Book Review: Hounds of Autumn by Heather Blackwood (Four Stars)

Book Review: Hounds of Autumn by Heather Blackwood (Four Stars)

Credible steampunk novel of manners. As if H. G. Wells and Jane Austen collaborated on a murder mystery. Pays better attention to Victorian folkways among the gentry than most modern writers.

Requisite misdirection and conflict. Headstrong, but not always right female lead who bucks the traditions of the time, buts let the reader know that Blackwood at least knows the strictures of propriety that Chloe doesn’t-quite-flaunt.

Dirigibles and steam-powered motorcycles abound. The nickel-cadmium battery and film-that-doesn’t-need-developing subplots are so anachronistic as to be humorous.

Book Review: The Wizard Hunters by Martha Wells (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Wizard Hunters (The Fall of Ile-Rien #1) by Martha Wells (Four Stars)

A steam-punk action-adventure tale set in the city of a previous series by Wells. This/these stories are independent. Strong, independent but not-yet self-assured female lead. Excellent story telling.

Early Wells work. Her voice has improved since. Still, fans of her Murderbot diaries may be disappointed that the self-depreciating humor and snarky inner dialogue of Murderbot aren’t there.

Unfortunately, I lost my notes, and while this is a good story I’m not inclined to re-read it just to pepper my review with quotes from the story, as is my normal practice.

Book Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher  (Four Stars)

“[The universe] reflects a great deal more of yourself to your senses than you probably know.”

Not your typical post-apocalyptic steampunk space opera. Not at all. Better that the Dresden series for which Butcher is famous. The tone follows Sanderson’s Mistborn series, with a philosophic nod to C. S. Lewis’ “Transposition.” But not as derivative as this implies. A rich, engaging plot.

“Truth does not become untruth because its existence upsets [someone].”

Rich cast of fully-developed characters, not all what they appeared to others or even to themselves: Rothfuss’s Aurie, Horatio Hornblower, Honor Harrington, Miss Manners, the Baker Street irregulars, and Garfield. All with a twist.

“Politics is the purview of scoundrels, tyrants and fools … I prefer not to become their victim.”

Excellent climax and closing, so rare among the kick-off volumes of many modern series.

“…the kind of man … that made coincidences happen, rather than letting them happen to him.”

Nice, if misleading, cover art. 

 “Why fight, if not to protect others?”

Book Review: Blood of Dragons by Jack Campbell (Four Stars)

Book Review: Blood of Dragons (The Legacy of Dragons #2) by Jack Campbell (Four Stars)

“My whole life has been a lie.”
“Kira, you’re being a little overdramatic.”
“What else haven’t I been told? You are my mother, right? For real?”
Mari nodded. “Do you think I would have stuck with this if I had a choice?”

Young adult adventure, second of a trilogy, set in a future world which has clawed its way back to steam technology. And mild magic. Teen angst, fast pace, moments of humor, acts of improbably strength and endurance. Good storytelling. What’s not to like?

“Mother, I am trying to wallow in the misery of this betrayal! Fine. My life is a lie and everyone I know has been plotting against me.”
“I’m glad you’re keeping a sense of perspective about this.”

Kira grows as a person inwardly and externally. She finds a new set of worries and meets them head-on. (Nice cover art, but at no time does Kira wear goggles and wield two pistols.)

“This is a lousy game. Really. It ought to have taco trucks.”
“Jason, are you sure you’re all right?”

Kira and Jason face near starvation and limited water yet rise to a climatic, seemingly impossible battle with strength that would shame many well-fed, well-equipped soldiers. Realistic? Who cares?

“War is insanity. You already know that. You’ve now seen it first-hand. But if someone begins such insanity, someone else has to stand against that, even though it means embracing the insanity.”

Book Review: Gears of a Mad God by Brent Nichols (Three Stars)


Book Review: Gears of a Mad God: A Steampunk Lovecraft Adventure by Brent Nichols

(Three Stars)

“Now, don’t get all teary on me. You’ll spoil your dime novel hero image.”

