Emmeline Muchamore is a well-bred young lady hiding explosive family secrets. She needs to marry well, and quickly, in order to keep her family respectable. But when her brass heart malfunctions, she makes a desperate choice to steal the parts she needs to repair it and survive.
She is unable to explain her actions without revealing she has a steam-powered heart, so she is arrested for theft and transported to Victoria, Australia - right in the midst of the Gold Rush.
Now that she’s escaped the bounds of high society, iron manacles cannot hold her for long.
'Heart of Brass' by Felicity Banks is published by Odyssey Books 'where books are an adventure'. This steam-punk romp certainly is an adventure! And you get a bonus story in a Choose Your Own Adventure supplement. More about that soon.
'Society doesn't allow young men to marry science experiments.'
From that first line we steam into enormous fun. Emmeline Muchamore needs to marry fast, to save her family from penury. But the likely mother-in-law to be, Mrs Dawes, was 'unlikely to appreciate the sight of her prospective daughter in law steaming violently from between the breasts.' Our heroine must take action to prevent this steaming, as any well-bred young lady would, but what she does next is disastrous. In one day she plunges from the eligible ranks of London's high society to a grim prison ship.
To keep her brass heart a secret Miss Muchamore adopts one desperate measure after another. Once in the Colonies, she is even forced to associate with, sniff, an Irish currency lad, Patrick. What a come-down for a British lady! But equipped with her probability parasol, her special pet rats, and her affinity with the mysterious properties of metals, our Emmeline hangs firmly on to her bonnet.
Felicity Banks has created a heroine whose foibles and prejudices only add to her strengths. I loved the droll lines delivered on every page. Readers might also become intrigued by the pivotal events in (non-steampunk) Australian history that are referenced in this rollicking story. A special mention too for Elijah Toten, artist of the eye-catching cover.
With Heart of Brass, you also get a second book. Yes, two for the price of one. More in fact, because 'After the Flag Fell' is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style bonus which picks up after the exciting finale of Heart of Brass. You can choose what fate befalls the characters! There are all sorts of scenarios to act out. Enjoy.
This is a terrific bit of steampunk, lifted above the average by excellent line-by-line writing, great detailing and some truly ingenious concepts (I was particularly taken by the idea that metals are in some way not only alchemical, but sentient, with different powers and personalities). Emmeline is a cracking heroine: tough, sensible and resourceful, and her continent-spanning story is immensely engaging. I could have done with just a few extra pages right at the beginning, perhaps a little more expansion of the world before leaping straight into the story, but that's a small detail in what is a thoroughly accomplished first novel. One last non-content-related note: I personally didn't like the packaging much (though I sense I may be in a minority here): I think a book like this deserves something more classic to draw in the lit-fic crowd, who I'm pretty sure have no idea what they're missing.
How could I resist steam punk set in colonial Australia? Felicity Banks’ debut novel Heart of Brass, was everything I was hoping it would be and more. I love steam punk novels and Banks has put her own twist on the genre in this one. From the novelty of the book being set in colonial Australia, to the notion that the metals are in some way sentient, this was a refreshing, fun, rollicking story.
Emmeline’s family fortunes have taken a nosedive and she has been slowly selling the family’s more valuable possessions in order to keep up the appearance of respectable gentility. The family’s future depends on her marrying well. In the opening scene of the novel we see her waiting for the arrival of her potential beau and his mother.
Of course the meeting with the beau and his mother goes awry and the ensuing events see Emmeline transported to Australia — thus begins the real adventure.
Emmeline is not your average Victorian miss. Her father replaced her heart when she was nine, with a mechanised one made out of brass and silver. Emmeline is a practical young woman and has inherited her father’s technological genius. She likes nothing more than tinkering with and inventing new machinery in her workshop.
The novel is told in first person and the Emmeline’s voice throughout is delightful, in that it conveys what I imagine is a very convincing Victorian voice. The character is well developed and actually learns and changes during the course of the book. I love the way that Emmeline, though resourceful and intelligent, has her own failings. Her Victorian snobbery and adherence to the dictates of fashion are tested and eroded. Banks writes Emmeline with a dry wit and at times her thoughts will make you laugh out loud.
The pacing of the story was steady from the beginning but very much picked up once Emmeline was in Australia. I felt occasionally that the very Victorian nature of the character’s voice — that prim and proper manner about her, did sometimes lessen the pace of some of the action sequences. However, ironically I still found them vastly enjoyable because even when chaos was erupting around her, she was still so “straight laced.”
The weaving of Australian history into Emmeline’s adventure was clever and there were some fabulous twists and turns in the escapades of Emmeline and her companions. I had no trouble visualising any of the scenes and settings that Banks wrote, which is a testament to her writing. I found myself not wanting to put this book down and read it very quickly.
