First of all, this book was crazy fun. I’ll admit, I’m not usually a fan of WWI, WWII, or, for that manner, any war stories, but I’m a big fan of Joseph Nassise’s, and I was certainly game to give it a go. Turns out I didn’t have anything to worry about. In By the Blood of Heroes, WWI is in full swing, but the Germans have a bit of an advantage. They’ve created a “corpse gas” that turns their dead into zombies, and they’re using them on the frontlines. Able to control them using some sort of device, the prove to be an effective and demoralizing force to be reckoned with. When ace pilot Jack Freeman is shot down and captured by the Germans, his brother Camptain Michael Burke is put in charge of a group of soldiers tasked with his rescue. What follows is a rather exciting, fast paced adventure.
Set against a background of an alternate WWI, the zombies became much more terrifying, since they were being used and controlled by the Germans as killing machines. And we’re not just talking about mindless shamblers. The Germans have been…experimenting (shudder), and there are some forms of the zombies that have retained their faculties, and even their sanity (although I wouldn’t consider most of these guys sane to begin with, so that’s open to interpretation.) There are plenty of classic adventure and horror elements in this story, and the action is nearly nonstop. Also, there are lots of steampunk elements (Burke has a mechanical arm and can you say airships?), and the story is peppered with fun historical figures like the Red Baron. Plenty of zombie melee goodness, too, and the author keeps his writing tight and crisp, moving the narrative right along. There’s plenty here to love for alternate history and zombie aficionados alike, and lots of goodies that would be right up any horror fan’s alley! And don’t worry, even if Burke and his crew manage to rescue Freeman (against almost overwhelming odds), there’s plenty of evildoing to be done, and the Germans are more than up for the task. The author ends this one up wonderfully while leaving plenty of material for further novels. I’ll definitely look forward to more in the series!(less)
I’m a huge fan of Karina Cooper’s, so when news came that she would be starting a brand new Victorian London/steampunk/paranormal series, I was so there! Cherry St. Croix is the daughter of a genius, considered by many to be a madman, and stands to soon inherit the estate and holdings left to her by her late father. Not quite part of the peerage, yet still considered within polite society, Cherry is no lady, and I mean that in the best possible way. By day, Cherry does what polite society ladies do (sorta), entertaining visitors, spending time with her friend and caretaker Franny (while exasperating her at every possible turn), and reluctantly attending society balls. By night, Cherry ventures beneath the drift, where the Midnight Menagerie dwells and the toxic fog gathers, to work as a collector, capturing bounties for the enigmatic Micajeh Hawke. When news that a brutal killer is targeting the “sweets” that work the streets, women that Cherry considers friends, reaches her, she knows that she must find this man and put him out of commission, even if the cost proves higher than she ever imagined.
Just like with her Dark Mission novels, Ms. Cooper has created an imaginative, rich environment for her characters to play in, but this time it’s in an alternate Victorian London. Fully realized are the teeming streets, bustling humanity, and grit of London below, and I was happy to follow Cherry along on her escapades. Cherry is easy to like, and her weaknesses only enhance her character, making her someone to identify with and root for. Tarnished definitely spent some time setting the stage for books to come, and steampunk fans will love it. With nods to Jack the Ripper and Frankenstein, Tarnished takes you on a rollicking ride with characters you’ll want to see more of. Add in a dash of romance, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for steampunk adventure. Can’t wait for more books in this series!(less)
Cinderella is, by far, one of my all-time favorite fairy tales. Add sci-fi/futuristic elements, and I’m totally there. Cinder is a teenaged cyborg, orphaned at 11, then taken in by her stepmother and 2 stepsisters after the man that adopted her was killed. Adri, her stepmother, is cruel and bitter, and the oldest sister, Pearl, isn’t much better. However, Cinder has a friend in Peony, the youngest sibling, and loves her like she would a real sister. Four years later, we find Cinder in New Beijing, carving out a meager existence as the town’s best android mechanic, and turning all of her earnings over to Adri. One day, at her booth in the town market, Prince Kai pays her a visit. His favorite android is on the fritz, and he heard Cinder was the best. For years Cinder has done her very best to hide her “dirty” secret (that she’s a cyborg), and she has no intention of letting handsome Prince Kai find out otherwise. However, bringing that android to Cinder is the start of something big, and will reveal secrets about Cinder’s past, and alter her future, forever.
