steampunk

Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red SkiesRed Seas Under Red Skies (Goodreads)
Author: flag_usa Scott Lynch (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Thief and con-man extraordinaire, Locke Lamora, and the ever lethal Jean Tannen have fled their home city and the wreckage of their lives. But they can’t run forever and when they stop they decide to head for the richest, and most difficult, target on the horizon. The city state of Tal Verarr. And the Sinspire.

The Sinspire is the ultimate gambling house. No-one has stolen so much as a single coin from it and lived. It’s the sort of challenge Locke simply can’t resist…

…but Locke’s perfect crime is going to have to wait.

Someone else in Tal Verarr wants the Gentleman Bastards’ expertise and is quite prepared to kill them to get it. Before long, Locke and Jean find themselves engaged in piracy. Fine work for thieves who don’t know one end of a galley from another.

Details

Series: Gentleman Bastards #2
Genre: Steampunkish Fantasy Adventure with Pirates!
Published: Gollancz, 2007
Pages: 630 (and tiny print in this edition)

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (ePub)

Please note: This is a review for the second book in the Gentleman Bastard series, and so contains spoilers for the first in the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora. You may wish to read my review for that book instead!


Review

Red Seas Under Red Skies had all the adventure, danger and excitement of The Lies of Locke Lamora, but with even more detail and intricate plot twisting. At times it felt more like a snarl of tangled wool than a coherent story, but if you’re familiar with the first book you’ll know that’s what the Gentleman Bastards are all about.

Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen have escaped from Camorr with their lives, their battle scars and little else. After a couple of years, the setup of a new major heist in the city of Tal Verrar seems to be going well until they run into some old friends from the Magi of Karthain. Suddenly, things start to unravel and Locke and Jean find themselves working against their wishes for several different masters – not only the master of their original target, the Sinspire, but also the Archon of Tel Verrar himself, not to mention the other random attempts on their lives.

In order to preserve his rule, the Archon sends Jean and Locke out to sea to stir up the pirates of the area – something that turns out to be much more easily said than done. Throughout this part of the story, Locke and Jean are tested to the limits of their friendship, their resourcefulness and their courage as they try to fulfil their obligations and keep themselves alive, while still pulling off their planned heist.

There are two things I think Scott Lynch is absolutely brilliant at. The first: convoluted storylines with intricate detail. In fact, sometimes the story got so complicated that I lost track of the characters and aliases involved and had to go back to pick up the threads again. There is also the overwhelming detail relating to ships and their anatomy and operation. If you don’t know your craplines from your binnacle then you might be a bit confused by the plethora of nautical terms used in this story, but for the most part it doesn’t hurt to have no clue what’s being discussed.

Secondly, Lynch is a master of insults. One of my pet peeves in books is the use of the phrase, “So and so cursed under his breath” or “uttered a few choice words” or similar. It is infinitely more satisfying to me as a reader when the character simply says, “Shit.” when something bad happens – I’m not sure why, and I understand why the swear words are omitted, but I like it better when they’re in. It’s why I don’t usually mention swearing in book warnings – if you’re old enough to read these books, you’re old enough to know what swear words are, in my opinion. Anyway, I digress.

In Red Seas Under Red Skies, there is no such holding back with swearing. Locke and Jean themselves have a colourful vocabulary – in fact their banter with each other is the absolute highlight of this book for me. The rest of the cast of characters are not shy with their insults either. I won’t repeat any examples here but rest assured there are plenty of occasions that had me laughing with delight.

Locke and Jean are just slightly too honourable to be believable thieves – they aren’t shy of picking random pockets but they are loyal to each other and their allies to a fault and won’t allow the vulnerable be hurt. Gentlemen, indeed! I love them.

The other characters are interestingly cast as well, from the Majordomo of the Sinspire, Selendri, who was tragically burned all over exactly one half of her body, to Captain Drakasha, a badass mum of two small children who charges into battle without fear. There’s plenty of intrigue, romance, betrayal and tragedy in the pages of this second volume, and even though the story threads are neatly tied up at the end, the story is by no means over for Locke and Jean. This book has been out for quite a while now, but the third in the series, The Republic of Thieves, is due out in a few weeks time and I am quite looking forward to seeing how Locke and Jean cope with the new trials in their lives.

Highly recommended to fans of fantasy adventure, pirate tales and casino heists, in no particular order. Just be prepared for slow points with elaborate detail.

Warnings: Graphic violence and torture, sexual situations

The Gentleman Bastards

  1. The Lies of Locke Lamora, 2006
  2. Red Seas Under Red Skies, 2007
  3. The Republic of Thieves, October 2013
  4. The Thorn of Emberlain
  5. The Ministry of Necessity
  6. The Mage and the Master Spy
  7. Inherit the Night

 

Review: Kinslayer, Jay Kristoff

KinslayerKinslayer (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Jay Kristoff (website)

Rating: ★★★★★

A SHATTERED EMPIRE
The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY
Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

A GATHERING STORM
Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past.