This is a fabulous yarn and well worth your time to pick up and read I highly recommend it.
*Gratefully received via a Goodreads Giveaway from the publisher, Odyssey Books.* This was my first exposure to steampunk, and I'm not sure if it's my kind of genre. That said, I enjoyed the magical sentience of metals, and the "Choose Your Own Adventure" bonus story at the end was a terrific idea.
I nabbed this last month, partly because it’s Australian-set steampunk by a Canberra author but mostly because it’s a seriously beautiful-looking paperback. (Yes, I am that shallow!) Happily, Heart of Brass was worth the gamble.
In the space of a couple-hundred pages, we get to see Emmeline go from proper society lady who conforms to (most) social expectations while chaffing at the restrictions they impose to convict and criminal rebelling against an unfair system. For the most part, her transition seems entirely natural, although there’s one particular incident that did have me raising my eyebrows a little — I just wasn’t convinced that such a bright young lady would do something so spontaneous and poorly thought out. Maybe it was that colonial influence.
I loved seeing all the steampunk elements in what could otherwise be considered historical fiction — everything from practical devices to silly fashion (wheels for shoes?! I’m so clumsy I’d break something for sure). The elements are well-integrated into the world rather than seeming strapped on. There’s also an element of magic; metals have different properties that influence the world around them in one way or another. It’s a little bit Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn in that regard, without seeming derivative.
Basically, this combination made me a happy, happy girl.
On the romance front, there isn’t much to speak of — Emmeline is attracted to different characters, but it would go very much against her character to see her shack up with someone early on. Still, it was obvious to me that she was bisexual from fairly early in the story, even though she doesn’t seem to realise it. I loved that element too.
In terms of what I didn’t love, there was really only one thing — this book is kinda short. I read it in paperback, and although I knew there was bonus material at the back, I didn’t expect that bonus material to be almost 100 pages. So when I got to the end of the story, I felt a bit like I’d had the rug pulled out from under me. I wanted moooooooore. Obviously this is a good thing, as I will definitely be buying the sequel. I want more Emmeline, Matilda and Patrick.
As for that bonus material, it’s a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story that tells the tale of one of the bit characters in Heart of Brass, the real-life champion of the Eureka Stockade, Peter Lalor. Although I was disappointed it didn’t show me more of the main characters’ and their story, I did spend a fun hour or so following up all the different story options and reading the Easter Eggs.
I’d definitely recommend Felicity Banks. She’s one to watch. (Also, as a side note, this is the most professionally produced book by a small press that I’ve ever seen. Odyssey Books definitely have game!)
Oh, now that was a fun story! Took me places I never expected to go, and really enjoyed exploring. This novel embraces the true heart of Adventure, and that is something that I didn't realise I'd been missing in everything else I've read lately. Emmeline Muchamore is a spunky young lady with a more compassionate heart (and a very unusual one) than she seems to know she has. Like her physical heart, her metaphorical one seems to take unexpected turns throughout her journey, and that is a delightful thing to follow.
Heart of brass is a book that hits you on a few different angles. As an Australian, there's the angle of the country's history, related in such a way as to make it exciting again after years and years of boring history classes. As a writer, there's the portrayal of characters each as developed and robust as each other, working together. And as a reader, there's a great story that, while starting off slow, brings you in with a fun excitement that had me fail to notice I'd just spent 2 1/2 hours and six cups of tea reading it on the final stint – once the characters hit Ballarat, it felt more like fifteen minutes. Emmeline, while originally a truly annoying character that finds trouble without even intending on it, is someone I can see myself now following through two more books. I'm happy to see her go on, and hopefully use her skills to benefit her journey, rather than hiding them. For a steampunk story, there is relatively little steampunk in the pages, for which I am moderately grateful, but I do believe that the use of gears ad wheels should have found itself better off in the final battle. And the ending? What the…? That caught me off guard. Aside from the scene of naked bathing in the river, and the incredibly uptight modesty of Victorian England, there is little to build the apparent attraction between the characters – though I suppose that the magic of lead poisoning probably goes some way to explaining the kick in the pants that the infatuation received. Overall, one of the more enjoyable Australian- set books I've read in a long time. It's given me a hankering to go looking in to the history of the Eureka Stockade, which I've never wanted to do before, owing to cultural over-saturation. If it can manage to send me researching, it's definitely something you can get into.
I have a rather hit-or-miss relationship with steampunk, which I think is my main reason for not engaging with this book very much. It did pick up for me in the last quarter, but up until then, I unfortunately didn’t really feel connected to the story.
