The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis. ★★★1/2
The Guns Above is not easy to describe. It’s sort of like a cross between steampunk and military fantasy, without any magic. It’s a military focused novel that takes place in a whole different world that includes plenty of airships.
The kingdom of Garnia is perpetually involved in warfare. Due to shortages of men, the military has reluctantly allowed women to serve in “auxiliary” positions aboard airships. Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupris turns the tide of a battle and is rewarded with a promotion, becoming the first female captain of an airship. However, this decision is not popular with a highly placed general, who is determined to discredit Josette and see her removed from service. To this end, he sends his layabout nephew, Lord Bernat, to keep an eye on her. But the routine first training mission ends up becoming something more than anyone could have anticipated…
Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine. ★★★1/2
Paper and Fire is the sequel to Rachel Caine’s YA alternate history fantasy novel, Ink and Bone. This is a series that really must be read in order, so if you haven’t read Ink and Bone, I’d suggest looking into it before Paper and Fire.
Jess Brightwood has infiltrated the Library, the tremendously powerful organization that controls access to knowledge throughout the world and ruthlessly crushes all who oppose it. When Jess learns that his friend Thomas Schreiber, who disappeared presumed dead after inventing a machine that would destroy the Library’s monopoly on books, may still be alive, Jess is determined to stage a rescue. But this rescue will put Jess and his friends at even greater peril from Library forces.
Everfair by Nisi Shawl. ★★★
Everfair is a novel that collapses partly under the sheer weight of its ambition. Yet for all that, it still contains some interesting ideas at its core.
Essentially, Everfair is a steampunk novel taking place in the Belgian Congo. A group comprised of an odd melding of Fabian Socialists and African American missionaries joins forces to purchase land from King Leopold II to ideally create an utopia, Everfair. But the group soon comes into conflict with King Leopold and with itself.
The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan. ★★★1/2
I’ve had a bit of a hit or miss history with steampunk, but The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter was certainly a hit. It’s a fast paced start to a series taking place in an alternate timeline where all new technology was outlawed by the all powerful Patent Office. With technology stagnant, societal mores stagnated as well. Thus to live independently, Elizabeth Barnabus has to pull of the greatest illusion of her life – by day she is herself, by night she is a fictional twin brother, who works as a private detective. When she takes a case involving a missing aristocrat, she suddenly finds herself in a world of trouble with the Patent Office on her tail.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua. ★★★★★
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is an absolutely delightful graphic novel that contains a wealth of historical information regarding Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and the history of computing while at the same time being relentlessly entertaining.
The book begins with a brief history of Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and their work on the invention of the computer and computer programming. However, both died before any of the machines Babbage planned were ever invented. And so Padua imagines an alternate ending – a world where their Analytical Engine reached completion and adventures ensue.
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. ★★★
Told in the distinct voice of its narrator, Karen Memory is the story of young woman, Karen Memery, who works at a high end bordello in a steampunk version of the Pacific Northwest. One night two girls, one badly injured, show up on the doorsteps of Madame Damnable’s house, seeking shelter. They’re perused by a man with a machine that can control minds, and the trouble has only begun to start.
Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells. ★★★1/2
Emilie and the Hollow World is reminiscent of 1800s stories such as Jules Vern’s but with a distinct Girl’s Own Adventure sort of feel. While running away from home, Emilie ends up stowing away on the wrong ship. She soon finds herself embroiled in a rescue expedition to the center of the world, where strange places and creatures lie in wait.
The society Emilie belongs to is reminiscent of Victorian England, giving the novel a steampunk vibe. There’s also magic and wizardry, and it is the currents of magic flowing through the world that propel our cast down to the hollow center and the world within the world. It is here that Martha Wells demonstrates her ample imagination, although the Hollow World does tend to remind me of her Raksura books (without any shapeshifters). Continue reading