IRON & BLOOD has it all. It’s an excellent murder mystery novel filled with steampunk airships, vampire witches, clockwork zombies, tesla rays, and much more, all thrown into an alternate history taking place in New Pittsburgh.
I’m a little wary of a book that heads each chapter with the device, ‘In which …’ and, indeed, THE HANGED MAN by P.N. Elrod is fairly typical of the genre that mixes steampunk with the Victorian lady detective. Alex Pendlebury, ‘blessed’ with a paranormal gift, is on her way to spinsterhood, being far too straight-forward and observational for her upper-class peers, though she lacks the wry sense of humor of many of her fellows in the genre. Pleasant, though routine, THE HANGED MAN reminded me of a number of other books, cobbled together.
THE DIAMOND CONSPIRACY is full of steampunk awesomeness as I thought this whole series would be just from reading the story summary of PHOENIX RISING. It has everything from weird steampunk weapons and tricked out vehicles to intense action and some romance thrown in as well. Add a mad scientist doing creepy experiments and secrets upon secrets and this book is filled with so much delicious ideas.
I was so excited to hear that there was going to be a new series dedicated to Prudence, the daughter of Conall and Alexia Maccon from the Parasol Protectorate series. Prudence was such an interesting child who could steal the abilities of any supernatural she touched that a whole new series dedicated to her hijinks as a young adult just had to be written. PRUDENCE is an absolute delight with dangerous new creatures and high skies dirgible adventures, odd new supernatural characters and mysteries, and the typical witty fancifullness I’ve come to expect and enjoy from Gail Carriger’s work.
This steampunk western adventure includes a bevy in a brothel, a lethal sewing machine, and love at first sight. Elizabeth Bear introduces her audience to KAREN MEMORY (actually spelled ‘Memery’), a working girl at the Hôtel Mon Cherie with a penchant for dime novels and a huge heart that gets her into trouble. The ladies of Madame Damnable’s are worth following all on their own, but Bear sweetens the pot with a series of mysterious murders in the vein of Jack the Ripper. The novel’s only misstep is in mild over-plotting, but there’s no denying it’s one hell of an adrenaline ride at the end.
THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE was an entertaining twist on the classic tale of THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. I love a good murder mystery and one where the protagonist in part doesn’t know if she is the killer makes for an especially juicy story. The story, like the kind upright Dr. Eliza Jekyll is split in narration between her and her more brash and violent alter ego Lizzie Hyde.
In this retelling of ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,’ Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed have mixed a little machinery with magic while delving into the Arabian culture, and bringing us a protagonist whose heroism is in his dedication – dedication to his craft, his family, and his desire to to what’s right. BABA ALI AND THE CLOCKWORK DJINN is a breath of fresh desert wind, and if the book suffers from some plotting and pacing missteps, it’s still a charming oasis for fantasy lovers looking to enjoy something a little less Western.
One of the best things about GUNPOWDER ALCHEMY is the fact that the worldbuilding takes place in China during the Qing Dinasty. I so rarely read books predominately set in Asia so it was refreshing to see steampunk mixed in with Chinese customs and history. I enjoyed seeing some of that culture play a role in the fast paced plot such as the
If you missed Sophronia Temminick’s Finishing School adventures as much as I did, you’ll love Gail Carriger’s latest trip to Madamoiselle Geraldine’s and the lessons in proper spycraft within the pages of WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY. The wider supernatural world closes in on Sophronia and her friends as the werewolf drama that sets the events of Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series into motion happens while the ladies are learning the art of the bladed fan. With her friend Sidheag personally affected by pack dynamics, Sophronia has no choice but to get involved herself. It’s always a delight to go back to school with Carriger, though, like Sophronia’s first outing, WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY feels more like a stepping stone in a larger story than its own novel.
MONSTROUS AFFECTIONS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF BEASTLY TALES was a mixed bag for me with some stories being pretty entertaining and spooky while others fell flat or just outright confused me. Each story involved a twist on a classic monster or monsters who inhabit the world living alongside humans.