Victorian Addams Family? Yes, please!

Okay, I was just looking for something new to read, when I saw these two book covers and had to take a look. These are the first two (for there does seem to be more on the way. Charlotte E. English appears to be very prodigious) of the House of Werth series. The best way I can describe them is Victorian Addams Family. Yes, really.

The series revolves around Augusta “Gussie” Werth, as we’re introduced to her in Wyrde and Wayward. I have mentally pronounced that first word “weird” and not “word”, but I could be wrong. The Wyrde, in this case, is some sort of supernatural happening that occurs to people in general in this world, but to the Werth family more than most. And they embrace it lovingly, very much like the Addams Family.

Gussie, as we are introduced, is the only Werth in living memory to not get a Wyrde on her third birthday, when Werths traditionally get Wyrded. Examples of Wyrdes are her aunt who can control ice (and occasionally turns into an ice statue), her cousin who is a vampire who eats only rabbits (It just wouldn’t be done to savage the lovely, pale neck of some delicate lady) and her great, great uncle Sylvester who haunts a cathedral grotesque.

The action starts off when Gussie gets kidnapped by an old friend of her aunt (and, as per some sort of tradition with steampunk/Victorian writers, both of her parents are quite dead and her sister married off already) and whisked away to the sumptuous and slightly sinister Starminster, home of Lord Maundevyle (yes, the unmarried Lord Maundevyle) and his weird ass family. Much to his chagrin, because he had no idea that they had kidnapped the poor girl. They, too, are very Addams like, only they haven’t been Wyrded in ages.

Which brings us to why they kidnapped Gussie. Unbeknownest to her, she is not un-Wyrded. Her Wyrde is the bring on the Wyrde in those who have only a dormant Wyrde. Think of it kind of like Magneto’s contraption in X-Men, only without the unfortunate watery collapse. That being said, in the middle of a ball, she accidentally turns poor Lord Maundevyle into a dragon.

Surprised and not the least bit put out, Lord Maundevyle escapes, carrying Gussie away with him and to…a cave. Yes, I know, dragons, virgins and caves. All very cliche, but I think deliberately so here.

When Gussie figures out it was she who triggered the change, she grows very upset with her Aunt Werth, whom apparently long suspected Gussie’s hidden Wyrde, but never spoke to her about it. It takes a long time and an old family ritual, but eventually Lord Maundevyle learns to control his bedragoned state and switch between that and his human.

Book the second, Wyrde and Wicked follows closely on the heels of the first and concerns Gussie and her family (and the occasionally dragoned Lord Maundevyle) tracking some very demonic books, one of which belongs to her family. Shenanigans are rife on the ground, including dragon sized créme anglaise, raising the occasional dead family member and talk of engagements.

I can’t impress upon you enough: If you like steampunk/Victorian novels and the Addams Family, you will probably love this series. I’m still trying to make up my mind on whether or not I actually like the character of Gussie though. I feel she’s a bit of an idiot. There’s something to be said for dashing off where angels fear to tread, but it feels like she learns nothing at all.

That said, I will be reading the rest of the books when they’re released. I did so enjoy them. They’re quick reads too, so if you need something a little on the lighter side given the current atmosphere, I’d pick these up. Rating: B+. Not quite up to Gail Carriger’s humorous steampunk writing, but enjoyable all the same.

Kiss of Steel

Courtesy of goodreads.comBecause 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).

The Vesuvius Club

Well, as I got an Amazon gift card for my birthday back in August, I decided to take a chance on The Vesuvius Club. There was no supernatural element to this book at all. If I had to classify it, I’d go for Victorian espionage.

Written by BBC Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss, I had some vague sort of hopes for this book but I wasn’t sure exactly what they were. I like Gatiss and I love Sherlock ( Benedict Cumberbatch! Martin Freeman! Mmmm!) but I was a little wary.

The book follows protagonist Lucifer Box, artist and spy, as he tries to investigate the deaths of a couple scientists of the realm while trying to make some money on the side teaching art to vapid society dames. Box has some strange morals for the time. He’s always impeccably dressed as any society man should be…but he really doesn’t see anything wrong with shooting a mark in a restaurant. Not to mention that he’s bisexual which was a big no-no in Victoria’s day.

Box’s investigation eventually leads him to Naples, where all unfolds amid chases, sex (non-graphic, which makes a nice change) and assassination attempts.

It was an interesting book and I am intrigued to see what happens afterwards. Be warned though that pretty much all the characters have ridiculous names (as evident by the main character’s name) and it is rife with British slang you might need to look up ( is a good source). Think of it rather like a Victorian James Bond. So I guess I’d rate this a B/B-

Sherlock Holmes

So I’m eagerly awaiting the US release for the second season (or series to you Brits) of BBC’s Sherlock and it got me in the mood to read Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I have been, since before the Guy Ritchie movies, a big ACD Holmes fan. He’s a Victorian detective House (very simply put) but oh so much better.

Some time ago I bought the Complete Sherlock Holmes for both Kindle and paperback. It contains, so far as I know, all of Doyle’s original Holmes stories, including the novels of A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles. I’m really very hard pressed to choose a favorite story as I find most all of them entertaining on some level. Sherlock is a master detective and a master at the back handed compliment.

So, I won’t try to summarize all the various stories. There are far, far to many to do so in a single post. I will, however, pick a few of my favorites to recommend them to you.

-A Study in Scarlet: This is a full novel of Sherlock Holmes. It introduces him and Dr. John Watson. It gives a bit of back story for Watson and include their first case together. I was a bit confused when I first read it because I thought that it suddenly broke into an entirely different story with entirely different characters. But if you can stick with it, it’s well worth the read.

-A Scandal in Bohemia: This story introduces The Woman, Irene Adler. A bit of a warning for you Ritchie fans, she isn’t quite like the lovely Rachel McAdams portrayed. She certainly outwits Sherlock at every turn but I believe she had only one ‘spoken’ line in the entire story. It is one of the more fun stories in the Holmes verse.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle: Sherlock solves a Christmas time mystery involving a felt hat, a dead goose and a blue carbuncle (a garnet related gem). This is another fun one.

The Adventure of the Speckled Band: It’s an engaging story with a woman who is not quite the typical helpless Victorian lady. She’s in some what of an abusive relationship with her step-father but finds the courage to ask help from Holmes and Watson.

The Final Problem: This is the one where Holmes faces down the dastardly (good word that, one hardly ever gets to use it) Professor James Moriarty. I believe I read somewhere (probably on the net so beware the ‘facts’) that Doyle so despised Holmes’ popularity at this point that he had killed off the detective in this story hoping to never return to writing him. Didn’t quite work out as planned.

The Adventure of the Empty House: Holmes makes his triumphant return to London and his old friend Watson. I love this story because Watson has such a visceral reaction to Holmes’ return and yet I’m a little disappointed that Watson didn’t pop him one. I’m hoping that the BBC Watson will do that during the updated version of this story. 🙂

The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot: This one features a Holmes’ that is less than the ‘superman’ that he was portrayed as previously. His poor habits during (and between) cases had left him on the verge of a break down and Watson takes him to recover in the country. Of course, life isn’t that simple for the pair and a murder mystery finds them.

The Adventure of the Three Garridebs: Holmes investigates the story of a will with the strange stipulation that the inheritance be split between three adult men with the unusual last name of Garrideb. I like this one because we finally see a glimpse of just how much Watson means to Holmes.

There are many other stories that I enjoyed but these ones stick out most in my mind at the moment. I’m not sure what I’ll move on to next but this was a good break from my usual fare of urban fantasy. If you haven’t read Sherlock Holmes before, I highly suggest the stories. A+

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.

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