Archive for the ‘steampunk’ Category

London is a city on wheels – a future city like you’ve never known before. In the terrible aftermath of the Sixty Minute War, cities which survived the apocalypse became predators, chasing and feeding on smaller towns. Now London is hunting down its prey, getting ready to feed. But as the chase begins, Tom uncovers a secret – a secret full of deadly consequences. Soon he is plunged into a world of unkillable enemies, threatened by a weapon that will tear his life apart…

Mortal Engines: Mortal Engines Quartet #1

Phillip Reeve


Purchased at Scholastic Book Fair

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

Everybody was saying how good it was, and Peter Jackson was going to make the movie, so I bought the book. And as I read it, my mind refused to relax and buy into the dystopian steampunk setting. I have no trouble as a rule – I like steampunk – but the central premise, the rolling cities, made the practical part of my brain that does physics and engineering hurt. I kept thinking that the only way to do this is with antigravity – and if you’ve got that, why not go full spindizzy and make those cities fly? Yes, it’s been done, and done better, many years before – try “A Life for the Stars” from Cities in Flight by James Blish. Oh, and where on Earth did all the water go? Yes, a dried-up (or washed-out) planet is a dystopian staple, but seriously?

Admittedly, I can see why people like the characters and it’s not really a bad story, but I really can’t bring myself to pick up the next book in the series, even though I already bought a copy.


Akmenos only ever wanted to bake a perfect soufflé, but the murder of an elvish prince at his banquet table sweeps him into a spiral of intrigue, deception and betrayal which is bigger than even his biggest casserole dish.

Caught in a desperate struggle between warring nations and shadowy organisations, Akmenos must stay one step ahead of the sinister figures intent on hunting him down ‒ his own brothers among them ‒ while he tries to clear his name, unmask the true killer, and find a decent cup of tea.

Stumbling from one misadventure to another across continents and planes as the world and his family crumble around him, Akmenos will need to be stronger than he ever thought he could be ‒ stronger even than the blue cheese down the bottom of the larder that should’ve been thrown out months ago.

Brothers of The Knife

Dan Rabarts

Omnium Gatherum Media

Supplied by author

Purchase here

Reviewed by Eileen Mueller

What could a mere cook, the youngest in a family of powerful warlocks, expect when the hornung emperor invites an elvish prince to dinner?

Not to be framed for the prince’s murder! But that’s exactly what happens to Akmenos, who was in the kitchen, minding his own business, preparing delectable dishes for the emperor’s exalted party, when the murderer struck.

Now, Akmenos must flee from enemies far more powerful than he ever imagined. Luckily, he’s armed with salt and pepper grinders, and handy kitchen utensils, stowed in his apron pockets. After all, you never know when you’ll need a good dinner on the run. It’s a shame Akmenos barely has a chance to rustle up a decent meal on his dangerous, but slapstick, journey.

Brothers of the Knife is a whirlwind romp through a dark fantastical landscape, with airships, magic plinths and portals that deliver Akmenos to unknown territories and bizarre dimensions. Pursued by heinous enemies in the guise of friends and befriended by unlikely allies, Akmenos (and the reader) must always be on the lookout for trouble—oh, and dwarves, witches, minotaur, hyena-people, robots, elves and murderous high-caste hornung warlocks!

Yes, there are plenty of surprises, laughs and adventures in book one of what promises to be a very entertaining series. And the genre? A mash-up of fantasy, steampunk, grim dark, humour, sword and sorcery—you name it, this book has it, so I guess it’s in a unique genre of its own.