When Miss Emmeline Muchamore’s brass heart malfunctions and she is forced to steal the materials she requires to survive, she refuses to reveal her secret and destroy her family’s respectability. As a result, she is transported to van Dieman’s land, subsequently escapes and makes for the Victorian gold fields. But there is unrest amongst the miners. Can Emmeline find the gold to send back to her family and restore their fortune, or will she and her newfound friends be caught?
I think one of my main problems was that I never really warmed up to Emmeline. She was a bit too snobby, and kept talking about how she was the only civilised one around and would have to teach her companions how to behave. It felt out of place given they were on the run and she had already stolen from several people. Her companions, Lizzie (for a whille), then later Matilda and Patrick, were more relatable to me. A conflict with a fellow convict, Dunne, was also well-written.
I did enjoy the idea of different metals having different magical properties, though I felt that not a huge amount was done with this idea. Every now and then I would forget exactly what magical properties a particular metal had because it didn’t really come up all that much. Still, the hot air balloon partially levitated by sheets of aluminium was good fun.
I also enjoyed the way the historical events of the Eureka Rebellion were incorporated into the story. I did go away and read the Wikipedia entry on what really happened, and then it was fun to see how Felicity Bank’s version compared. I felt that this was where the story picked up; there was a really engaging climax with lots of action, and a lot of bad things happening that the characters had to deal with.
As I said, a lot of my lack of enjoyment probably came from the fact that I can’t always get into steampunkish stories. I would recommend this if you are a fan, as you may well enjoy it more than I did.
(This review was written for the 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.)
This is another steampunk series that I had heard good things about and was interested in reading. This was a decent read. I liked the world and the characters were okay. I felt like the writing was a bit stiff and didn’t flow all that well, this kept me from fully enjoying the story.
Emmeline is trying to marry well to provide for her family but her enormous secret causes issues (she has a mechanical heart and torso). Because of issues surrounding her mechanicalness, she is accused of theft and sent to Australia. There she must escape slavery and try to make a living on her own.
I liked the characters pretty well and enjoyed the Victorian Australian setting. The dialogue and writing style felt stiff to me and didn’t flow well. I had a lot of issues with the storyline.
For example, why did Emmeline need a mechanical heart? It comes off like she chose to be an experiment but I wasn’t ever completely clear on this. Also it seems a bit harsh to send a young well-off woman to Australia as a slave for grabbing a necklace. Then when Emmeline gets to Australia she hardly spends any time there at all before she finds someone to help her escape her slavery. The whole story seemed very contrived and I had trouble engaging in it and finding it believable.
I also would have liked better explanation of Emmeline’s affinity for metals. I think it was just Emmeline that had this affinity. However, it seemed like other characters interacted with metal properties as well. This was a bit confusing and never that well explained. It was a cool part of this world and I wish it had been gone into and explained in more detail.
Overall this was a decent steampunk novel. I liked the Australian setting, the characters, and the idea of metal bestowing powers/abilities on people. I thought the story could have used a lot of work, it was so contrived. I also thought the writing could have flowed better. I don’t plan on continuing the series and hesitate to recommend this one. It was kind of good but needed more polish.
Banks promised an adventure with this novel, and that was most certainly delivered.
Heart of Brass is a lighthearted read that is enjoyable from beginning to end. The prose is light, easy to follow, and at time both comical and endearing.
The magic of metals is highly intriguing and a fantastic concept that is seamlessly integrated into the world.
I most enjoyed the dynamic between "civilised" Emmeline, "would-be Knight in shining armour" Patrick, and (my favourite) bold and "plays by her own rules" Matilda.
I wouldn't say this is a book that utterly gripped me, but it most certainly held my attention all the way through. I would characterise this as a lighthearted, weekend read. However, I read the e-book, and am seriously considering buying the series in paperback, which says more about my esteem for the novel than this review could.
If you enjoy subversion of Victorian era norms, creative Steam Punk engineering, whimsical fun, a bit of Convict Australia history, women who aren't afraid to get what they want, and tin horses (yes, tin horses), then you will love this book.
I don't read steam-punk very often, so I wasn't sure how I would like this story. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the magic system in this tale, as well as the strong backbone of Emmeline. I loved how she stayed true to herself despite the chaos around her. I found it refreshing to read a story set so close to my own home and felt that the setting was particularly well described, especially for international readers. After some confusion at the start (most probably because I am unfamiliar with the genre) I found myself unable to put the book down and settled in for the ride. I'm glad I chose this book as my initiation into steam punk.
This was the first time I read a steampunk book and I absolutely loved it. I enjoyed relating to the Australian culture and the ending - the ending I'm still getting my head around. So much yes! Won't lie - it took me a bit to get into but I think that was mostly due to my rookieness to the steampunk genre.
