Dead Iron

Thanks to a suggestion on my blog (yay!), I took a chance on this novel, Dead Iron by Devon Monk.  This is an interesting steampunk novel. Instead of taking place in England (or Europe in general) this one takes place in America. It’s an interesting blend of steampunk, fantasy and western. Oh, not to mention that one character turns into a zombie. Good times.

So…plot. The plot is that in a little town named Hallelujah somewhere near or in the Oregon Territories, a fae creature is searching for a way home. As soon as I read the name Shard LeFel, I realized this guy was destined to be 1) the bad guy and 2) a fae creature. Yeah, LeFel, LeFay (as in Morgana from the Arthur legend), pretty obvious. But not really the bad kind of obvious. LeFel has a servant of some sort called a Strange, named Mr. Shunt. Near as I can tell, Stranges are some sort of vile, shadowy creature without a natural body of their own. So they build and enchant bodies using a combination of steam tech and magic. They’re very hard to kill and they’re nasty fighters.

On the good side, we have lone wolf Cedar Hunt. And this is meant literally. Cedar, at some point in his ‘mysterious past’, was cursed by an ancient Pawnee god with lycanthropy. As was his brother, whom Cedar presumes is dead. Unfortunately, Monk never explains why the brothers were cursed. Generally speaking, people don’t just get cursed ‘just because’. If there is a sequel, I’d like to see the reason behind it.

Cedar is the protagonist of the book and as such, you’re supposed to feel sympathy for him bearing up with this curse. I suppose he’s likeable in a tough, Chris Larabee sort of way but I felt there was a little bit of doubt as to just how good a man he was. There was allusions to him losing a wife and child (or children) but we never found out if this was due to the curse or if it occurred before the curse.

The other good guys in the book are witch Mae Lindstrom, odd child Rose Small and the Madder Brothers. The Madders are not human. I think they are some sort of dwarf-based creature. They aren’t small in stature but they come from Wales and they speak to and control (to a degree at least) stone. The Madders are trying to stop LeFel’s nefarious scheme (to get home and kill his brother, a fae king). Mae Lindstrom is one of the catalysts for LeFel to open his door to home. Rose Small is a foundling child who can see the Strange.

Together, they have to fight LeFel and prevent the door from opening. It’s an interesting premise and it’s fun to read about steampunk in America. I’d love to read more steampunk in the US if anyone has any suggestions. Overall, I’d say the book is a B. It was worth the read.

Looking for Steampunk

Okay, so I’ve read a few steampunk books and color me intrigued. I am, however, at a loss for some good books to read. I know a lot of you out there will probably say Boneshaker by Cherie Priest and to that I say…something else please. I’ve tried a couple of times to read that book and I just can’t do it. I’m not sure if it’s the writing style of the author or the completely BORING first chapters. I’d like to believe it gets better but I just can’t spend 10 bucks on a book that I find I have to slog through. So I’m hoping for some suggestions based on the following:

-I read The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook not too long ago and I rather enjoyed it. It was well written even if it did have entire chapters about sex that didn’t push the plot along. But the idea of zombies being creatures controlled by little nanite-type things is awesomely original. Or at least original to me.

-I love, love, LOVE Sherlock Holmes. While this isn’t technically steampunk, it is set in Victorian times (obviously). So Victorian era plus a good mystery plus a bit of snark equals win.

-A couple weeks ago I read a book called Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurances novel by Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine. Originally I wasn’t too sure about it but it turned out to be a surprisingly good read. I’m looking forward to a sequel or three. I will post a review eventually I’m sure. 🙂

-The Parasol Protectorate books. Of course. I love Alexia Terrabotti. I also love how Gail Carriger has mixed steampunk with vamps, werewolves and other supernaturals. Mixing steampunk, Victorian times and urban fantasy equals big win.

So if anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. And as always, I am ever searching for more urban fantasy suggestions.

The Parasol Protectorate

I just zoomed through the latest two Parasol Protectorate novels, Blameless and Heartless. They were fantastic! I love the character of Alexia Tarabotti. A lot of the lead women in urban fantasy novels are hard as nails, fist-fighting, heavy drinking, one-of-the-boys types. I like that and understand that. But Alexia is a no-nonsense feminine leading lady. She’s a proper Victorian lady…for the most part. It isn’t her fault that her best friend is a vampire.  Warning: here follows spoilers.

