Because so many of my usual authors don’t have any new releases at the moment and I’ve ploughed through the ones that are new, I have been searching for new books to read and I stumbled upon a “steampunk” vampire novel called Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster.
At first, I was favorable to this story. It features a young woman, Honoria Todd, faced with the murder of her father (mother is…dead? I guess? Never mentioned so I assume childbirth after the youngest kid) leaving her and her younger brother and sister destitute. She tries to keep up appearances by getting a job teaching young ladies some sort of finishing school (I guess? Again, not really clear) while living in the Whitechapel area of London. History fans will note that this is where Jack the Ripper prowled in Victorian times. It’s a favorite go-to place of writers wanting to put their characters in dangerous situations (read: trope-tastic).
This Whitechapel, however is protected by what McMaster calls “blue-bloods” after the very old belief that nobility had that their blood was blue in color (peasants blood was red) and therefore they were more distinguished etc, etc, etc. And indeed only nobles and the king (Albert, I think?) are blue-bloods. Blue-bloods are vamps of a sort. They drink blood, are stronger, the usual vamp characteristics. However, in this world, vampires are what blue-bloods become after the virus that creates them completely overwhelms them (they even have viral counts to see how close they are-anyone seeing the not-so-subtle allusion to HIV?).
In particular, one blue-blood named Blade runs Whitechapel. He was accidentally turned into a blue-blood by one of the nobles after months of torture. The very same blue-blood that murdered Honoria’s father (duh-duh-DUUUUUUUUUUUUH!), though neither realize that until the end.
Honoria starts out promisingly strong in the face of what she has to deal with (a fairly useless sister and an infected brother). Then about halfway through we get the sex. And after that, it’s almost nothing but. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I don’t mind sex scenes in books. Quite the opposite. But you don’t need to spend half the book having sex. The second half of the book had almost no plot, it was just porn. If that’s what you want, advertise it as erotica and not steampunk.
And speaking of steampunk, this was supposed to be and it failed. There are a handful of brief mentions of little toys the brother has that hit some steampunk buzz words but you get none of the fantastic imaginings of most steampunk authors. I haven’t been able to make a dent in Cherie Priest’s work but she does steampunk tech well. So does Gail Carriger and numerable others. Steampunk is Victorian sci-fi. There was no sci-fi in this book, just Victorian.
Honoria quickly backs out of all her ideals that she held so dear at the beginning of the book. She’s a damsel in distress waiting for the big, bad vamp to rescue her. And at some point, her father gave her some sort of vaccine against the virus that makes blue-bloods that makes her special? I have a question mark here because while the vaccine was mentioned a few times as the reason that her father was murdered, this little tid-bit of a working vaccine wasn’t mentioned until suddenly some half-brother was like “oh yeah, she was totally vaccinated”. What the actual fuck? That’s a HUGE plot point. You wouldn’t think to mention that earlier? Or at all?
I paid something like three-four bucks for this book. It was too much. I actually want my money back. It’s poorly thought out and has some massive plot holes. I only finished it because I hate to leave things half done, especially when it comes to books. Luckily, thanks to my favorite author, I’ve moved on to a triology by one of his favorites that is much, much more promising.
Bottom line, if you like steampunk, skip this. If you’re looking for a cheesy erotica story, have at it but that isn’t what I was looking for. I don’t like giving bad ratings or reviews if I can avoid it but I did not like this book. Rating: D.
And if anyone knows of some good steampunk, please, please, please let me know. I’m not into Cherie Priest and I’ve already read all of Gail Carriger’s books and Whitechapel Gods (did not really enjoy. Took a lot to finish that too).