Details

Series: The Lotus War #2
Genre: Japanese-inspired Steampunk, Fantasy
Published: Tor/Pan Macmillan, September 1 2013 in Australia, (Tor – Sept 12 in the UK, Thomas Dunne – September 17 in the USA)
Pages: 618
My copy: the publisher for review

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Please note: This is a review for the second book in the Lotus War series, and so contains spoilers for the first in the series, Stormdancer. You may wish to read my review for that book instead!


Review

Stormdancer was one of my favourite books of 2012. I’m happy to report that Kinslayer not only lived up to the first epic story but completely surpassed it in awesome. Excuse me while I have a bit of a gushy moment! I’ll try to describe what I love about this book without actually talking about what happens – you need to read that for yourself.

It’s been a few months since Yukiko and Buruu killed Shogun Yoritomo, losing her father and kick-starting a massive rebellion in the process. The Stormdancer and her arashitora have been travelling around to various cities, stirring up unrest and generating sympathy for the Kagé rebels. Since the fateful killing, Yukiko has struggled with crippling headaches brought on by the sudden flood of power through the Kenning, her ability to sense and communicate with life around her.  At the Kagé base in the Iishi mountains, the erstwhile Guildsman Kin is struggling to fit in with the other rebels – they don’t trust him at all and the feeling is mutual. How can their common interest in bringing the Shima Empire and Guild down progress if they cannot work together?

Meanwhile, the Guild is plotting to put a new Shogun on the Imperial throne. Can they bring the four clans together when their loyalties lie on a katana edge?

How to describe my enjoyment of this book? Passion, hatred, heartbreak and determination combine to create a truly epic tale. I couldn’t get enough of it. Don’t get me wrong, this is in essence a very dark story – desperate people doing horrible things to each other to try to free their land from tyranny or bring it back under peaceful rule. I read it mostly through a crack in my fingers and missed my stop on the train while engrossed in it.

I was hooked right from the start – the action just keeps coming and the way the paths of each group are threaded together makes it almost impossible to put the book down. There’s an almost ASoIaF-style structure to it – there are several characters telling their story throughout the book and each chapter is devoted to one character. Occasionally I found myself wishing sections would hurry up because I enjoyed some of the story threads more than others, but mostly the action is passed between the threads so the tension stays high all the way through, dodging through all the unexpected twists in the story.

The overwhelming highlight of this story for me continues to be Buruu and Yukiko’s relationship. Their often-hilarious banter lightens up what is otherwise a pretty grim tale, especially since poor Yukiko spends the entire time in agony with crippling migraines and blood pouring out of her nose. Not the most glamorous way to save the world.

There are new characters to get to know and some that were in the background become integral parts of the action. Kin’s part in this story is quite unexpected – I have no idea what’s coming for him! Also, Michi – while the consummate rebel bad-ass, she’s pretty much a psychopath. She makes me shudder, and not in a good way!

Then there’s Jay Kristoff’s writing style. I love his lyrical descriptions and settings – the action in Kigen City makes me feel all gritty and dirty, and the scenes at sea or in the Iishi Mountains are almost a relief. Although the characters tend towards the melodramatic at times, they have realistic reactions and my heart broke or rejoiced right along with them. I may have said this in my Stormdancer review, but Kristoff is not afraid to torture his darlings. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted!

I’d recommend this series to those who enjoy gritty, raw and completely brilliant fantasy. The fact that this is described as Japanese-style Steampunk is just an added bonus, right? I cannot wait for the final instalment – in fact it is likely to be my most anticipated release of 2014. Bring it on!

 

The Lotus War

Stormdancer Kinslayer  Book 3 tbr: 2014

 

What did others think of Kinslayer?

  • “It is a brilliantly written, emotionally-packed book. But I must warn you, it’s going to break your heart. ” – Kat @ Cuddlebuggery
  • “Kinslayer is the second book in the Lotus War trilogy and Jay Kristoff Empire-Strikes-Backed the hell out of it.” – Dan Schwent @ Goodreads
  • “With his signature prose, elegant and descriptive, and an extended cast of characters to follow and learn about, to love and to hate, as well as the beginnings of an all-out war, Kristoff has here a sequel that you’ll wish you had read it slower, breathed in every word and every moment that lingered on every page.” – Braiden @ Book Probe

 

Review and Giveaway: Stormdancer, Jay Kristoff

Title: Stormdancer (Goodreads)

Author:  Jay Kristoff (@misterkristoff)

Rating: ★★★★★

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

Details

Series: The Lotus War #1
Genre: YA Fantasy, “Japanese Steampunk”
Published: Pan Macmillan Australia, September 1, 2012; TOR UK September 13 and St. Martin’s Press (US) on September 18.
Pages: 450
My copy: ARC from Pan Macmillan Aus and an e-ARC from St Martin’s Press via Netgalley, thanks!