Eileen Mueller is a multi-award-winning author of heart-pounding fantasy novels that will keep you turning the page. Dive into her worlds, full of magic, love, adventure and dragons! Eileen lives in New Zealand, in a cave, with four dragonets and a shape shifter, writing for young adults, children and everyone who loves adventure.
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Discovered picking pockets at Coxford’s Corn Market, fourteen year old Sin is hunted across the city. Caught by the enigmatic Eldritch Moons, Sin is offered a way out of his life of crime: join the Covert Operations Group (COG) and train to become a spy. At Lenheim Palace, Sin learns spy craft while trying not to break the school’s Cast-Iron Rules. Befriended by eccentric Zonda Chubb, together they endeavour to unmask a traitor causing havoc within the palace. After an assassination attempt on the founder of COG, Sin realises that someone closest to him could be the traitor. With no other option, Sin is forced into an uneasy alliance with the school bully, Velvet Von Darque.

But can he trust her? And will COG try to bury him with the secrets he discovers? Secrets, spies and steampunk gadgets abound in this fantastic adventure story!

The Traitor and the Thief

Gareth Ward

Published by Walker Books Australia

Purchased at Conclave 3

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

I am not sure what I was expecting when I embarked on this young adult novel, but it wasn’t a steampunk school story. It doesn’t start out that way… It starts out with a boy named Sin, who is just another street kid in an alternate England. Or so it seems. Then he’s caught and sent to a school for young spies, tasked to find the traitor in their midst. And it all goes down from there… deep into intrigue and dark and dastardly goings on.

I loved the word-play, and the way the author uses language to give each of the main characters a distinct voice. The world is well-realised, better than many steam-punk fantasies I’ve come across. And the plot rollicks on at a cracking pace. It’s a fun book, and I’m certain that many a young reader would enjoy it immensely. This book definitely deserved its SJV, and I look forward to seeing more from Gareth.

After a daring chase across the globe, Tim Barnabas and Clara Calland have brought Clara’s scientist father’s secret formula to Westralia. Here, much of Australia is simply too hot to be habitable by day. Duke Malcolm, of the Imperial Security Service, transports Claras rebel-father to a prison in Eastern Australia, hoping to bait her into attempting a rescue. Clara looks to Tim for help, only to find he has fled a racist incident into the desert. She takes a burrowing machine know as a “steam mole” in search of him. The two head to Eastern Australia, where they discover an invading force with plans to take Westralia.


Published by Pyr

Purchased from Bookwyrms (some time ago)

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

This is the sequel to Dave’s young adult novel Cuttlefish which I reviewed recently, and features the continuing adventures of Tim Barnabas and Clara Calland. Tim, along with the crew of the Cuttlefish, is stuck in Westralia, while the submarine is repaired. He takes a job working on the steam moles, digging tunnels to the mines north of the Tropic of Capricorn where it has become so hot that the trains must go underground. Only it all goes wrong, and he escapes into the desert… Meanwhile, Clara’s mother is poisoned by an Imperial agent and is sick in hospital. Clara learns that her father is incarcerated in Imperial territory in Queensland, and sets about attempting a rescue. When she finds Tim is missing, she steals a scout steam mole and follows him out into the desert.

I think you can see where this is going. You get a rollicking steampunk adventure, with a touch of romance, set in the Australian desert. It’s a lot of fun. The star of the show, however, is not the characters, but the steam mole itself. Dave does a masterwork job of creating this wonderful steampunk device, making it thoroughly believable.

The story ends happily for all concerned, save the villains, who get what they deserve. Perhaps it’s a bit simplistic for some, but I found it a good read, and one I can happily recommend to young and old, especially if they are fascinated by unusual mechanical devices.

the Amber- ountain

I am really rather grateful that Stephen Minchin decided to publish this short novel before calling it a day for Steam Press. It is the sequel to The Glass Projector, which ended on a definite cliff-hanger, and to be frank, I really wanted to find out what happened next. And I was not disappointed. The story took off from where it had left, with little preamble (which does mean that you will need to have read The Glass Projector first), and rocketed on to a most satisfying climax.