Cinder retains just enough of the original story to make it a joy to pick out certain parallels, but the author has set her story in the rich environment of New Beijing, years after a devastating 4th World War. There is a terrible plague on the loose, and Cinder will experience the fallout of this plague first hand and become an unwitting pawn in the search for a cure. Her charming android companion, Iko, is endearing and sweet, and steals nearly every scene she’s in, also adding levity when needed. When the hated and feared Lunar Queen pays a visit to Earth, hoping to forge an alliance with New Beijing through marriage, all hell breaks loose, and she brings with her a terrible power and secrets that only Cinder can unlock. Prince Kai is charming, and I fell in love with Cinder from page one. You’ll root for them to fall in love, but the author doesn’t hand you that on a silver platter, not by a longshot, and the ending is wide open for another installment in this series. Nothing is wrapped in a pretty bow in this one. The pacing is rapid and tense, and builds to an exciting last page that will leave you anxious for the next installment. It’s going to be a hard wait for me! I’d recommend Cinder to any fan of sci-fi and fairy tales, and it’s a story that can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike! This one’s a keeper.(less)
Alice Michaels’ prospects are not good. In 1850’s London,it’s all about appearances. Well,appearances and money,and Alice and her father simply don’t have any. She’s to be a Baroness,but since Alice’s mother,brother,and fiancé were killed by the clockwork plague,it left her father a cripple,and Alice a social pariah. Hoping to get back into society’s good graces,Alice decides to attend a ball,and see if she can meet someone willing to marry her and take care of her father and their many debts. However,society doesn’t look kindly on girls that prefer to be elbow deep in automatons instead of at dances. However,when she meets the outspoken and frank Louisa Creek,she’s glad she’s found someone to confide her true interests and desires. At the dance,she also meets the agreeable Norbert Williamson (rich to be sure),who seems to take an interest in Alice in spite of,or perhaps because of,her unusual proclivities. Then Alice acquires a rather unusual inheritance from her Aunt Edwina,who seems to have mysteriously disappeared. Aunt Edwina’s disappearance will be very important to the story,Alice’s future,and possibly,the world.
Meanwhile,on an airship high above London,17 year old Gavin Ennock is one year away from becoming a full airman,enjoying the company of his comrades and entertaining them with his wonderful talent as a fiddler. When his ship is attacked by pirates,he finds himself stranded on the streets of London. Eventually,his path will cross with Alice’s with life changing results. After helping to thwart a zombie attack,Gavin and Alice are asked to be part of a clandestine organization (funded by the Queen) called the Third Ward,that rounds up Clockworkers to harness their amazing abilities. Clockworkers are those that are stricken with the clockwork plague but are affected in a completely different way,able to create amazing gadgets and inventions,some with the power to end life on our planet (hence the Doomsday Vault).
