October is Steampunk Month!

Okay, I don’t know if October is officially Steampunk Month, but for me, it is.  For this entire month, I’m going to read nothing but steampunk books. What exactly is steampunk?

…steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.

(via wikipedia)

I already finished my first book on the list, Leviathan (review here) which was a decent introduction to the genre. It captures the mood of steampunk, as well as having a glimpse into the steam-powered technology.

Coincidentally, Leviathan ended in a cliffhanger and the next book in the series was released today, so I quickly snatched up and started reading Behemoth. So far, it’s good, but the cover of the second book can’t compare to that of the first.

Which one is better?

The rest of my steampunk to-read list can be found on Goodreads.

Review: Leviathan

Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan takes place in an alternate, euro-centric world where people are not only divided by their countries, but also by their science. There are the Darwinists, scientists who manipulate and combine DNA (called life strands or something in the book) to create incredibly useful chimeras like 200-plus feet long floating whales carrying a full ecosystem. Then there are the Clankers who are more enthusiastic about machines and technology, but also have 200 feet long mechanical zeppelins.

Leviathan was mostly a world-building book. It isn’t till the halfway point that our two protagonists actually meet. Alek is the secret heir to an empire and is forced to be on the run thanks to the messy politics of Germany versus Austria. Deryn is a girl who has to pretend to be a boy in order to fulfill her goal of becoming an airshipman. The two start off pretty one-dimensional, with Alek being very demanding and princely, and Deryn feeling out the proper way to act as a boy, but as the book went along, I started to like them more. I don’t think it was until the two finally met that I saw how they’d changed from when they were first introduced to the reader.

There are many new, made-up words in Leviathan and usually that sort of thing puts me off on a book, but it worked well in this context. The first couple of chapters are confusing as I tried to figure out what a boffin was and what exactly was a clart, but even I have to admit it lends a certain type of whimsical air to the entire story. It definitely establishes the world as a different one that where we live.

Despite the rich world-building and the fantastic detail in describing the fabricated animals and intricate machines (including nice artwork by Keith Thompson), I couldn’t help feeling that this book would have been better written as an adult book. Leviathan is more of a pre-YA book. The language (other than the made up words) is incredibly simple, and the story telling is very direct and to the point. It makes it easy to speed past chapter after chapter, but something about the writing didn’t sit well with me.

That doesn’t mean I won’t pick up the next book, Behemoth, though. I’m a sucker for cliffhangers and I hope that we get more details on the characters and their situations. The whole impersonating another gender in order to get you want has so much potential, but is barely touched upon. I went through the entire book wondering if someone would find out Deryn’s big secret.

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Review: Warrior

Warrior (The Blades of The Rose, #1)Warrior by Zoe Archer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was hard to put this book in shelves. I want to call it paranormal-romance, but the two main characters are both human. But there’s magic involved, and that’s paranormal, isn’t it? I also want to call it historical fiction because there’s fiction about historical events, like Genghis Khan’s takeover of China, but it’s more like the characters talk about that event — they’re not actually living through it.

Either way, this book was one of the better paranormal romance books I’ve read. The main character, Thalia, is an English woman living in a very rural area of Mongolia. She’s tasked with the duty of protecting sources of magic from evil people who want to use the magic for their evil purposes. Chance brings a retired soldier, Captain Huntley, to her door and together, they go on a quest to find the source and protect it from the evil people. All in all, not a ground-breaking plot, but an enjoyable ride.

In Felicia Day’s review, she mentioned lots of steamy passages and naughty bits, which is definitely true. For those steamy passages alone, I’d probably give it an NC-17 rating, but if you overlook that, the story and the way the characters interact with each other is actually very endearing. At first, I found the instant attraction very hard to believe, but as the book delved more into the background of the characters, I grew to accept it.

I had to knock a star down for Warrior though, because of the whole damsel in distress issue. While the author takes pains in telling us that Thalia isn’t a wilting English flower and can hold her own while riding a horse and shooting arrows, I was peeved that the author still needed to write in a burly, ex-soldier who’s only want in life is to protect her from danger. And she Thalia lets him! It kinda defeats the purpose of building up a strong female lead only to have her overshadowed by some masculine (and that word is used to describe Captain Huntley very often), muscled man.

I think if I could turn the over-analyzing part of my brain off when I read this, I would enjoy it a lot more. Not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but it could be better.

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