Her father's been pronounced dead. Destructive earthquakes ravage the countryside. An invading army looms over the horizon. And Zaira's day is just getting started...
Abandoned at an early age, Zaira von Monocle found life as the daughter of a great adventurer to be filled with hard work and difficulty. She quickly learned to rely on only herself. But when a messenger brought news that her father was dead and that she was the heir to his airship, her world turned upside down.
Zaira soon finds herself trapped in the midst of a war between her home country of Rislandia and the cruel Wyranth Empire, whose soldiers are acting peculiarly—almost inhuman. With the enemy army advancing, her newfound ship’s crew may be the only ones who can save the kingdom.
Jon Del Arroz began his writing career in high school, providing book reviews and the occasional article for the local news magazine, The Valley Citizen. From there, he went on to write a weekly web comic, Flying Sparks, which has been hailed by Comic Book Resources as “the kind of stuff that made me fall in love with early Marvel comics.” He has several published short stories, most recently providing flash fiction for AEG’s weird west card game, Doomtown: Reloaded, and a micro-setting for the Tiny Frontiers RPG. Writing and reading Space Opera is his life!
Star Realms: Rescue Run is his debut novel. You can find him during baseball season with his family at about half of the Oakland A’s home games in section 124.
For Steam and Country is a young adult, steampunk adventure penned by Jon Del Arroz. It is a light, fast-paced, and action-packed adventure which delivers hours of fun!
Sixteen-year-old Zaira von Monocle is a country girl who has been living alone, tending her family farm ever since her mother died and her father disappeared over two years ago. While she struggles with all her responsibilities, Zaira gives it her best, holding things together as best she can with the help of her neighbor James and his parents. But things are about to change!
A pair of strangers appear at Zaira’s farm driving a new-fangled steamcar. Both of these individuals having known her father well, informing Zaira that Theo von Monocle was something of a war hero in Rislandia, having undertaken many secret missions for the crown against the Iron Empire, and that after two years he has finally been declared legally dead after disappearing on one of said missions. The two of them having traveled to inform her of this fact and that she is the sole beneficiary of Theo’s will, having inherited the farm as well as her father’s most prized possession: an airship!
Zaira is now faced with a choice: stay and remain a farmer, or take on her father’s role as commander of The Liliana. The latter task much more than merely learning how to fly a zeppelin, but requiring our young hero to win over her father’s devoted crew and take on his role as a defender of Rislandia. The vile Iron Empire even now preparing for war on Zaira’s homeland; the king needing every airship he can get into the air to ward off the new threat – including the famous Liliana!
What should Zaira do? Her home might not be safe anymore with the war looming, but she has no idea how to command an airship. Plus, the burden of helping lead the Liliana into a war unnerves her. But if she doesn’t, how can she live with herself if Rislandia is destroyed?
What shines brightest in this novel is the realistic characters crafted by Jon Del Arroz. From the young, inexperienced Zaira to the tough, confident Captain von Cravat, this story is populated with people who are uniquely different from one another, have their own character quirks (Some of which are running jokes.), and organically grow and develop as the narrative unfolds. All of which means it is not your usual young adult story with a Mary Sue lead who does everything exceptionally well and whom everyone falls all over themselves to fall in love with. Nope, the author decided to make this a young adult tale set in reality, which I deeply appreciated.
I feel I also need to praise the author for his deft handling of action scenes. The guy knows how to write them, write them well, and make them interesting and important to the ongoing plot. No, he doesn’t describe every damn riposte like R.A. Salvatore, but in my book that is a good thing, since he gave me the silver screen excitement without a clinical lecture on fighting technique.
As for the world building, For Steam and Country is set in a solid, steampunk world. Not all of it is revealed, not every strange kingdom is highlighted, but there are glimpses of this place, its people, and its past inserted naturally into the ongoing tale. The steampunk machines and contraptions scattered throughout the narrative appearing in a very seamless manner with enough detail added to clearly describe them, but the author not falling into the trap of turning every item introduction into an excuse to fill pages with steampunk techno-babble. And there is even tons of foreshadowing about the amazing things not yet seen to whet ever readers appetite for more in the future.