Where do I start with The Doomsday Vault? Coming in at just under 400 pages,the author manages to pack a LOT into this novel,and he does it expertly. Alice desperately wants to explore her talent for machines,but fights against her need for security and a means to care for her father. Then there’s that really irritating attraction to Gavin. She can’t get him off her mind,but for the most part,remains resolute in her determination to marry Williamson and take her expected place in society,in spite of the freeing adventures she has with Gavin and the Third Ward. I’ll admit,Alice’s stubbornness made me want to smack her at times,but who am I to judge? I live in a time where women can be pretty much whatever they want,without the weight of society’s expectations on her shoulders,so I tried to give Alice some leeway here:) I totally fell in love with Gavin,who’s bravery and determination made him a hero to root for. You’ll have great fun exploring the Third Ward,and the author created such a rich and lavish world for his characters,that I felt I could (happily) have gotten lost in it for hours. Among the general awesomeness that is this book,Alice has a charming automaton manservant called Kemp,a mechanical cat called Click,and a gaggle of automatons that assist her in just about everything. Plus,I did mention zombies,yes? Twists and turns abound,and the author managed to lob some shockers at me that I’ll admit I didn’t see coming. I’ll admit,my only complaint about this book is that it wasn’t longer,because I didn’t want to leave Alice and Gavin’s London! If you love your Victorian adventures filled with zombies,amazing automatons,steampunk flare,and an impeccable eye for detail,you’ll love the fascinating (and fantastical) Doomsday Vault!(less)
When Violet Adams decides to disguise herself as a man and apply to Illyria College,she has no idea what she’s getting herself into,but is determined to prove herself in a man’s world and gain attention for her mechanical genius. With the dubious support of her twin brother,Ashton,and their friend and fellow Illyria student Jack,Violet embarks on a school year that she’ll never forget. Among the vast halls and clanking gears of Illyria,Violet finally feels she’s truly home,among great minds and great inventions. The faire at the end of the year,with a chance to showcase an invention to the Queen,will be the icing on the cake,and Violet hopes to unveil her secret to everyone. She certainly didn’t count on falling in love with the Duke of Illyria,not to mention the daily challenges of posing as a man.
All Men of Genius is great fun,and the author manages to balance multiple story lines without sacrificing pacing or completely taking the attention off of Violet. We get to know the cousin and ward of the Duke,Cecily (who has some engineering know-how of her own),as well as her governess,Miriam,a few of the professors (including one who’s more machine than man),and the scenes involving Violet at the pub with Jack and their circle of friends are a hoot. Misplaced affections and gender bending conflict abound,creating twists and turns that certainly keep our heroes and heroines guessing. There is a villain,and he’s a nasty one,but I’ll leave that one for you to discover. Then there’s that creepy,labyrinthine basement… Filled with clockwork contraptions,ferrets that fly (and other interesting creatures),menacing automatons,wry wit and humor,and a heroine you’ll root for,All Men of Genius is a delight,and I highly recommend it for anyone that enjoys a good comedy of manners,and a Victorian romp with steampunk sensibilities.
Will Violet’s true gender be found out? Will she find true love without losing herself in the process? I suppose you’ll have to snag a copy of All Men of Genius and find out!
After her last adventure,our favorite OCD cat burglar and vamp,Raylene Pendle,is settling into domestic bliss (yeah right),with Ian Stott,the blind vampire that she’d like to be more than friends with,and her two pet humans,Domino and Pepper,street kids,and brother and sister that she’s taken under her wing. Raylene’s longtime contact,Horace Bishop,has a job for her,and just when she thinks she’s gotten away from the “weird jobs”,Horace wants her to steal a collection of,er,penis bones (aka Bakula) from various supes,like weres,gryphons,and unicorns,from the owner who was not willing part with them. Evidently these relics are used in all kinds of spells and rituals,and Horace is desperate to get his hands on them. When Raylene discovers that a brilliant,schizophrenic ex-NASA scientist is using them for her own mysterious reasons,Raylene begins to identify with her,and the more she learns,the more she wants to help her,in spite of her constant resistance to human attachment. Add that to her attempts to untangle Ian from the politics of his House,her growing feelings for him,and desperation to keep him by her side,and you’ve certainly got a recipe for fun,er,disaster! Hellbent is certainly not short of adventure,and when Raylene asks Adrian,ex-Navy SEAL and fabulous drag queen extraordinaire,to accompany her to Atlanta,to act as her ghoul and confront Barrington House (one of the most dangerous Houses in existence),things really get tense.
