Nenia Campbell's Reviews > Heart of Iron

Heart of Iron by Ekaterina Sedia
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Mar 06, 14

Read from August 21 to 24, 2012

This could have been SO GOOD. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't SOOOOOOO GOOD, either. I mean, RUSSIAN AND CHINESE STEAMPUNK, PEOPLE. ISN'T THAT ALL THE PROMPTING YOU NEED?

Heart of Iron is an alternate history of Russia, in which the Decemberists' rebellion was successful, and Constantine is czar isn't of Nicholas, and there are fantastic steampunked-out trains and airships. The main character, Sasha Trubetskaya, is a distant relation of the czar. And she's just been awarded a fantastic opportunity for education at the University of Saint Petersberg, along with a handful of other ladies and minority students, though all of them suspect that their introduction to the school - combined with the scorn of their professors and schoolmates - is an experiment to show their unsuitability and inferiority.


Sasha makes the acquaintance of the dashing "Spring Heeled" Jack, and several gorgeous Chinese boys, including the well-connected Chiang Tse. Her friendships lead her into a snakepit of espionage and treachery as she learns that the English have rather unpleasant plans for China and Russia. Spies are everywhere, and they all seem to trace back to the wicked Florence Nightingale. Sasha decides to journey to China to seek an alliance with the Manchu, before the English can wreck everything.


Then the pacing of the plot tapers off.

The beginning started out very nicely, and reminded me of Soulless. I loved the mannerpunk emphasis, and Sedia's lovely way with words. Oh, the words - I wanted to build a nest out of them, and roll and frolic in their beauty. Unfortunately, three fourths of the way through the book, the plot and pacing kind of fall apart and stop making sense. I spent the last fifty pages in a state of total and utter confusion.

Some other niggling qualms:
-Florence Nightingale really isn't so terrifying.
-How the hell can Jack do what he does? Is he Steampunk Superman?
-Sasha Trubetskaya is a bit of a Mary Sue. Everyone is attracted to her/intimidated by her/impressed by her/in awe of her. She's a noble. She...disguises herself in a soldier's clothing. Sigh.
-There are a number of typos in this book; something that really isn't acceptable in a work of fiction that isn't vanity published. Editors are still used, yes?
-Extreme WTFuckery.

Perhaps if I had read this author's other works first, I would be angry as well. But this is my first Ekaterina Sedia book - and now I'm excited, because her other books are, apparently, better.

If you have read this author before and have high expectations, I suggest erring on the side of caution and checking this out from the library.

Fans of Soulless, steampunk (particularly steampunk taking place in countries besides England), and mannerpunk will most likely adore this.

I liked it. The first half would have gotten an easy 4 stars. The second, 2.5.

Averaged rating of the two halves: 3.5 stars.
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Reading Progress

08/23/2012 page 32
08/24/2012 page 122
39.0% "Oh em gee. Espionage and government seeeecrets."
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