The only real problem I had with the book is more attributed to my personal reading preferences (i.e. I generally do not like young adult) rather than anything wrong with the narrative. So while I did find this book to be a tightly scripted, fast-paced, and fun story, there were parts of it regarding our protagonists slow maturation and evolving relationships which I found difficult to stay interested in, not because Jon Del Arroz did a poor job crafting those elements but merely because I don’t find those sort of plots very compelling anymore.
Even with my anti-young adult tendencies, I have to say that For Steam and Country was an enjoyable read, introducing me to some interesting characters caught up in a thrilling adventure, while all around them a really cool steampunk world began to take shape. All in all, I’d definitely recommend it to those who enjoy young adult or fun, action-packed steampunk, and I can’t wait to see where Jon Del Arroz takes this series in the future, because it definitely has the potential to be a fine ongoing series, in my opinion.
I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank him for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.
This was my introduction to steampunk fiction. I've always been interested but never actually read anything in the genre, but this one just sounded too good not to try, and the fact that it's set in a fantasy world rather than the typical steampunk setting really hit home with a fantasy fanatic like myself.
Characters: Memorable and colorful characters throughout. The main antagonist remains behind-the-scenes for the most part, so a little more building his character would have been nice, but it's forgivable. The main protagonist, Zaira, is your typical fantasy farmbo…girl. She's strong and you know she'll aspire to greatness one day. It's a joy to follow her as she grows into her new role, along with her pet ferret. Her best friend, whom she'd like to be more, also shows a lot of growth throughout the story, though not as powerfully -- he pretty much ends up where he's wanted to be his whole life, but it's still fun to see and follow his journey. Giants. Yes, there are giants, but with a twist...that's all I'll say about that (it's very cool).
Setting: It's clear the author knows his world, even if it isn't clearly defined for the reader. And when I say that I don't mean it as a negative thing, (I never once found myself wondering where I was) it was actually refreshing to get a feel for the world without having pages of details. The team/party travels via airship, so it kinda acts as a setting in itself since you spend a lot of time on board. Aside from the airship there are some clear steampunk elements, but nothing that really takes over and yells steampunk in your face while you read -- I'd say it's mostly a fantasy story with steampunk elements, which is a good thing and is done really well.
Writing: An easy to follow style that keeps the pages flowing. Fun, creative, and has the ability to carry the reader along these characters' adventure with ease.
Story: The story is great, a really fun adventure through and through that's easy to get lost in. There's a couple fantasy tropes thrown in that are done well. There's action, character growth, some light romance, swords, guns, airships, steam, gears, myths-turned-twisted reality... If any of that piques your interest, grab this one now.
Highly recommended to fans of fantasy and/or steampunk, of all ages.
I love steampunk, its storytelling, its aesthetic. Having read authors like Cherie Priest, Jay Lake, and Jonathan Howard, I'd come to expect a level of intelligence and refinement to the prose that this novel lacked. Simple declarative sentences can be effective in the hands of an author who understands subtlety and subtext. Mr. Del Arroz is not that author. His plodding, uninspired storytelling moves from scene to scene, teeming with cliches and dull expressions. Even his protagonist's name - Zaira von MONOCLE - is depressingly predictable. I would recommended this for reluctant readers if the storytelling wasn't so pat.
Looking at all the positive reviews on Amazon and here on Goodreads, I have to conclude that this author has rallied his friend and colleagues to "pack the seats" as it were with five star reviews. But do not believe them.
This is the worst sort of fiction, uninspired and cliched. Hard pass on anything else by this writer.
This book is a solid adventure story, with some good humor and real personality.
Before I say anything else, in the interest of full disclosure, I am not a fan of Steampunk. I read this book solely because I enjoyed the author's other book, Rescue Run. This book is definitely Steampunk. I've had discussions with folks who are hardcore into that sort of thing and they seem to like this book. It doesn't go into extreme detail on the inner workings of every device, which would have really turned me off, but it definitely has a very considerable Steampunk feel to it. So, all of that said, I am not the target audience for this book.