At any rate, in Blameless Alexia gets kicked out of her family home once it becomes clear that she’s with child. Normally it isn’t a big deal for a married woman to be pregnant but with her it is. Her husband is a werewolf which means that he is, like a vampire, technically dead. So technically, no little swimmers. Her husband, her parents and even the honorable Queen Victoria thinks she’s cheated on Lord Maccon.

This bugged the shit out of me (pardon the language). Alexia is, as covered in the previous books, a preternatural. In this series, it means that when she touches a vampire or a werewolf skin to skin, she restores them to their original mortal state. Original mortal state. Meaning they should be more than capable of having little kiddies. I guess I can forgive the situation a bit by the fact that the author explains that female preternaturals are a rarity. I guess I can suspend disbelief to them being so rare that there hasn’t been one in the whole of written history. If I must.

At any rate, Alexia and her footman Floote and her new friend Madame Lefoux leave England in a hurry after the news broke all over polite society. Oh yeah, and the London hive vampires are after her. Seems that they feel the infant-inconvenience, as Alexia calls it, is an abomination. They’re chased all the way across France and into Italy, where because of the Vatican and the Knights Templar (yes, apparently they were never slaughtered and disbanded in this timeline) kill all vampires, werewolves and their respective human hangers on on sight. But they aren’t fond of Alexia either.

Seems that preternaturals, being soulless, are beyond salvation of the church and are therefore demons. That also kind of bugs me, but I’m not a religious person by nature so it could just be a personal thing. 🙂 Meanwhile, the drunken Lord Maccon is finally talked around by the lovely Professor Lyall, his beta, after the Maccon stops drinking formaldehyde and sobers up. Once he realizes what a complete and utter prat he’s been, he issues a public apology and races after her…just in time to “rescue” from the clutches of the evil (not really an exaggeration) Templars. And by rescue I mean pick up the pieces of Alexia rescuing herself, Floote and Lefoux. As usual.

In Heartless, whose title I still don’t quite understand, Alexia is VERY pregnant and has to foil a plot to kill the queen. As a newly reinstated member of Queen Victoria’s Shadow Council, she is contact by a ghost messenger with a vague plot about the queen being in danger. So she puts the dewan (leading lone werewolf) and the potentate (the always loveable Lord Akeldama) on alert, not the mention her husband and the BUR.

Meanwhile, she has to deal with the infant-inconvenience and the newly made werewolf/former vampire drone Biffy. Biffy was made a werewolf at the end of the last book because it was either that or he would be very much dead and gone. Biffy was Lord Akeldama’s favored drone and the pair were (shockingly in the Victorian era) quite in love. Biffy is not taking his change from potential vampire to werewolf well at all. He can’t control his changes as well as the others and it causes all sorts of grief for the pack, Biffy and Alexia, as she has to turn him human again to calm him down. Not an easy thing to do when eight months along.

Not to mention poor Madame Lefoux is acting very strange and withdrawn from Alexia. Lefoux’s dead aunt, Beatrix “formerly” Lefoux, is losing her hold on the world and becoming a very vague ghost. This is an upsetting time for Madame Lefoux but there’s something else going on…

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Normally I can see an ending coming after a little while but I was honestly surprised to find out that the plot against the queen wasn’t referring to Queen Victoria but the the vampire queen, Countess Nadasdy. This leads to a very interesting shake up of the social dynamic in London between the vampires and the werewolves. Not to mention Alexia ends up giving birth inside a giant, steam driven octomaton built by Madame Lefoux.

I highly recommend both books. A

The Iron Duke

I just finished this steampunk tale from Meljean Brook called The Iron Duke. I have to say, I really enjoyed it. Steamships and airships and nanobots, oh my.  It was incredibly original, which is always refreshing.  I’m not sure if I came into the middle of a story arc or not, but even if I did, I didn’t really have any trouble following the story.