It was a fun steampunk adventure set in gold rush Victoria. Emmeline is the protagonist with a mechanical heart, an unfortunately time malfunction has let her to being transported to Australia. Through her adventures, her narrow upper class British worldview changes as she interacts with the miners and the oppressive British troopers.
The action never stops in this breathless adventure. The characters -- satisfyingly complex and ambiguous -- face genuine problems based on actual Australian history, but placed within a context of an intriguing magic system in a steampunk world.
Emmeline is high born and has been raised in accordance with the expectations of her class. She is, however, quite different to most women in that she has a brass heart which was installed by her father. An operation for which he was executed and which cost the entire family fortune to bribe the law to keep secret. In order to save the good name of her family, Emmeline must marry a rich man. During tea with her preferred suitor and his mother, her heart malfunctions and Emmeline is forced to steal a silver necklace to repair it with. It is a crime for which she is transported to Australia (the colony) for. Shortly after arriving, Emmeline flees to the gold fields with a few people of questionable reputation and unwittingly get tangled up in the Eureka Stockade.
Despite there being a few implausible things, which I totally pass off as being a feature of the steam punk genre, I thoroughly enjoyed Heart of Brass. The book contains no course language, sex scenes or excess violence. It does have a sprinkling of romance, but it is subtle and well woven in, along with a hint of magic. The book rumbles along and, despite not being a book I would normally read, I found it difficult to put down. The only thing I was a little surprised at was the ending. Until the Eureka Stockade scenes, I did not realise it was an alternative history. I thought it ended a little bit abruptly, but in fairness I did not read the alternative endings as it would have been difficult to do so with an ebook. I will certainly look out for the sequel or additional work by this author. I would recommend the story to people of all genders and ages.
Heart of Brass is a fabulously madcap adventure set in an alternative Gold Rush Victoria where metal has slightly magical properties.
We start off in England where Emmeline Muchamore's family has fallen on hard times after her father's death and is trying to marry her off to make keep a roof over their head and a good reputation to their name.
The only problem? They need to try to hide the fact the Emmeline's father replaced her dodgy heart with a brass, steam-powered one when she was a child.
The problem with a steam-powered heart is that, like any machine, bits break down. When Emmeline tries to steal new parts for herself she ends up arrested and transported to Australia.
This is a convict / Gold rush historical fiction novel with a fantastically fun difference. There's the escape attempts, the rascally rogues and the brushes with death.
But there's also a pesky heart which overheats and releases steam whenever Emmeline gets mad - burning its owner and alarming those around her. And then there's the ongoing problem with finding clean water to continually fill the chamber - often not an easy task in central Victoria.
Oh, and certain metals can make things float - like hot air balloons - while others can make things come to life, just a little bit.
I loved the way author Felicity Banks portrayed how Emmeline dealt with society's discrimination against her disability. What was seen, in high society, as a monstrous defect, was viewed with fascination and wonder in the Australian frontier towns.
In the end it was unclear what high society feared more - a women with a brass heart or a woman who was as brilliant a scientist as her father.
A highly imaginative and very enjoyable read.
I bought this book from the author directly and the inscription she wrote along with her signature still makes me chuckle: "To Rebecca ~ May your heart never malfunction."
This was such a fun read! Heart of Brass, by Australian author Felicity Banks, is a compulsively readable steampunk-infused fantasy. Upperclass Emmeline Muchamore is a keen inventor with a talent for metalwork, who possesses a remarkable brass heart. When she is transported to colonial Australia for a minor offence, Emmeline ends up traversing the Victorian countryside with other outlaws, torn between the strictures of her high class background and the freedom she tastes in Australia.
I grew attached to Heart of Brass very quickly, partly due to its sheer inventiveness, but also because of Banks’ pitch-perfect prose: from Emmeline’s often-humorous, slightly snobbish English voice, to the parps and bings of her magical metallic inventions. Heart of Brass sated my forgotten thirst for a well-told adventure story. This short review appears on my website, where the author also explains the steampunk world her characters inhabit. http://elizabethfoster.com.au/steampu...
This book was received from the Publisher, for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
This is the first steampunk book that I have read that mostly takes place in Australia. It was interesting I can not say how much was fantasy and how much was based on fact when it comes to Australia during this time. I really need to look it up.
This was an very easy to read book especially for being the first book in a series. There were some places that seemed to drag along but as a whole, it was an enjoyable read. I really liked how metals have magical properties. And I found it interesting how Emmeline is able to talk to metals, this is not explored very much in this first book but I hope we learn more in the other books in this series.
As a whole I enjoyed the story it was different I just found myself contiguously frustrated with Emmeline, which made the book to easy to put down and walk away from.