Steampunk

Review: Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger

(For those of you who were expecting the next Mistborn book today, I’m sorry – but I finally found this at the library and just had to read it first. Also Mistborn books are really long.)

WAISTCOATS AND WEAPONRY
Image from Gail Carriger

Title: Waistcoats and Weaponry (Finishing School #3)

Author: Gail Carriger

Genre: Steampunk

Warning: This book is third in a series, so this review will probably have spoilers of the previous books. This series is too good to spoil, so if you haven’t read the first two Finishing School books, I recommend not reading this review. (Also, go read them right now.)

Back cover:

Sophronia continues finishing school in style – with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapons comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey hijack a suspiciously empty train to return their chum Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. But when Sophronia discovers they are being trailed by a dirigible of Picklemen and flywaymen, she unearths a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos. With her friends in mortal danger, Sophronia must sacrifice what she holds most dear – her freedom.

Review:

I love the Finishing School series. I knew that as soon as I finished Etiquette and Espionage, and devoured Curtsies and Conspiracies as soon as I could get my hands on it. But it took me a long time (over a year) to read this one – mainly because it was never in at the library. Apparently everybody else wanted to read it, too.

We’ll start with Sophronia, who is getting even more epic with training. She now has an awesome signature weapon (I totally want one), some very creative tricks up her sleeve, and a reputation. She is good – really, really good – at the whole spying-while-being-polite-and-fashionable thing. And it is awesome.

There’s quite a few other characters playing main parts here. Lord Felix Mersey shows up, Soap actually has a pretty large role, and Sidheag actually shows emotion. The relationships are a mess sometimes, but it’s a mess that’s fun to read about.

This book’s plot was a little … different. It almost felt like an interim plot until the actual plot got started (I’m assuming there’s something big for the next book). But it seemed a tiny bit unfocused – I can’t even remember what it was in the beginning, besides a slight mystery around what’s happening with Sidheag, and then some relationship problems (I’ll get to those more in a minute), and trying to get Sidheag home, and then they got distracted by technology and Picklemen and a whole host of other stuff. I think that’s the best way to describe the plot: it kept getting sidetracked. Which wasn’t a bad thing and I still enjoyed it, but it was a little different than expected.

There were a few things I found disappointing about this book – number one being the love triangle. I have yet to see a love triangle done well (i.e. doesn’t annoy me. But that could just be me). It was handled nicely (there’s only so much romance a non-engaged couple can have in Victorian England), but I found it annoyingly obvious which guy Sophronia would pick. And it seemed to be more of a plot device than character development.

My other disappointment was the school, or lack thereof. I’ve mentioned in previous books that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s is my favorite part of this series. And Sophronia and company didn’t spend a lot of time at the school in this book. Admittedly, their adventures were just as fun, but I kind of missed the epic dirigible school.

Will I still read book four? Absolutely. Those few disappointing bits were not nearly enough to dissuade me (and besides, I think the love triangle is mostly wrapped up). The good still far outweighs the bad, and I am really looking forward to getting my hands on Manners and Mutiny.

The Finishing School series:

  1. Etiquette and Espionage
  2. Curtsies and Conspiracies
  3. Waistcoats and Weaponry
  4. Manners and Mutiny
The Marian
Post-Apocalyptic, Steampunk

Review: The Marian by Taylor Hohulin

The Marian
Image from Taylor Hohulin; used by permission

Title: The Marian

Author: Taylor Hohulin

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Steampunk

Fifteen-year-old Ethan Denby doesn’t know how he got on the Marian. He just woke up one day inside the body of its captain.

The Marian is unlike any ship Ethan has ever seen. It crawls on long, metal legs over dunes of salt in search of water, despite laws granting exclusive harvesting rights to a corrupt organization known as HydroSystems Worldwide.

HydroSystems is closing in, tensions are mounting aboard the Marian, and on top of all that, Ethan is beginning to think the dreams he’s been having aren’t completely harmless. If he doesn’t get home soon, Ethan could die inside someone else’s body in this wasteland of a world. The only way back seems to be through a place known simply as the Cloud, but how can he convince the crew to take him there when it means confronting a dangerous cult and venturing into a place where the very fabric of reality has worn thin?

Review:

I participated in a blog tour for this book when I was supposed to be on a blogging break. That just tells you how excited I was to read this. A little bit steampunk, a little bit post-apocalyptic (both genres that I really enjoy), body-switching, and a place where reality isn’t always reality? Sign me up!

I liked Ethan more than I thought I would . But he was pretty mature for his age, and brave despite being in a dangerous, confusing new world. I wouldn’t call him a leader, but he could stand up for himself. I usually have trouble connecting to younger characters, males especially, but I really enjoyed Ethan.

Even though Ethan was the only character major enough to get his own paragraph, the other characters were all great. Brilliant mechanic and Ethan’s new friend Jackie, Jackie’s tough and intelligent sister Bonnie, ex-mercenary and the Marian‘s new captain Percy…even the cook, who only said about three lines the whole book, had a unique personality.

