Thursday, December 20, 2012

Book Review: An Airship Named Desire

Note: A free review copy was provided by Hazardous Press and author, Katherine McIntyre.

Ever since their last botched smuggling job, First Mate Bea and the crew of her airship can barely afford fuel, let alone a barrel of grog. So, when a gentleman from Old Germany offers them a fortune to steal a locked box from a British merchant airship, they jump at the opportunity. Somehow, though, their employer forgot to mention the box's military escort, and the Morlock mercenaries who would kill to get their hands on it. Oh, and that if made public, the contents could engulf Europe in another devastating war.

Stealing the box was the easy part. Now, with a target on their back, and some of the toughest characters in the sky after them, they have to find a way to survive. If the crew of the Desire don't polish their pistols and prepare for a hell of a fight, they'll end up worse than grounded. After all, everyone from the Brits to the Morlocks will kill for the contents of that box, and no one survives an airship crash.

What I liked about it:
-An Airship named Desire is a fast-paced, exciting read.
-There are a few plot twists that I didn't see coming, which kept me on my toes while I was reading.
-The descriptions of the world were very interesting and unique. It almost had a gritty, dieselpunk feel to it.
-I loved the concept of an airship full of strays with bad pasts.

What I didn't like about it:
-The writing was good in places, and awkward in others. The word I is used too often. And the overuse of similes becomes slightly jarring for the reader, when another simple description word would suffice. While still on the subject of similes, some of them just came off as downright strange or confusing:

“My new position of Captain weighed down like the keys to a broken down opium shack.”
This may have made sense to the author, but as a reader it made me stop to scratch my head.

“My words rolled out smoother than a steam engine.”
This made me stop reading and think about it. Do steam engines really run smoothly? Maybe I’m overly analytical, but again, it pulled me out of the story momentarily while I considered it.

“A woman with more petticoats than fingers tossed the occasional glare our way.”
This isn't a simile, but it struck me as an odd thing to compare petticoats to, so I included it.

-I thought that Bea was a very interesting character, as were the rest of her companions, and I really would have liked to see some more character development. For instance, there were a few parts where Bea doesn't want to look at herself in the mirror, and I was really interested in that. I thought maybe it had something to do with her past. However, nothing really develops with this.

In Conclusion:
If you’re looking for airship adventure, pirates, gun fights and non-stop action, this book is for you. An Airship Named Desire is a fast-paced  steampunk adventure story that keeps you guessing about the Macguffin the entire time. This is recommended steampunk reading.

4 out of 8 wiggly octopus legs.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: The Unnaturalists

I've wanted to read this steampunk YA since I saw the pretty, pretty cover on someone’s book blog. First off, I have to say a big THANK you to the artist who drew Vespa, because WOW you got the description right! It’s like the artist actually read the book. I was reading another steampunk YA a short time ago – it shall remain unnamed – and was spitting mad because the girl was described as “pale with light blonde hair”, and apparently the cover artist just decided to stick Megan Fox in a ball gown on the front (the dress wasn’t even correct for the period either, completely modern).

Now for the actual book…

What I liked about it: Trent blends magic and science together, which I thought was a really new and interesting concept. Scientists like Newton and Tesla are elevated to saints, and science has basically become a strict religion, while anyone who shows a slight interest in magic is called a heretic. While so much YA literature struggles with originality, Tiffany Trent has created a totally unique world. There are also creatures that are rarely used in YA in this book, for example: A Manticore, a Sphinx, raven-headed gaurds, ect. For someone thoroughly sick of vampires and werewolves, this taste of “new” and different mythological creatures is a breath of fresh air.

The writing. I always have to mention the writing in book reviews, since I’m so very critical the entire time I'm reading. Ms. Trent truly has talent. The narration from Vespa’s point of view is done very well. It covers all the bases. She sounds exactly like a proper young English girl in the 19th century, but the author has also managed to make the prose engaging, regardless of the age of the reader.

I also loved Ms. Trent’s “Tinkers”. They're reminiscent of Chinese Gypsies. Forest people who honour the old ways of magic and the creatures around them. Their history and lore actually made me feel like I was reading about a real race of people.

What I didn't like about it: Readers be warned. The chapters switch between Vespa’s first person (present tense) narration, and a tinker named Syrus, whose story is told in third person (past tense). At first this really threw me out of the story and almost derailed the entire thing for me. But eventually I did get used to it. I think I would have preferred, if it had to switch back and forth, for both narrations to be in first person.

I didn’t connect with Vespa’s love interest. I grew to like him later on, but when she first started feeling the pangs of attraction it left me scratching my head, not sighing over him.

Though I would still label it in the steampunk genre, there wasn’t very much that ran on steam, everything is myth powered. Of course, this makes the book unique, so you could look at that as good or bad.

Something that struck me is that (SPOILERS) when Vespa learns she is a witch, she doesn't react strongly enough. She’s been brainwashed to think that magic is evil and science is her religion. Why isn't she freaking out more? After a few dizzy spells she seems to be absolutely fine with it, and there isn't really a lot of denial going on. Also, she abandons everything she’d been taught very very quickly. For someone who dreamed about being a female scientist at the start of the book, she abandons it for magic with lightning speed. Everyone else seems to regard magic with disgust, but she embraces it very easily. I would have expected her to be a little more brainwashed. Or, if she was a rebel, I would have expected some indication of her attraction to the magic earlier on in the book. We see that she’s adventurous, but little else.

In Conclusion: Would I recommend The Unnaturalists? Yes. It was a unique and entertaining look at an alternate London, and I loved the glimpses of all the different mythical creatures. The world dreamed up by Tiffany Trent is absolutely worth a read.

The Unnaturalists gets 6 out of 8 Octopus legs (and a thumbs up by the looks of it)!