As with his first book, the action is solid and frequent. Del Arroz knows how to write an action scene, and he knows how often to sprinkle them in. They don't get too out of hand or bog down the story. It's just right.
His descriptions are solid. Characters are described thoroughly, clothing is detailed without going overboard, and at no point did I feel like they were acting against a blank canvas. He gives just enough to let you see a solid mental picture without overwhelming the reader with sensory data.
Characters are differentiated from each other, with drastically different personalities. Some of these personality quirks become running jokes, without getting stale. It would be nice to see him throw in some different manners of speaking, dialects and whatnot, but that's just nitpicking.
The ending of the book is satisfying and does not rush to a conclusion. It also doesn't fall into the trap of leaving us with chapters and chapters of material with zero tension left after the final battle. Tension is maintained right up to the last couple of pages.
The book has two drawbacks as far as I'm concerned. One is that it starts fairly slowly. If this were a movie, the first third has a very slow build. There are still a few action scenes sprinkled in, but the first act goes on quite a bit. This very well may be because I am not the target audience of this book, I don't enjoy Steampunk and seeing new devices and Steampunk cities and clothing and whatnot. Regardless, the first act left me feeling like I was just trudging through to get to the good stuff. The second act was much better, and the third was great. Once this author gets into his groove and things start moving along, it's a wild ride and I don't want to put the book down. Just reaching it can be a little slow, with very low tension.
The second issue is that this book has more typos than I have ever seen in any book. Spaces or periods will be randomly underlined, important words misspelled, paragraphs not broken up. I wonder if this author used an editor or not. If he did, I hope he can get his money back. It almost became a game to see how long until the next one popped up. This was not at all an issue in his first novel, so I wonder what happened, and I hope it's not a sign of how things will be. It doesn't stop the reading, you can tell what each word is supposed to be, but it definitely stuck out. I hope he employs a better editor in the future.
All in all, I definitely enjoyed this book. It was fun, lighthearted, action packed, and solidly amusing. It was worth the price, and I'll be giving it as a gift to my nephew who happens to love Steampunk. I look forward to Del Arroz's next book.
The era between the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and World War I seems to make a good time frame for young adult steampunk sci-fi, as there are still enough old-fashioned social morés to keep the sexual content relatively chaste but things have begun to progress enough that plucky female heroines can rise to the occasion and demonstrate heroism through their courage and intelligence. So Jon Del Arroz begins his stories of Zaira von Monocle in such a time, as her native Rislandia faces off against the evil Wyranth Empire in 2017's For Steam and Country.
Zaira's mother died years ago, and when her father disappeared more recently she was left alone to run the family farm, with help from her neighbors. But a lawyer has found her and shown her what her father left her as a legacy: his airship. Although Baron von Monocle served the King of Rislandia, he was the sole owner of the ship and Zaira may now do as she pleases with it. When she journeys to the capital to discuss the matter with the king, she learns that her father was quite a bit more than he seemed, and that the conflict between her country and Wyranth has dimensions and dangers she knew nothing about.
Del Arroz doesn't make Zaira an impossibly competent Mary Sue; showing her as being very much a 16-year-old doing her best in a situation well outside her comfort zone. She makes mistakes, she lets people down, she puts herself and others in danger and then she learns from her errors. It's a nice character arc.
But it's only outlined rather than fully painted, and the majority of the other characters in the book are much less well-developed. Like most YA novels, the emphasis is on keeping reader interest while moving from beginning to end rather than on dawdling over character or plot points. The aeronautics are more assumed than explained and sometimes they or the geography involved get confusing. In spite of that, though, younger readers could find a lot worse examples than the brave, honest and compassionate Zaira von Monocle who insists on equal treatment and proves herself well worthy of the same.
So let's start off by saying that I love steampunk and I do not see enough of it in YA. So that made me so happy when I heard about this novel. I was on board and ready for it. I was not let down, I love the story and the characters. I love the world.
I love how even though Zaira was pushed to the limit and dealt a horrible hand, she kept moving on. She didn't once give up. She pushed through and I enjoyed her character growth. I also loved how much I laughed during this book, it was fun. A fun adventure and I can't wait to read the next one! It's going to be great!