As I explained when reviewing The Glass Projector, this is a fantasy steampunk adventure for young people, set against a background of war, and with an innovative twist to the nature of magic. I must say that I enjoyed the over-the-top writing style which perfectly matched the subject. The characters are fun and fascinating, they get to be suitably heroic, the young heroine saves the day, and the villain gets his just desserts. Yes, it’s all very melodramatic, but that’s not a flaw.

Sometimes it’s good to read something that’s simply fun and engaging. Part way through I realised that I was engrossed, and had to tear myself away with difficulty. This is a great read for young and old – and I challenge you to spot the kiwi!

Steam Press

Supplied by Steam Press

Reviewed by Jacqui


the glass projector

It is a bit of a departure for Steam Press to publish a work which is not only by a writer they have previously published, but also one which is the first of a series. Aimed at young adults, “The Witches of Autumn” is what one could define as an alternative universe steampunk fantasy. You can tell that it’s steampunk because there are zeppelins, mad scientists, wondrous gadgets and a hearty dose of derring-do. There is even a proper old-fashioned villain with a twirling moustache! It qualifies as fantasy because it has that magical element, unusually inventive in that the magic is a product of the bond between magician and familiar, the familiar being a ghost who takes the form of an animal. So you already know that this novel is definitely going to be different. The story is set in the city of Autumn which is engaged in an apparently interminable war with nation called Rumland, giving the novel something of a First World War background. But it’s not a war story… It’s more of a treasure hunt, a quest for a lost library of forgotten magic. It’s the story of how a young magician named Thistle together with her familiar Mappo the bat, and her friends Mr Pepper the gargoyle, and Epona the snark become embroiled in the search for an ancient library once discovered by the mysterious Witches of Autumn. And naturally in the process they find the eponymous Glass Projector. But I’m not going to tell you what it does…

This novel has interesting and distinctive characters, a strong plot, and a unique background. It ends (appropriately for its genre) on something of a cliff-hanger, and I have to say that I am genuinely looking forward to the next one. What’s more I’m quite certain I would have enjoyed this book as a child, and I suspect that it will appeal to many an imaginative young reader – and to older readers too.

Steam Press

Supplied by Steam Press

Reviewed by Jacqui

The Sovereign Hand

It is a hopeful sign of a growing maturity in the field of SF&F in New Zealand that this work of fantasy doesn’t feel the need to scream “I am a New Zealand novel” although it was both written and published here. Instead it whispers its kiwi roots in references to such things as feijoas and punga trees, which I’m sure is entirely deliberate. In fact, I suspect that a great deal of deliberation has gone into the writing of “The Sovereign Hand”, in its clever and carefully measured prose, its meticulous setting, and memorable characters.

That setting is quite unusual, an amalgam of High Fantasy and Steampunk, where science and magic both work, and can therefore happily pit guns and explosives against eldritch creatures of magic. And not just that, it is a socially and politically evolved magical society where non-human sentients like gobelins, drakes and taureans are being steadily integrated into the Primacy. There’s a reason why most fantasy authors maintain their societies at the pseudo-medieval – it’s comfortable and familiar, a whole lot easier on both writer and reader. Gilbert has dared to be different, to do the difficult thing, and by and large, he succeeds. But it’s not always an easy read.

He likes to play with words, digging into odd lexicographical corners, and coining new words of his own, which can occasionally confound the reader. Never mind, this is a grand and highly original work of fantasy, a complete and exciting story in one volume (not just one in an interminable series of boring bricks).

The story centres around a group of variously talented young people, some more likeable than others, all of whom are called to defend the Primacy against the latest in a series of disasters called Galls. After a somewhat boggy start, the plot really gets going when the Hand are brought together and they go through the portal called the Gherensgate to find their fate. But after they return to Thorn they find that it’s only the beginning, and then the story inexorably begins to build to a truly spectacular climax.

Definitely recommended, and quite possibly one of the best works of fantasy ever published in New Zealand.

Steam Press

Supplied by Steam Press

Reviewed by Jacqui