Archive for the ‘steampunk’ Category

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

 

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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

dawns early light

Many people loved the beach, and Sophia del Morte was most assuredly not among them. Her profession had taken her to many unpleasant places before, and this barren wasteland of waves, wind, and dunes was merely another. She understood the Maestro’s reasons for choosing this site, but why couldn’t his ideal location have been within reasonable distance of a pleasant hotel or perhaps a vineyard? Sophia sighed, turned, and spat out more sand that had worked its way into her mouth, and resolved to forebear it, and most certainly not whisper any complaint. She had only made that mistake once.

The compass in her hand chimed. She pushed her dark lenses up the bridge of her nose and looked around her, a slow smile spreading across her face. Yes, this barren stretch would be ideal. Her smile faded however when her eyes followed the coastline to where she would make ready the Maestro’s arrival.

She was not alone.

Two men in their rolled up shirtsleeves were working feverishly on some sort of contraption. It was a round cigar-shaped object about as tall as Sophia herself, and held in a cradle made of iron. She was curious by nature; and perhaps if she’d been on any other case she would have endeavoured to find out what they were up to, but the fact was they were stymying her plans.

This would not be born.

So engrossed in their work were these two gents that they never noticed Sophia’s approach, even though she was making no particular effort to be quiet. Standing only a few feet behind

them, she tilted her head as she considered their invention in more detail. Strapped to the outside of the cylinder were a number of wires and tubes that, Sophia hazarded, contained

various fluids, gasses, or both. Not a large amount, but they were held in some sort of array that would mix them together. From the base, a small amount of steam was slowly seeping

 free, only to vanish into the Carolina breeze.

Or perhaps it wasn’t steam at all, because it looked thicker, and heavier than the surrounding air. In fact, the dense mist seemed to fall from the apparatus. Now, Sophia was completely mesmerised by the device.

One of the men, the one with less hair, had some small hatch open. “Do you think the thrust calculations are closer this time?” he asked while fiddling around with the invention’s inner workings.

The other, the possessor of a fairly decent handlebar moustache, after passing him various tools, returned his own attention to various pressure gauges along the contraption’s

hull. “They better be. We don’t have enough fuel to try again until next month,” he replied, and then gave a guffaw. “Unless we get a few more repair jobs from the Detweilers.”

The balding one returned the chuckle. “The Dangerous Detweilers of Dayton. Their mishaps alone could fund three launches.”

True to form of socially inept schlockworkers, neither of them were going to notice her anytime soon—a situation Sophia was not accustomed to. There was simply nothing for it, but to state the obvious. “A very interesting-looking contraption,” she 0N said with what she had been told was her most disarming smile.

The men spun around as if she had already stuck a knife in their backs. She must have made quite an appearance because their mouths literally dropped open. Now, she held their undivided attention. Perhaps they were not used to a woman carrying a rifle, or perhaps they just had very ugly women in this part of the world. She would not have been surprised. The number of American men on the Continent seemed to indicate to her that their women were not worth staying home for.

“Our apologies, ma’am,” the moustached one began, “we didn’t notice you.”

“And that’s saying something,” the balding one added, his smile unexpectedly alluring.

Charming as the bald one was, she opened her pocket watch and was reminded of what little time she had remaining. It had to be now. Sophia waved her hand at the device. “Intriguing as your experiment here is, gentlemen, you must give this area of shore to me. Now.”

The two men wiped their hands on their pants and straightened, seeming to work together as one machine. Their once separate demeanours—the balding one being a touch flirtatious, the moustached man actually blushing ever so slightly— slipped away before her eyes, replaced with hard, stern looks.

How precious.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the balding one said, “but I believe we were here first. If you were looking for some peace and quiet, Kitty Hawk offers plenty of spots to choose from other than this one.”

“But this is the spot I desire,” Sophia replied, her fingers splaying slowly around the shoulder strap of her Lee-Metford- Tesla.