Steampunk, for those unfamiliar with the genre, is that it substitutes super-science Victorian technology for magic (though they sometimes exist side by side). Zeppelins, machine guns, time-machines, submarines, and Tesla guns are all things which exist in worlds going through their own version of the Industrial Revolution. It's a genre without a magnum opus but many books with elements of it if only a few completely qualifying.
FOR STEAM AND COUNTRY is one of the rare "pure" steampunk books and it works well as a gem that goes whole-hog into the genre. Tone-wise, this is an incredibly light hearted and fun book more akin to a coal-powered Star Wars than even period fiction.
Is it good or bad, though? It's very good.
It's a great little novel which is my favorite by Jon Del Arroz. The book has the premise of Zaira von Monocle being the poor farmer's daughter who discovers her father was more than the simple man she thought he was. Indeed, he was the nation of Rislandia's greatest warrior and has left her his airship in his will. Inheriting the incredible weapons platform, she has the potential to make her own legend. It's a classic heroic tale with the benefit of taking place in a steampunk setting that reminds me a bit of the anime Steamboy or Nadia: The Secret of the Blue Water.
Zaira is an incredibly likable protagonist and her earnestness as well as awe at all the technology around her is infectious. It's nice to have characters who are not jaded at the world and can share their sense of the fantastic with the reader. It's a bit on the safe side and you might even say it's something which could classified as Young Adult but just because a work is clean doesn't mean it's chidlish.
Jon doesn't reinvent the wheel here but this is a very good "gateway" book if you want to introduce someone to the entire phenomenon of steampunk. It's about the technology, the adventure, and the conflict between good versus evil. If I have any complaints, it's the fact he could have gone a little more serious with the names (Von Cravat? What's next? Duchess Petticoat and Sheriff Boots?). It's a extraordinarily fun book, though.
I just finished reading an absolutely fun, action-filled steampunk novel. FOR STEAM AND COUNTRY was written by Jon Del Arroz. It is the kind of novel that, when you sit down to start reading --time gets away from you. As a reader I was sucked right into the story for two very key, and important readers. First, Arroz has created some of the most memorable, and likeable characters I have seen in some time. You will absolutely fall in love with the lead, Zaira von Monocle. She is a farmer, who is forced to become a soldier. Her strength and her intensity never change. They were always there. But her character certainly grows as she goes from running the family farm on her own, to fighting to save the country of Rislandia (and its people). Second, the story is creative as all-get-out. Could be because I don't normally read a lot of steampunk that I found this novel unique, and engrossing, and compelling. (But I will find out, as I may now be hooked on the genre)!
In FOR STEAM AND COUNTRY, as I said, Zaira runs a family farm. Her mother has passed away, and her father has been absent from the scene for years. When Zaire receives visitors, she learns from her father's attorney that, in fact, her father has finally been declared deceased. In his will, he left Zaira not only the deed to the farm, but something else. Something much, much more valuable.
The Liliana wasn't just Zaira's mother's name. It was also the name Theo von Monocle gave to his airship. (I pictured a zeppelin, but also an actual pirate ship that flies when reading, and finally settled on a combination of both). As the heir, Zaire is now the commander of the ship, despite being just a teenager. The crew, who loved her father, accept Zaire, but respect, loyalty, and trust are not given. They are earned.
The Wyranth are from the Iron Empire, an evil realm bent on war with Rislandia. Zaira's airship demands fear --normally. Enemies rarely know how to fight against such a monstrous contraption. However, things change when the Wyranth no longer fear the vessel, and war between the lands looks unavoidable.
Worse, or potentially better, Zaira and the crew of the Liliana receive word. The enemy may have prisoners in stashed inside the dungeons of the Iron Empire. In keeping with her father's tradition of never leaving a soul behind, the Liliana is faced with two missions. One sanctioned, one rogue. Fighting alongside King Malaky, of Rislandia --that is a given. Rescuing the prisoners . . . well, doing so goes without saying. Literally!
