I want to share with you my love of the paranormal genre called Steam Punk. It’s been a personal favorite of mine, and I have recently read a few book series that fit into this niche.
Because I am going to review the book series instead of individual books, I decided to break this post into two parts.
First, let’s define what I mean by “steam punk”.
The Urban dictionary defines it as:
Steam punk is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan “What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.” It includes fiction with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes.
Medieval Steam punk: Speculative fiction set during the Middle Ages.
Victorian Steam punk: A modern Science Fiction work (post-1930s) that is set in the early parts of the industrial revolution.
Western Steam punk: Science fiction set in the American Old West.
Industrial/Modern Steam punk: Science fiction taking place in the late industrial age, early modern age; i.e. World War 1, World War 2
I’ve been a fan of “steam punk” from childhood, when I watched Wild, Wild West on TV with my father. I also loved the movies Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang and Mary Poppins, and more recently Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes.
When I fell back into reading nonstop in 2009, I began searching for books that fit this genre. I even have a shelf on my Goodreads TBR lists dedicated to it. I will say that not every author can pull it off. The details involved with writing from the Victorian period, which is my personal favorite kind of “steam punk”, is not easy to do.
In this post, I want to talk about two book series that I really loved, because there is a great balance of “science”, paranormal, and romance in them.
The first one is The Chronicles of Light and Shadow by Liesel Schwarz. I read the first book at the end June, and second book recently while traveling.
Book One is A Conspiracy of Alchemists.
LEAVE IT TO CHANCE.
Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—a high-flying dirigible pilot with a taste for adventure and the heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, steam punk, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.
It is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural.
Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spell casting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret.
But when they come after Elle, they get more than they bargained for. This enterprising young woman, the daughter of a scientific genius, has reserves of bravery and determination that even she scarcely suspects. Now she is about to meet her match in more ways than one: a handsome yet infuriating Warlock named Hugh Marsh, whose agenda is as suspect as his charms are annoyingly irresistible.
For me, the “steam punk” aspect of story was the only thing that held my attention during the first half of this book. I feel like the character development and chemistry between the main characters was not strong enough, but the details of the airship and Eleanor Chance’s narrative are what kept me reading. I am not sure if anyone who doesn’t love steam punk would continue reading though.
Hugh Marsh or Viscount Greychester becomes more intriguing in the later half of the story. I really liked his back story. When we learn more about him and his connection to Elle’s past, I found myself wanting more scenes with him. There still wasn’t enough chemistry expressed between him and Elle, but by the end I was rooting for them.
It is difficult to not compare this story to other paranormal romances in the genre. While Elle has some originality in that she is capable of flying planes and has a strong understanding of some of the mechanisms described in extreme detail, she still fell flat to me.
The ending of the book isn’t a cliffhanger, but I was still intrigued enough to want to continue reading the series. I feel like Hugh has much more to share. I also want to read more about the couple’s emotional and physical attraction to each other, now that we get some of that by the end.
I don’t want my lackluster review of the first book to deter you from reading though, because the second book is outstandingly better.
Book Two is A Clockwork Heart.
FOR BETTER OR CURSE. That might as well have been the wedding vow of Elle Chance and her new husband, the ex-Warlock Hugh Marsh in the second book of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, historical adventure, and paranormal romance into storytelling magic.
As Elle devotes herself to her duties as the Oracle—who alone has the power to keep the dark designs of Shadow at bay—Marsh finds himself missing the excitement of his former life as a Warlock. So when Commissioner Willoughby of the London Metropolitan police seeks his help in solving a magical mystery, Marsh is only too happy to oblige. But in doing so, Marsh loses his heart . . . literally.
In place of the flesh-and-blood organ is a clockwork device—a device that makes Marsh a kind of zombie. Nor is he the only one. A plague of clockwork zombies is afflicting London, sowing panic and whispers of revolution. Now Elle must join forces with her husband’s old friend, the Nightwalker Loisa Beladodia, to track down Marsh’s heart and restore it to his chest before time runs out.