The Marian has a two-pronged plot. First is Ethan – how did he end up here and how can he get home? The second is the world – scavenging for water and discovering that HydroSystems is perpetrators of a huge conspiracy. Both plots were great, and they were kind of interconnected. They both had things to do with the Cloud. The Cloud doesn’t really show up until near the end, but it seems like everything in the world is connected to it. It’s a really weird, creepy, fascinating thing.

My only problem with the book:  it was too short! Due to quite a few loose ends, I think it’s first in a series. I didn’t like that – not because I wouldn’t enjoy spending another book in this world, but because I wasn’t aware of it going in. I guessed how things would play out, and the book ended before I could see if my plot psychicness was acting up or if this was one of those awesome books that made me draw wrong conclusions.

I had very high expectations for The Marian, and it delivered. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, whenever that happens.

I received a free review copy of The Marian from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.

THE MARIAN scored a 3.7 (A)

Steampunk

Review: Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Curtsies and Conspiracies
Image from Gail Carriger

Title: Curtsies and Conspiracies (Finishing School #2)

Author: Gail Carriger

Genre: Steampunk

WARNING: This book is second in a series, so this review will probably contain spoilers of the previous book. If you haven’t read Etiquette and Espionage, I recommend not reading this review.

Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy – won’t Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers’ quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship’s boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot–one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

After how much I loved Etiquette and Espionage, I pestered my mom at least daily to get into town to stop at the library and get Curtsies and Conspiracies. But once I got it, I had to wait a while to read it, because I knew I’d want an empty afternoon to just read the whole thing.

In my review of Etiquette and Espionage, I mentioned that Sophronia was fun, but I thought she’d be amazing with a few more dangerous skills. And I was right. Last book’s unmannerly and unfinished Sophronia has become amazingly good at all the secret stuff Madamouiselle Geraldine’s teaches. Those skills plus her natural cleverness and knack for finding trouble made her absolutely awesome.

Gah, I want to mention all the characters! Even the minor characters were so unique and fun.

Yeah, I think there was a plot…. Okay, there was. And it was interesting. There were all sorts of things to learn about the world and new technology (and even some of the vampire hive rules and intrigue). And it was fascinating and fabulous (especially when Dimity and Sophronia pretend to be male vampire drones…but anyway). However…

I still think the actual finishing school is the best part about this book. I love steampunk anyway, but with a school that trains girls to be proper ladies and spies – yeah, I think I’m in love.

My first impression was correct – this book is best read in one sitting. Now why the heck doesn’t book three come out until November?

The Finishing School series:

  1. Etiquette and Espionage
  2. Curtsies and Conspiracies
  3. Waistcoats and Weaponry (November 4, 2014)
  4. Manners and Mutiny (2015)

Report Card

For more on my grading system, please see my About page.

CURTSIES AND CONSPIRACIES scored 4.0 (A)

Steampunk

Review: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette and Espionage
Image from Gail Carriger

Title: Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1)

Author: Gail Carriger

Genre: Steampunk

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. She is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners – and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage – in the politest possible way, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousting first year’s education.

I made a mistake with this book. I started it the night before a super-busy week. Worst. Choice. Ever. By chapter two, all I wanted to do was sit down and read until I finished. Instead, I had to cram chapters into car rides and spare minutes before bed.

Sophronia was totally fun. She was a bit younger than I expected (14), but I could live with that. She was spunky and bold, but also clever and inventive. I thought she was fabulous in the beginning, but a little bit of subterfuge training and she was FANTASTIC. I can’t wait to see how many more awesome skills she gets.

Dimity, Sophronia’s first new friend, was Sophronia’s complete opposite. She was quieter and not as bold, and much more ladylike. She was a great foil fo Sophronia, and I’m looking forward to her learning more at finishing school, as well.

I really shouldn’t mention too many other characters, to avoid spoilers and making this too long. But let me just say that even the minor characters were fabulous. Vampire teachers, a student raised by werewolves, Sophronia’s friends in the boiler room and a sneaky seven-year-old…they were all amazing fun.

There was a good plot – student Monique hid a prototype of something, and everyone (good guys and bad) are desperate to get their hands on it. But exciting though the plot was, sometimes I felt like it was a distraction from the world and the school. Those are what I really wanted more of.

I have to mention the names, because they were so amusingly absurd. Besides Sophronia Temminnick and Dimity Plumleigh-Teignmott, there’s Dimity’s brother Pillover, and Mrs. Barnaclegoose…and all the names followed that kind of pattern. Some were downright absurd, but it fit right in with the completely-serious-yet-entirely-ridiculous tone.

I absolutely loved the concept here. The paranormal creatures I could take or leave, but the rest of it – steampunk Victorian finishing school that teaches girls how to be spies – was awesome. I’ll be honest, I seriously want to attend Mademoiselle Geraldine’s.

