriate model. Clever marketing or complete ignorance, it’s difficult to say, but it did get this book a significant amount of exposure it may not otherwise have garnered as a debut book. It’s worth noting that the Australian cover has avoided the issue entirely (just as Larbalestier’s did) by being a romantic-style artwork instead of using a live model.

Nimira is a “trouser-girl”, an exotically foreign dancer and singer down on her luck. Her life is changed when the upper-class sorcerer Hollin Parry employs her to sing with the automaton he has purchased. Nimira suddenly finds herself in a new lifestyle, with new prospects, but all is not well in Hollin’s house, and certainly not everything is what it seems with the automaton. Nimira soon discovers the secret of the automaton, which throws her newfound happiness into disarry – can Nimira solve the strange mysteries that plague the Parry household and still stay true to herself?

I found this book very easy to read – Dolamore’s writing is lush and elegant, without being overly flowery. The world she has created is many-faceted and full of surprises; I liked that it wasn’t excessively complicated and was simply presented. However, I’m not sold on this as a Young Adult novel (which is how it has been marketed) – Nimira is living a grown-up life and acts as an adult, including falling in love with men older than she who are CLEARLY adult. There’s nothing inappropriate in content – in fact it’s very sweet – but it just doesn’t hit my YA buttons.

Magic Under Glass is not presented as a series, but the ending is sufficiently open enough that more books are sure to follow. I shall look forward to them.

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Retro Review: The Girl in the Clockwork Collar (2012)

Kady Cross

Steampunk Chronicles, book 2

Harlequin (2012)

ISBN: 9780373210534

I discovered this series by chance, attracted by the gorgeous cover of the first book, The Girl in the Steel Corset, on the shelves of my local variety store. I picked it up on a whim, and absolutely loved it, so was delighted to be able to get a review copy of this, the second book, from NetGalley.

Finley Jayne has experienced a lot of life in her sixteen years. She’s not what you would call “normal”, but is working towards living her life as a whole person – rather than a conflicted creature not even she trusts – with the help of her “straynge band of mysfit” friends, including noble Griffin, super smart and sweet Emily, and strong and surly Sam. When the misadventures of their new friend Jasper take them to America, Finley and her troupe take on a new adversary, all the while still learning about their own abilities, figuring out how their friendships work, and discovering who can truly be trusted. Continue reading

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New Review: Imprudence (2016)

Gail Carriger

Orbit (2016)

ISBN: 978-0-316-21219-9 

The Custard Protocol #2

I’m a big fan of Gail Carriger’s work, that’s no secret. I thoroughly enjoy the alternate historical reality she has created and find her books easy yet often thought-provoking reads. The links between the Parasol Protectorate, Finishing School and Custard Protocol books are clever and nicely twisty, and I very much appreciated seeing characters who appeared as protagonists age and evolve as side characters in other work – the glimpses to old favourites at different stages of their lives gives this fangirl’s heart glee.

Imprudence picks up quite soon after the end of the first book of the series (Prudence – if you didn’t know, the book is about Prudence, mostly known as Rue, the now grown-up birth daughter of Alexia and Lord Maccon, heroes of the Parasol Protectorate series, partly raised by her adoptive father, the vampire Lord Akeldama). Rue is a preternatural, the only one of her kind, able to steal the immortality of any supernatural creature with a touch, and hold it until the “tether” snaps (usually with distance), and this has at times made her a target for those who fear her, or those who want to utilise her ability. But Rue has other things to worry about, for her father, the alpha werewolf, needs her help, and the journey she will take has more danger than she could have realised.

The cast of characters in this book is vivid – I adored learning tantalising tidbits about old favourite Akeldama’s past, and seeing the changes other Parasol Protectorate protagonists have gone through. Rue and her friends are also fun. I was worried that maybe Rue and her best friend Primrose might turn into a rerun of their mothers, but they have quite distinctive characters and perspectives on their world. I very much appreciated the way Carriger wrote Rue’s deliberate sexual awakening – the way the character is written is powerful and self-aware, while still being sometimes a bit silly as young people can be, which is something we don’t really see enough of. This characters was complemented by that of Prim, who is cut from quite a different cloth, and the werelioness Tasherit, whose immortality makes her somewhat unknowable, but whose catlike traits render her something different again (she’s fantastic). It was nice to see this balance of different women who work together to play on each others’ strengths and it’s one of my favourite things about all Carriger’s books, because she writes women well, and writes them OFTEN.