I loved this book so much more, because the author really starts to write about emotional connections and not just about the machinery and contraptions that seem to drive the storyline in the first book.
Elle and her husband Hugh are newlyweds that are struggling to find that balance between supporting each other and fitting into the expected roles of society at that time. Elle was a full time dirigible/airship pilot, who is now married to an ex-warlock. He worries about her constantly going out on her own. Believe me, my husband and I are still having the same conversations, so nothing has changed in almost over 100 years. LOL
Elle is so much more real in this book, and I love her relationship with Loisa. Together, along her father and the other servants in the household, they fight to save Marsh from certain death.
I must warn you though, this book has a serious cliffhanger, and I cried copious amounts of tears afterwards. There is a third book, Sky Pirates, coming out in June of next year. So I wait…
This next series is so very special to me, because I have been reading these books since August 2010, when the first book came out. In my mind, they are the perfect series to read if you want to delve into the “steam punk” genre.
Book summary of Clockwork Angel:
In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.
The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…
I don’t know if I can accurately put into words what it is exactly that makes me love these characters so much. They feel like real people to me, when I’m reading about them. I love this series so much more than The Mortal Instruments series that came out first. Ms. Clare’s writing style greatly approved in this for me.
So TID is based in the Victorian England, with an interesting connection to TMI by way on one character Magnus Bane. God, I adore him. He is a warlock with a wicked sense of humor.
“I was alive when the Dead Sea was just a lake that was feeling a little poorly.” Magnus Bane – City of Ashes
It’s the main characters Tessa, Will, and Jem, that are in quite a love triangle though, like nothing I’ve read before. Like most readers, Will was my favorite in the beginning. I mean, look at him on the cover of Clockwork Angel. He’s British, loyal to a fault, reads books with a vengeance and takes brooding to a new level.
By the second book, Clockwork Prince, Jem stole my heart, and I’ve yet to get it back from him. There is something about his unyielding devotion to Will, his stiff upper lip with regards to his failing health, and his musical ability that got to me. I am Team Jem all the way. Of the three books, this one is a wonderful example of character and relationship development, while the other two dive more into the “steam punk” aspect.
The last book completely blew me away. Clockwork Princess will most likely be at the top of my favorite book list of the year. After reading it, I just wanted to hold this book in my arms. The epilogue is brilliant. Seriously, Tessa is one lucky girl. I also want to say that I think we will see more of Tessa and Jem in the last book of TMI series, City of Heavenly Fire. Mark my words.
Here are some of my favorite lines from the series.
“One must always be careful of books, said Tessa, “and what is inside of them. For words have the power to change us.” – Clockwork Angel
“Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry.”– Clockwork Angel
“Ah,” said a voice from the doorway. “Having your annual ‘everyone thinks Will is a lunatic meeting’ are you?”
“It’s biannual,” said Jem, “and no this is not that meeting.” –Clockwork Prince
“You see, don’t you James? Without Tessa there is nothing for me–no joy, no light, no life. If you love me, you would let me have her. You can’t love her as I do. No one could. If you are truly my brother, you will do this for me.” Will Herondale. – Clockwork Prince
“I always loved you, Will, whatever you did. And now I need you to do for me what I cannot do for myself. For you to be my eyes when I do not have them. For you to be my hands when I cannot use my own. For you to be my heart when mine is gone from beating. Jem Carstairs – Clockwork Princess
“For this I would be damned forever. For this I would give up everything.” Will Herondale – Clockwork Princess
“I know how you are with your words, and Will- I love all of them. Every word you say. The silly ones, the mad ones, the beautiful ones, and the ones that are only for me. I love them, and I love you. Tessa Gray – Clockwork Princess
So I hope that I have at least peaked your interest in the “steam punk” genre. Next week I will post the second part with another series from Gail Carriger.