This series is actually set in the same world as Gail Carriger’s previous adult series, the Parasol Protectorate. According to Angie at the Bibliophile Support Group, the Parasol Protectorate have a few more adult themes in them. But I enjoyed Etiquette and Espionage so thoroughly, I may have to try it anyway.

Now I have to get to the library, and preferably soon, because I know they have book two. And I’m going to pick a nice, empty afternoon to start it, because I doubt I’m going to want to put Curtsies and Conspiracies down, either.

The Finishing School series:

  1. Etiquette and Espionage
  2. Curtsies and Conspiracies
  3. Waistcoats and Weaponry (November 4, 2014)
  4. Manners and Mutiny (2015)
Fiction, Steampunk, Young Adult

Stormdancer

Stormdancer book cover
Image from misterkristoff. wordpress.com

Title:  Stormdancer (Lotus Wars #1)

Author:  Jay Kristoff

Genre:  Steampunk

Yukiko is a girl of the Fox clan, and she has a gift that, if discovered, would get her killed by the Lotus Guild.  The Shogun orders her father to capture a thunder tiger – an legendary half-tiger, half-eagle – and she accompanies him on the quest.  The only problem is, thunder tigers are extinct.  But then Yukiko finds herself stranded with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company.  She saved its life, and she can read its thoughts, but it would rather see her dead than help her.

This is the first steampunk novel I’ve ever read.  And if Stormdancer is typical of the genre, I love it.

Yukiko was the kind of kick-butt heroine I love.  She was good with a knife and didn’t take guff from anyone, but she also had a softer, more caring side.  She was smart and occasionally stubborn, and had a tendency to get angry easily (Buruu’s influence, perhaps?) – in short, she was a fantastic character.

Buruu, the thunder tiger, was an interesting character.  He was violent and angry at first – exactly what I’d expect out of a wild beast – but I loved watching Yukiko’s patience win him over.  And the battle scenes where he and Yukiko worked together…pure awesomeness.

Stormdancer seemed to have three main plots.  First, it was find a thunder tiger, which everyone knows is extinct.  Then, it was convince said thunder tiger to help her.  And finally, it was take down the shogun.  And I loved it.  It was one part epic battle action, one part fascinating courtly intrigue, and two parts indomitable friendship between girl and thunder tiger.  And it was fantastic.

I only had a couple itty-bitty problems with the book.  One was with character relationships.  Akihito and Kasumi are mentioned really early on in the book, but it wasn’t until over halfway through that I figured out how Yukiko and Kasumi are related.  And I’m still not quite sure where Akihito fit into the family.

The other problem was the romance element.  For the most part, it seemed to be there for the sake of having it.  And I got a little annoyed that Yukiko fell for the green-eyed samurai, who, as best as I can figure, has only his green eyes going for him.

Other than that, though, I loved the book.  I loved the story’s Asian flair (even when I struggled to sound out words), and I absolutely loved the friendship between Yukiko and Buruu.  This was a totally amazing book.

I didn’t realize this when I picked it up, but Stormdancer is the first book in the Lotus War series.  Unfortunately, the second book, Kinslayer, doesn’t come out until September.

Did Not Finish, Fiction, Steampunk, Young Adult

Boneshaker

Image from Chamber Four

Title:  Boneshaker (Clockwork Century #1)

Author:  Cherie Priest

Genre:  Steampunk

In the early days of the Civil War, stories of gold in the Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest.  Anxious to find the gold, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a machine that could mine through ice.  On its first test run, the machine went awry, unearthing a vein of blight gas under downtown Seattle.  The gas turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.  A wall was erected around the toxic part of the city.  Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes, lives outside the wall with her son Ezekiel (Zeke).  Life is hard, but Briar can manage – until Zeke goes under the wall in an attempt to rewrite history.

This is one of the few books I didn’t finish.  I gave it a hundred pages to make me want to keep reading, and it didn’t.  I hate it when I get all excited about reading a book and it turns out to be not very good.

I picked it up on the premise of zombies, looking forward to reading a good adventure.  What I got was a slow story about an crazy boy who goes into the heart of zombieland to prove that the zombies aren’t his father’s fault.  And to make it worse, his mom is trying to save him.

What kind of zombie adventure story has the hero’s mommy come after him?

The characters I didn’t really have a problem with, although I do think Zeke was a little too impulsive.  My problem was with the plot.  Boy goes into an area teeming with zombies to prove that his dad (who caused the zombie problem in the first place) is innocent, and his mom has to go save him?  Come on.  What kind of adventure story is that?  Who wants the main character’s mom to save him?

The plot could have been much improved if Briar had stayed home and not played such a big part in the story.  If it had focused on Zeke, I might have actually cared how it ended.

I’ve seen some blogs rave about this story, about how it explores the bond between a mother and son and all that.  I didn’t really see that.  But then, I was focusing on how disappointed I was that it wasn’t a zombie-action-adventure story.