But can the Liliana, with such a young leader, accomplish such impossible tasks? The fate of an entire country rest on Zaira's shoulders. The burden is there, heavy, palpable. Can a teenage girl take on such impossible missions and rise to the occasion, or is Rislandia destined to be doomed, and overtaken by the Wyranth of the evil leader of Iron Empire?
Find out. Read the book. You will not be disappointed.
Phillip Tomasso, Author of the Severed Empire Series, and the Vaccination trilogy
Speaking as a conservative to whom I would expect Del Arroz means to appeal, this is one of the worst books I have read.
The heroine is utterly incompetent, and it's supposed to be one of those non-Mary Sues, but instead wholly fails to understand that concept, or the concepts of Capitalism, or Monarchy, or anything.
Everything about this novel is irritating. The idea I think is that Mary Sues are bad, therefore we should have the opposite of a Mary Sue, which is (in the theory of this novel) a girl who is universally incompetent, but succeeds. That's what happens.
Read it if you want to watch an annoying girl fail her way to a meaningless victory.
Steam punk is cool. It looks awesome, it opens the gate for cool ideas and stylistic choices. For some reason, though, it seems a bunch of steam punk books are kind of meh. Which... yeah, it happens here.
Zaira is the only daughter of a legendary baron/airship captain and just basically a freaking awesome guy everyone loved. He went MIA 2 years ago, after Zaira's mother also died, so she is alone running the family farm the way she can. The neighbour family is there for her though, with their handsome son. It's all going kind of crappy up until people show up and tell Zaira that now his father is officially considered dead, so she inherited his airship.
You know, I am personally not huuuuge about teenage girl protagonists. To be fair I also didn't really love being a teenage girl too much when I was one, so yeah. Zaira wasn't that bad, I have seen much worse. Still, the characters were the big weakness of this thing. Somehow they all seemed to just do things and say things without it being... real? They claim to all love Zaira after 2 days of her not doing too impressive things. They also point out their feelings without me buying any of it, because the depth just wasn't there. The whole "my dad is a legend, but I only know him as weird dad" thing is awesome. I love that, I love relationships like that. I also prefer friendships or family relationships compared to romantic love. Sue me. Still, the characterisation of this thing wasn't good. The people just weren't relatable and the emotions didn't cut it. Which comes from another reason as well; the story happens so fast. Sure, people can bond over harh conditions and shocking experiences, but here I didn't buy the thing with being so so close after spending together like 3 days in total.
The action itself was fun, though. As I said, the idea of this girl not really knowing how her father was seen was also fun. I just wanted it to build up more. To spend some time on it all being connected, not just events and concepts that we have to believe progress in a certain way because the characters tell us so. Honestly, the style needs a bit of work.
It was fun, though, it has a lot of potential with some technical development and work. So there is that. I will give the author more time, I am not against reading more from him. Al in all a fine book. Not brilliant, not the worst. Oh, well.
This was a ‘Kindle Unlimited’ gamble that didn’t pay off. I’m afraid I was pulled in by the cover, unfortunately Zaira von Monocle didn’t live up to the tough competent heroine portrayed on the cover. After giving up on the book I discovered several reviews claiming it was a YA story, in fact in many ways it was more a children’s book. One of the other things I didn’t like, was the way the author puts excerpts from Baron von Monocle’s log at the start of each chapter. I just find this an annoying way of telling a second story.
As a steampunk fan, I'm loving the recent renaissance of fresh settings and ideas coming from steampunk authors. Despite this being John Del Arroz's first foray into the genre, For Steam and Country is no exception. An action-packed adventure in the spirit of John Scalzi and J.K. Rowling, this is a real page-turner. The plot moves briskly and the characters pop on every page. This is a lot of fun, for a YA or adult reader, and I can't wait to read the next adventure of Zaira von Monocle!
Jon Del Arroz’s steampunk YA novel, For Steam and Country, shows a lot of promise, but unfortunately it too often typifies what I like least about both steampunk and YA.
Sixteen-year-old Zaira von Monocle has lived alone on her family farm since her mother died and her father disappeared. All that changes when her father’s attorney—and a confidant of the king—Mr. du Gearsmith arrives to inform her that, after two years, her father has been declared officially dead. Meaning Zaira inherits his airship. From there begins an adventure culminating in a daring mission deep into the hostile Wyranth Empire.