One of my favorite things about Raylene is that her tough as nails exterior hides her inner vulnerability. She’s very OCD,so she’s drawn to weaknesses in others,and it definitely brings out a “mommy” quality in her,no matter how much she tries to protest that this is the case. I just get more and more attached to Adrian,and Ian is like a gorgeous piece of art that I’d like to admire from afar (not Raylene,though,she wants to admire him way up close,but I digress…). There are a ton of upheavals in Raylene’s life in Hellbent,and she certainly deals with everything in her own unique,anal way,but that’s one of the things I love most about her. She’s a tough nut,yes,but there is a gooey center in there,it just takes certain things to get through to it. In Raylene,Ms. Priest has created a very complex character that’s at once tough and vulnerable,and sweet and salty,then surrounded her with a fascinating cast of characters that leave plenty of possibilities open for future story lines. It’s rare for a vampire character to leave me with the warm and fuzzies,but Raylene manages it,and the conclusion to Hellbent will leave you grinning from ear to ear. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!(less)
1828 Edinburgh is a fascinating place. New medical discoveries are being made every day, and art and science are held in high esteem. It’s a time of change and enlightenment, but there are also dark forces at work. Adam Quire struggles with his own darkness, as a veteran of the Napoleanic wars, and a survivor or countless battlefields. He’s seen plenty of death, but when he finds a body that looks like it’s been attacked by some sort of dog, his throat torn and ripped, Quire is pulled into an underworld of death and depravity that he never knew existed.
I enjoyed The Edinburgh Dead, although I don’t feel it was quite what it could have been. Adam Quire is certainly my kind of protagonist; a bit tortured, but strong of will and determined to see things right. I enjoyed accompanying him through the murky streets of Edinburgh as he followed the twisting trail of a group of killers involved in otherworldly evil. Quire soon finds out that some of the perpetrators of these crimes are members of elite society, and he knows that getting to the bottom of things may cost him his job. It also doesn’t help that his heart belongs to a prostitute, and he’s been known to enjoy more than a drink or two in his past. The Edinburgh Dead is atmospheric and full of dread, and when you add zombie hounds and reanimated corpses to the mix, it makes for quite a heady brew. I think maybe I would have liked to get into more detail with the villians and find out more about their motivations and the source of the evil that they’re using for their nefarious means. However, this was my only quibble, and I found the history of the Resurrectionists (body snatchers) and their methods of providing bodies for medical study fascinating. The author is a master at creating dread, and manages to ratchet up the tension with a sure hand. If you enjoy your historicals with plenty of suspense and a liberal dose of the supernatural, you’ll surely enjoy The Edinburgh Dead! (less)
This was a cute, fast little steampunk mystery and a fun diversion between novels. Not much room for character development because of the length, but the mystery moved along nicely and I liked the steampunk and sci-fi elements of the story. Nothing fantastically unique here, and I wasn't dazzled by any means, but what was done was done fairly well, and I enjoyed the little twist at the end!(less)
Phoenix Rising is the first in what I hope will be a long-lived Steampunk series by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. They make such a wonderful writing duo and I could certainly see Pip’s touch in this book (she also writes great fantasy as Philippa Ballantine), and although I don’t have experience (yet) with Tee’s previous work, I have no doubt he’s just as talented!
The novel opens with the lovely Eliza Braun saving the life of archivist Wellington Books in the icy wastelands of Antarctica, where he has been kidnapped by an unknown group. The witty banter between the stubborn and driven Eliza, and the studious Books starts early, and keeps going strong throughout the story. Bodies are turning up in London, ravaged in the most terrible of ways, an agent has gone mad working on a previous case, and Eliza’s rashness in the field has landed her in the archives of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurances, as Books' assistant, much to his dismay. What follows is a rollicking story full of carriage chases, shootouts, wondrous steam gadgetry, and intriguing mystery! I loved the interplay between Welly (Books) and Eliza, and Eliza will meet a female assassin that just may be her match! I also enjoyed how the authors balanced the action (and there was plenty) with the character development, which kept me turning the pages to see what romp Eliza and Welly would get drawn into next during their investigation. The mystery kept me guessing and the atmosphere created by the authors was just wonderful. It was certainly easy to imagine being in the streets of Victorian London, amidst amazing steam gadgets and fog shrouded mystery! I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment in this series! (less)