Sophia could almost hear their outrage warring with their good manners. Then, after standing in this awkward silence, the balding one spoke again. “Look, you’re just going to have to wait. We have a launch to tend to, barring any catastrophic failures.”

Flicking into sight like a serpent’s tongue, a concealed blade sliced through the tight space between the men. A loud clang ran through the air, immediately followed by the angry hiss of half a dozen slashed lines coiled around the device. The men leapt back, yelping in horror as various fluids, many of them either catching fire on contact with one another or creating more of the heavier-than-air mist, spewed in every direction.

“You mean, like that?” Sophia asked. When she brought up her throwing arm a second time, another blade appeared, catching the sun as she slowly turned it in her hand.

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Pip_Tee_byJRBPhoto by J.R. Blackwell

New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author, with her husband Tee Morris, of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, and a Sir Julius Vogel. Morris is the author of Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana and the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. In addition to his work as a fantasist, he is also a social media pioneer and the author of Podcasting for Dummies and All a Twitter.

Pip’s website: www.pjballantine.com
Pip’s Twitter: philippajane

Tee’s website: http://teemorris.com/

Tee’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/TeeMonster

The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheMinistryOfPeculiarOccurrences

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dawns early lightWorking for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, one sees innumerable technological wonders. But even veteran agents Braun and Books are unprepared for what the electrifying future holds…

After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.

Even with the help of two American agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, Braun and Books have their work cut out for them as their chief suspect in a rash of nautical and aerial disasters is none other than Thomas Edison. Between the fantastic electric machines of Edison, the eccentricities of MoPO consultant Nikola Tesla, and the mysterious machinations of a new threat known only as the Maestro, they may find themselves in far worse danger than they ever have been in before…

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Pib Ballantine & Tee Morris are the authors of Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences — the best selling, award winning steampunk series. Novels: Phoenix Rising, the Janus Affair, and Dawn’s Early Light. Also includes digital short stories and a free award winning podcast series.

Nthe alloy of lawow, you’ll have to understand that I haven’t actually read the original “Mistborn” trilogy, though I’m certainly encouraged to do so by this novel. The original trilogy was essentially medieval high fantasy, but Sanderson has rolled the clock for “The Alloy of Law”.

It’s three hundred years later, and technology has advanced in the way it usually doesn’t in fantasy novels. However, this book is not your typical Victorian Steampunk novel, having a much more Wild West feel. There are lots of guns, there are lawkeepers, and there are train robberies. There is also the “magic” of Mistborn, which if you haven’t read the other books, has more a flavour of psionics, maybe even superpowers. Is this another case of science fiction in fantasy dress? I’m not sure.

As for the book itself, there’s plenty of action, some of it spectacular – there’s even a running battle on top of a train… The heroes are complex enough to be both interesting and memorable, and the primary villain’s motives are sensible and insane at the same time. As for the villain behind the villain…  that really would be telling. Definitely worth reading.

Gollancz

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jacqui

masque of the red deathA devastating plague has swept through the city leaving scores dead; no one can survive catching it.  Araby Worth’s father is a scientist dedicated to finding a cure, though it’s too late for his son.  Lost in grief, Araby only has the nights to look forward to when she goes dancing in the Debauchery Club till dawn.  She meets two very different boys there who distract and intrigue her.  Will is the gorgeous and enigmatic proprietor of the club, while Elliot is her best friend’s brother and a romantic poet who is also hiding secrets.

Set in a world where Victorian morals coexist with air ships and clockwork body parts, this is an entertaining read with a strong plot and engaging characters.  Not normally a steampunk fan, I was drawn into Araby’s world and was compelled to keep reading as I had to find out what happened next.  A really engaging story aimed at teens, this is grown up enough to appeal to adults as well.  I look forward to Dance of the Red Death and returning to Araby’s world.

Indigo

Supplied by Gollancz

Reviewed by Jan