I have to be honest and say I haven’t engaged quite as much with this series as with earlier books, and I’m not too sure why. I adore the characters, and the comedy of manners style Carriger employs – I hesitate to say it but I wonder if perhaps it’s simply that my reading tastes have started to change. It’s certainly happened before, so it’s possible. Still, once I was immersed in Rue’s adventures, I read the book swiftly and didn’t get distracted, so I’m guessing there’s still hope for me yet!

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New Review: Poison or Protect (2016)

Gail Carriger

Self-published

ISBN: 978-1-944751-04-3

I have been a fan of Gail Carriger’s work since the very first of her Parasol Protectorate series (Soulless) and have read each and every one of her works as they have come out. I backed the audiobook Kickstarter, I’ve read her first forays into self-publishing, and have evangelised her words and worlds to anyone who would listen, hopefully creating a few converts along the way. I’m not quite sure why her work has appealed to me so much, but I daresay it’s a combination of glorious characters (with a particularly female-focus), great steampunk aesthetic, cracking stories and of course, fabulous frocks. I’ve enjoyed every single work I’ve read to date, and Poison or Protect, the first of Carriger’s new self-published Delightfully Deadly standalone novellas, is no exception.

Poison or Protect is set between the end of the Finishing School trilogy and the beginning of the Parasol Protectorate books. Our heroine (and she certainly is that – not only is Preshea the protagonist, but this book squarely identifies as a romance, harkening back somewhat to Soulless, where it all began in feel) was a side character in the Finishing School series, and not a very pleasant one at that. Here, Lady Preshea is all grown up, four times a widow and with a reputation for murder, although naturally, it would be gauche to actually discuss such things in polite company. Employed in a dual mission at a country house party, Preshea is thrown into the company of the rather irresistible Captain Gavin Ruthven, who seems both charming and immune to the rumours that surround her. Has Preshea met her match, and can she overcome years of scandal and her deadly training to allow herself chance at something else?

This was a absolutely cracker of a story – Preshea, who wasn’t at all endearing in the Finishing School books, is a mature and self-assured character whose unfolding backstory makes her both sympathetic and frightening. Gavin is absolutely adorable and everything a romance hero SHOULD be (rather than what we too often get…) – their sweet and snarky courtship was perfectly done, and a delight to read. I don’t know how much crossover of characters Carriger has planned with this novella series, but I do hope we will get to see this pair again, as well as some of the secondary characters who rounded out the piece in sometimes unexpected ways.

In many ways, Poison or Protect is a perfect entry point into Carriger’s world – the reader gets a quick lowdown on the supernatural elements, some nice touches of steampunkishness, and just enough established characters to draw in a new reader, but not too much of anything that a newbie will feel overwhelmed. Rather, they are gently and charmingly introduced, and, naturally, left wanting more. From here, one could happily drop backwards to Finishing School or leap forward to Parasol Protectorate, without spoiling either in any way. Having read all the other books first, I also recommend it as a lovely taster for the seasoned reader – it really is that cleverly done.

A highly engaging and vastly entertaining book – can’t wait for the next one!

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Retro Review: The Parasol Protectorate

Gail Carriger

Books 1, 2 and 3, The Parasol Protectorate

Soulless

Orbit (2009)

Changeless

Orbit (2010)

Blameless

Orbit (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-316-07415-5

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

I was first exposed to what’s become known as The Parasol Protectorate series (the books are subtitled as being “Alexia Tarabotti novels”) a number of months ago, via a great video showing the creation of the cover of Blameless. This did the rounds on the ‘net showing how cover design comes together in a very cool way. I watched it a few times, thinking how clever it was, but that the book itself didn’t look like my sort of thing. HOW WRONG I WAS! When Tansy and Alex started raving about the books, I knew I had to try them. Then I received a review copy of Blameless and that decided it – Soulless and Changeless became my only Aussiecon 4 prescribed purchases, and when I finally got the chance to read them, it was to the exclusion of all else. Continue reading

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