Bit of a yawner. Not very Steampunk, thankfully not very Lovecraftian. The not-very-retro-future technology is consistent with early twentieth-century setting; the bad guys are evil, but not supernaturally so. Hilariously anachronistic cover art. No worse than most big-name author, big-name publisher novels.

Logical inconsistencies abound. “There’s only one ferry each day from Vancouver,” yet clearly other people arrive and depart at various times of day. “He gave her arm another twist, and it occurred to her that he thought he was hurting her.” There’s a difference between Continue reading

Book Review: City of Bones by Martha Wells (Four Stars)


Book Review: City of Bones by Martha Wells

(Four Stars)

“If you had any common courtesy you’d die now and save me this trouble.”

A pleasure to read; sorry it ended. Post-apocalyptic steampunk fantasy with a protagonist who is an alien to a culture which may need exactly his expertise to survive. Excellent world building. Leavened with self-depreciating humor. This early (1995) work foreshadows Wells’ talent, since exhibited in her Murderbot tales.

“If I fail, everything terrible that happens next will be my fault. That’s the perfect end to my life, don’t you think?” “If you fail, I promise not to tell anybody.”

Good character development with lots of cross purposes and confused motives. Scene setting is rationed out with the story telling, allowing the reader to Continue reading

Book Review: Imager’s Challenge by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Four Stars)


Book Review: Imager’s Challenge (Imager’s Portfolio #2) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

(Four Stars)

“I’m being pushed into doing things I’d rather not do because the alternatives are worse.” “Sometimes, that’s life.”

Better than the first Imager story. First person point of view makes for a decidedly linear plot, but the action moves better in this second episode. This volume lacks the epigrams which headed each chapter in Imager.

“What we do … is not all that we are, nor all that we could be. Reading opens one’s eyes to the possibilities.”

Modesitt takes us into the musings of someone who follows the tenets of a religion he doubts, defends a country he’s sure isn’t perfect, loves people who are flawed, and represents a body of people even as he disagrees with its leaders.

“No matter what you do, someone’s unhappy. And the better you do it, Continue reading

Book Review: Imager: Imager Portfolio #1, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (Three Stars)


Book Review: Imager: Imager Portfolio #1, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

(Three Stars)

“Hope is always an expectation beyond anticipated reality.”

A steampunk Harry Potter for young adult readers. Excellent world building, despite the lazy two-moons trope. Time, money, foods, and geography map steam-age world–a welcome change from the routine medieval realm.

“So you’re saying. Master, that if I want to be impartial, I should not be a protraiturist, but an imager?”

In the obvious comparison with J. K. Rowling’s wizard, Modesitt has better world building, more believable magic and a more human protagonist. He slows his story with Continue reading

Book Review: Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess (Three Stars)


Book Review: Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess

(Three Stars)

“Ancient knowledge is still–more ancient than knowledge.”

Mediocre short story; marvelous illustrations.

“When nothing is easy, everything is possible.”

Steam punk, so presumably a different world. Given the tectonic and polar shifts, everyone should be dead, not just frozen. Yes, the poles may now be at the equator, but the equator–not all of it–cannot be at the poles. Where did Wesley store the fuel for his various machines?

“The quest is worth more than the find.”

Book Review: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey (Two Stars)


Book Review: River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1) by Sarah Gailey

(Two Stars)

Great concept and background development. Interesting ensemble of characters. Love the map and cover art. What could go wrong? A lot.

Gratuitous sex and violence. That is, apparently injected to titillate, not to advance the story. Motives and actions were either heavy-handed or disconnected. Lack of proofreading (or something). For example, “then reached back into his saddle bag” appears twice in the same paragraph.

According to the map, the Harriet stretches 150 miles from the dam on the Mississippi (consider that for a moment) and the Gate near the mouth of the Atchafalaya River. Yet, Gailey writes Continue reading