While I love flintlock fantasy and mannerpunk, I am less enthusiastic about true steampunk, and I rarely read YA. The biggest problem with For Steam and Country is that there is much too much of what I don’t like about those. We have this awesome, giant airship. Good! Tell me about it! But little is said.
On the YA side, Zaira is immature and incompetent. Sure, she’s only sixteen…but she’s been living on her own, managing a farm for two years. She has no reason to know anything about an airship. And to see an incompetent, or at least ignorant, protagonist become competent can be an extremely fulfilling character arc. But they better start getting competent quick. Incompetence is realistic and, like real-life, boring. I’ll take a Mary Sue over an anti-Mary Sue any day (Zaira’s neighbor James, on the other hand, is a Mary Sue to a T). Zaira does show flashes of ability. These are two of the best scenes in the book.
The characters also talk in a very modern fashion, something common to both steampunk and YA. It’s not to my taste, but less grating in an early modern setting. But while the writing in general is stilted, the dialogue in particular could have used a lot of work.
For all my complaints, For Steam and Country is an enjoyable read and shows promise. With the exception of James, the characters are interesting and likeable and “real.” For all of the uneven dialogue and short time together, there is a real depth to the relationships between the characters. A particular highlight is Captain von Cravat, and her relationship with Zaira. There is also some interesting worldbuilding, particularly in regard to mysterious goings around in the Wyranth Empire. I would have like to have seen more done with it in this book, but there is a lot to explore as the series progresses.
That cover, by the way? Awesome. More self-published and small press authors need to invest in artwork of that quality.
Disclosure: Jon sent me a review copy of For Steam and Country.
I've never been much of a steampunk fan, but I decided to give this book a gander after enjoying other works by Jon. I must say I'm glad I did. A very enjoyable and easy read. I would definitely recommend that you read this book.
I bailed at About two-thirds of the way through. The cover art was classic steam punk heroine. After that the novel goes sideways. A major character named Von Monocle gives a glimpse into the silliness to come.
The airship is A big steam punk piece of tech and the book revolves around it. By the time that I gave up, I still had no idea what the tech was. Is it flying with dirigible type bags or is it a fixed wing craft powered by steam engines, who knows. There is a steam powered automobile and steam powered cannons? The roads have not been improved to support either and the cannon wagons are cross country capable?
The tech is something sketched in and while tech manuals aren't required for a novel, some logic is. Modern tanks are rated by the suspensions among other things. Cannon for tanks are specifically designed. Tires or treads, neither is mentioned in the book.
The kingdom is "Good guys" and the empire is "Bad guys". There are other entities but they aren't identified. The army of the enemy can cross the kingdom's border in numbers and the king is deciding if they are at war? The distances are not specified but seem to make the kingdom about the size of A U.S. county? The economics are simplistic fairy tale statements of market days. The king let's a sixteen or seventeen year old command the kingdom's only airship? A council of war includes A sixteen or seventeen year old girl, who hasn't been briefed on the current situation. What is she doing there, anyway. Is this girl power in action?
The main character is impulse unchecked with a dash of the ridiculous. The king and his daughter are taken directly from "Shrek". Teens recover from the loss of both parents in one day and are ready to train as a Disney knight the next? This is a book for teens or preteens? Please don't claim this was written for adults.
This isn't steam punk. This is a story with no coherent background universe or non-Disney characters. Children leading soldiers and airships having awesome unspecified capabilities with ten soldiers able to storm A fortress is worthy of a bedtime story for young children. If this were written for young children, do you need discussions of the father sleeping with his second in command, not informing his wife that he's a baron?, abandoning his dying wife and young daughter, leaving his daughter alone to grieve and run a farm with no financial support.
No background, no characters, no story, no effort made and Von Monocle, really!l
With a heroine as a main character, I fully approached this book expecting it to be another Mary Sue story. In fact, the initial part of the book setups itself as a Mary Sure story. Still, I couldn't have been more wrong. The characters develop themselves rationally and barring one or two plot twists that are too obvious to be called 'twists' the story flows swiftly and naturally with a barely a hiccup. And then the book ends and you are left amazed and wanting more. I fully recommend it for those wanting to approach the genre as it is a light reading without too many complex technical terms being thrown around to fake technology.
