Gears of Wonderland

Oh yes, I wanted to share this one too. I am always on the look out for a good steampunk book. There seem to be so little out there to choose from that are really gripping and don’t rely on sex to move the story along. Well, do I have a treat for you!

Go out and buy Gears of Wonderland by Jason G. Anderson. It is just 2.99 for Kindle on Amazon! I had been a little wary about getting the sample for that book because the cheaper books never seem to be quite as good as the more regularly priced, more ‘mainstream’ novels. I was so pleasantly surprised by this.

Now, I have to admit something right now. I have never read Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I know, I know. Surely some of you out there will think it sacrilege on my part but I just couldn’t get into. I might try again. Perhaps I would have gotten into it if my parents had read it to me as a child. Or if I hadn’t been just totally and completely CREEPED OUT by the animated Disney movie. Dear god that’s frightening to a six year old.

At any rate, I don’t have as much knowledge of the Alice universe as some might. This may be part of the reason I liked this book, since I had a fairly open mind about the universe. So the story starts with innocent British schlub James Riggs getting the metaphorical shaft from both his job and his (total bitch) fiancee. Heading to his best friend’s flat, James’s world is turned upside down by the friend’s murder and James’ subsequent fleeing of the scene.

Someone pushes James into Wonderland through a gate of some sort. James gets picked up by Mad Hatter’s daughter. Your first question might be “why”. Well, because apparently all the Wonderlandians have a mark on their arms denoting their kingdom and their rank in society. For instance, the Queen of Hearts (dead now thanks to assassination) would have a Queen of Hearts playing card on her arm. Her son would be the Knave (or Jack to us Americans). James’s mark is a white knight and a red knight crossed over each other. This is apparently tres weird and prompts the not-so-mad Little Hatter into taking him to meet the very much alive and still quite Mad Hatter.

From there, things just seem to go down hill from there. The Heart Guard is after him on the order of the King (formerly the Knave) of Hearts. Apparently outsiders such as James and the original Alice are considered dangerous. James and Kara the Little Hatter go on the run, searching for Caterpillar (the Oracle) and the reason behind James’s strange mark. On their journey, they meet White Rabbit (not an actual Rabbit, but a mercenary), Grphon (a freedom fighter) and of course the infamous Cheshire Cat among others.

I hope not to give too much away but the premise is that outsiders have the ability to change Wonderland simply through their thoughts. Because of this, the Wonderland that James falls into is very steampunk and almost-but-not-quite Victorian. There are air ships that run on aether, steam carriages, and guns that are reminiscent of the Teslas from Warehouse 13. James influence so far seems to be a bit more subtle in changing the way people talk.

So James goes on an adventure that he never imagined he could in his life. He’s surprised left, right and center but he learns and grows with it. He makes friends, though they might be just as surprised at that as he was, and he finds a place where he belongs.

This is a grand adventure in steampunk and it might, just might, induce me to try and re-read Carroll’s original Alice in Wonderland. And (SPOILER ALERT!!!) while Anderson gave a happy ending, he also left it open for a sequel. I really hope he writes one! Rating A+

Introducing Alex Verus

So one of Amazon’s suggested books actually paid off. Though I really place the thanks firmly in the court of Jim Butcher, who wrote a blurb for Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus novels in which he said that Harry Dresden would like this guy. Since I love Harry Dresden (Oh Jim, please write another novel soon!), I figured I’d give Fated a try.

Jim Butcher was right I think, Harry Dresden would like Alex Verus. While I wouldn’t really call Verus a knock off Dresden, I would say that there are striking similarities between the two. Both are outcast wizards thanks to the misfortune of having a Dark Wizard as a master/instructor. Both have a bit of an unusual way of making a living (Dresden advertises as a wizard in the phone book, Verus owns a magic shop). And both get into, and survive, a lot more trouble than any one person really has a right to see in their lifetime.

However, in Jacka’s wizarding world, mages don’t negatively effect technology and in fact use it regularly. Light mages and Dark mages have a sort of status quo where neither group will rock the boat. They went through a costly war and no one wants to repeat it. Each mage generally specializes in one thing (i.e.-fire magic, water magic etc) and gets really good at it, rather than Dresden who can do a great many things but seems to just favor fire.

In Fated, Alex Verus is unceremoniously thrust back into the world of mages because of his magic. Alex is a diviner, meaning he can see the future. All futures. He’s spent his whole life learning to control it so he doesn’t go mad. It makes it very easy for him to avoid trouble…unless he isn’t looking for it. Which he wasn’t when an old friend dropped by his shop in Camden (North London) and tried to recruit him, on the down low of course, for the Council.

Alex refuses and not long after not one but two Dark mages try to forcibly recruit him…for the same task. Alex has to find out what it is that everyone wants him for, who is after it and a way to get his friend Luna out of trouble with those very same people. Luna is a literally cursed young woman who is trying to break into the wizarding world with Alex’s help. She has a family curse where good things generally happen to her…at the cost of bad things to those immediately around her.

I found this book so engaging that I immediately bought the second book, Cursed. After foiling a bunch of Dark mages in the last book, Alex has become okay to work with in the eyes of the Council. So he’s getting more jobs, which means more wizard street cred but also means more trouble. Helping the one guy on the Council that he can stand, Alex finds himself at the bad end of a number of assassination attempts over the course of a couple of days.

Turns out that someone is trying to harvest magical energy out of magical creatures, such as barghests (a sort of feral, magical dog) and a sentient spider named Arachne. Trouble is, Alex is rather fond of what most mages consider mere monsters. So he agrees to investigate. If only Luna didn’t go and get herself in trouble again. *sigh* I have a feeling that this is going to be a trope for Jacka, though I do hope I’m wrong. Luna has potential to be pretty bad ass just like Molly from the Dresden files.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I didn’t go into too much details on these books. They just came out recently (Feb. 28 for Fated, May 29 for Cursed). I’ve just started the third novel, Taken. It is promising. So, if you all love the Dresden Files as much as I do, I (and Jim Butcher) highly recommend Alex Verus to you. A and A respectively.