Some two hundred years ago, the Mongol Horde took over Europe and England with the help of advanced steampunk-y technology, including the use of nanobots. These nanobots were hidden inside tea and sugar shipments to England, and therefore ingested by any red-blooded Englishman.  The Horde could then control those who were infected through the use of radio signals from a tower they built along the Thames after successfully invading Britain.

Their long and terrible rule was brought down by one man, Rhys Trahaearn, and his pirate ship Marco’s Terror (a reference to Italian explorer Marco Polo).  The people of England are now getting used to their emotional and physical freedom and bestowed the title of Duke of Anglesey to Trahaearn. He even got to build his own estate along the Thames.

The Iron Duke starts out with a body being tossed onto his estate and him meeting Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth, a half-English/half-Horde peeress. They have to track down who the body used to be, why it was tossed on to his estate and why. It leads them into a dangerous world of treason and high seas adventure and sexual tension. A lot of sexual tension. And then a lot of sex.

I don’t mind sex in novels, especially not if it’s well written. But I do think there was a bit too much in this novel. Basically, Wentworth and Trahaearn end up shagging quite a bit simply because there’s nothing else to do on their airship while they’re in between the action.  Really? Can’t come with anything else to fill up the time? Like chatting up the airship captain, revealing more of Trahaearn’s ‘mysterious past’ or perhaps why the emotionally fragile Mina Wentworth suddenly decided she wasn’t afraid of a good shag?  No? Okay then, we’ll just let you make with the sex then.

That being said, the mystery itself was fairly good. I can usually figure things out well in advance, but I didn’t this time around, which I always enjoy.  And the action was also quite good. I really enjoyed Brook’s ingenuity on the steampunk gadgets.  Genetically altered sharks and kraken that patrol the waters and attack anything with a steam engine; zombies are nanobot infected people whose nanobots went bad and people can get more than just hook attachments for their arms and legs.

All in all, a refreshingly original book. I recommend it and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. B+

First Intro to Steampunk

Courtesy of gailcarriger.comSome time ago I stumbled upon information about steampunk. I’m not entirely certain now what it was that first brought that to my attention, but as a historian, I was intrigued.  The Victorian Era is also referred to the Industrial Age and the Golden Age, depending on who you talk to and what exactly you’re talking about.  Depending on your social status, the era could have been awesome in terms of the new technology and the ability to freely travel or it could royally suck with terrible work and health conditions. And forget about being a woman in that day and age.

At any rate, I was intrigued, but it took me a while to try out anything.  Because I’m sort of new to the steampunk genre, I’m not entirely sure if these books qualify as steampunk or just as historical fantasies.

First up: Soulless by Gail Carriger.  I was drawn to this because the main female character doesn’t quite fit into the typical urban fantasy female lead mold.  Sure she’s tough, self-sufficient and speaks her mind (much to her mother’s horror), but she’s described as dark, swarthy, large-nosed and plump.  She’s not lithe, fit, svelte, atheletic etc that most of the female leads I read about are described as.  It’s a nice change.

Soulless mixes steampunk, romance and fantasy by talking the soulless character of Alexia Tarabotti (an English lady of Italian descent) and crossing her path with the alpha werewolf of Lord Conall Maccon (and his pack) and vampire Lord Akeldama (a lovely unconventional vampire).  Alexia and Maccon have to solve the mystery of why some vampires are mysteriously disappearing before things get out of hand (terrible summary, I know but I read this one a while ago. Sue me).  Alexia is, as many of my favorite characters are, a wise ass. And she’s not afraid to use it. Or her silver and wood reinforced black parasol, her favorite accessory.

The follow up to Soulless is Changeless. Alexia and Maccon, (SPOILER ALERT) married after the end of the first novel, have to solve the mystery of why members of the London pack (Lord Maccon’s pack) have suddenly stopped being able to change into werewolves.  It leads them all the way to Scotland, to Lord Maccon’s original pack, who also cannot change.  Things don’t end too well for the married couple, sorry to say. Not that anyone important dies, but still, Gail Carriger leaves us hanging on that. I haven’t gotten the third book Blameless yet, but Christmas is coming in a couple months, so we’ll see.  I highly recommend both the fist two books, A.

Next post: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brooke