I think this book would make a great animated movie. The narrator sounds a little flat and takes a little getting used to, but don’t let that discourage you.
When you get to the escape, I suggest bumping up the speed to 1.25. The story loses a little ‘steam’ with reunions and conversations that I feel would’ve been postponed until a safer time. The increased speed should help you hold onto a sense of urgency.
The good out weighs the bad, so read For Steam and Country!
Do yourself a huge favor and BUY THIS BOOK NOW!😍 Do spend your money 💰 on this book ,this author is is amazing!😍 I DO HAVE A GREAT 👍 AMOUNT OF PRAISE FOR THIS STORY! 😍BUY THIS BOOK! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND RECOMMEND THIS BOOK! 😍😍
This was a fantastically fun read! Arroz starts with a bang (literally), and the pace only ramps up from there- from earthquake, to lawyers, to flying and crashing airships, to foreign invasion-- and that's only the beginning. Our Heroine, Zaira, is an engaging, delightful young lady, a character I really appreciated for even more for her mistakes than for the things she gets right. Her adventures and misadventures with the airship Lilliana and her crew make for a delightful romp through a world of steam power, gas lights, weird monsters, and surprisingly useful ferrets (do not forget the ferret!)
Arroz took me by surprise a couple of times with his characters and storyline-- a few places where cliche had me expecting one thing, Arroz delivered something unexpected and wonderful, like a Wise King who actually is wise and respects the property rights of his subjects (!), or a villainous who may not be behind everything after all. Well, I don't want to give away too much. If you want a great story and a fun read, this is exactly what you've been looking for!
Zaira von Monocle (just go with it, it sounds like a parody surname but it’s serious) has grown up in the shadow of her father, the famous Baron von Monocle, hero of the kingdom of Rislandia, whose adventures on the airship Liliana are already the stuff of legend.
When the baron is missing in action and presumed dead, young Zaira finds herself heir to the legendary airship and an elite but wearied and discouraged crew. It’s a responsibility she is nowhere close to qualified for, but with the armies of the invading Wyrath empire on her doorstep and news of a desperate mission that must be undertaken, she must grow into her father’s mantle quickly.
The strongest element by far in Del Arroz’s book is the main character. Zaira’s missteps are believable and make her triumphs all the more satisfying. She is far from a Mary Sue: although she plays a pivotal role in the story, it’s the teamwork of all the cast that made victory possible.
But the end leaves you wanting more, particularly considering the revelations and questions raised. While it’s got a good ratio of steampunk contraptions to eldritch abominations, I request more of both for the sequel.
I still can't decide if I liked this book. It's a good enough story, and the characters are interesting enough, and there's even enough action to make me happy, but there's something that makes me question if I really liked it or not.
Part of the problem I think is every problem that arises for our protagonist, a 16 year old girl named Zaira von Monocle, ends up solved easily.
Airship crew overwhelmed and captured? No problem, we'll just blow their airship to bits and capture them instead.
Captured and thrown in a dungeon? No problem, we'll just have two Knights sneak in in disguise and free everyone.
Underground Giant causing earthquakes and providing a liquid that makes soldiers tougher and nastier? No problem, we'll just use the large bomb we placed on board the airship, as a back-up plan for if it ever got captured, to blow the Giant up.
Enemy alerted to your plans and have set a trap? No problem, we'll just give the heroine psychic powers to read the Giant's mind and pre-warn her allies, so they can avoid them by digging into a tunnel that conveniently leads straight to the Giant so they can place the bomb.
I'm uncertain if this book was supposed to be a YA book, but it's probably less adult fiction and more youth adventure than my normal reads.
Although the attractive steam punk woman on the cover did not seem to represent any particular person in the book, it is such a good cover I must say it got my attention. I have really enjoyed the steam punk genre and this Book does a great job of portraying tradition the characters are entirely entertaining. I highly recommend this book for a good read.