Pre-order Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
Pre-order E-book copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

I’d been looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Stormdancer for a while now, and the growing buzz around the blogs and social sites has only been adding to the hype. You know all those bloggers gushing over how much they love this book? I am totally about to join their ranks.

US cover

The land of Shima is choking under the Imperial need for the Blood Lotus plant, both as a fuel and an intoxicant that most of the population are addicted to. The Shogun sends out his most famous hunter, Masaru, along with his party and young daughter Yukiko on a perilous mission – to capture a thunder tiger, an arashitora. When their airship crashes during a storm over the mountains, Yukiko forms a strange bond with their captured thunder tiger. Together they learn the meaning of sacrifice for a greater good, as they do what they can to try to bring the Shogun’s destructive rule to an end.

The world that Jay Kristoff has created in Stormdancer is so richly detailed that it felt like the descriptions were projecting right out of the pages in all their beauty or horror. The story is a delight to read, painting vivid pictures of Shima, the Iishi Mountains and the city with its opulent palace.

It’s not just the settings that are amazing though – I was a little overwhelmed by all the descriptions of types of weapons and arrangements of clothing that are included in the story. I’m really not familiar with many aspects of feudal Japanese society or Samurai weaponry, but there’s a helpful glossary at the back to help you tell your Nagamaki from your Tanto. The chi-powered suits worn by the councilmen and all the other steampunk-ish touches were quite fascinating as well.

The relationship between Yukiko and Buruu is just gorgeous – I loved how it developed from deep fury and distrust into true friendship and more. Those two are really the highlight of this story to me – I can’t wait until the next book so we get to hear more of their banter and Buruu’s shrewd insights.

The supporting characters are also fantastic! I loved the banter between Masaru, Kasumi and Akihito. I was a little wary of the Kagé sympathisers in the palace though – I kept expecting them to turn out to be working for the Shogun all along.

As it’s known that Jay is not a fan of happy endings, he does like to heart out your heart and break it into many pieces – be careful where you read this, the lunch room at work is no place for sobbing!

Thankfully there’s no huge cliffhanger in this book – I just need to read what’s going to happen next in the story! Fans of Fantasy, Steampunk and/or Anime, get your hands on Stormdancer as soon as you can!

Warnings: A couple of sexual references. Plenty of violence. Some swearing.

Need more Jay Kristoff?

 


Giveaway

I enjoyed this book so much that I want to share the awesomeness by giving away a copy. Even though Stormdancer will be available in Australia on September 1, Book Depository is releasing on the UK date of September 13th so the prize will be a pre-ordered paperback copy of Stormdancer, to be shipped from The Book Depository on September 13. I’m not a huge fan of jumping through giveaway hoops but there will be a couple of extra entries for helping to spread the word. Good luck!

Details:

  • The giveaway is open internationally, as long as the Book Depository ships to your country (go here to check).
  • The giveaway will run until midnight on September 3.
  • The winner will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

An Interview with Jay Kristoff

This post is part of the Discover Australian Fantasy feature, running all July on The Oaken Bookcase. Please visit the Aussie Fantasy page to see all the reviews and articles for the feature and to enter the giveaway!

Jay Kristoff (not his evil twin)

As you may have gathered from yesterday’s guest Five for Friday, Stormdancer is the highly anticipated debut from Jay Kristoff, releasing worldwide during September. Jay was kind enough to answer a few questions for me and today I’m delighted to share the answers with you! There’s more information on the book itself further down in the post.

Q: So, Stormdancer is just about to be released and it must feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is finally daylight rather than an oncoming train. How long since you finished writing the book was it actually accepted for publication?

A: It felt like years at the time, but honestly it all happened pretty quickly. I finished writing STORMDANCER in August 2010, I picked my agent by November (I was really lucky and had multiple offers of representation, which made a real nice change after years of being kicked in the baby-maker by boiler-plate rejection letters) and we had our first deal on the table by December.

Things went a little mad after the first offer came in though, and the book ended up going to auction. It took most of January for the auction to finish, so the deal wasn’t finalised until Australia Day, 2011. Lucky it was a public holiday – my hangover was killer.

I wrote a blog post about how the auction went down. Crazy stuff.

Q: It seems like a lot of the social media promotion for Stormdancer is being directed at the US and UK markets at the moment. Are you or will you be doing much publicity around Australia? Are there any plans to head overseas for the other launches?

A: Yup, we’re going to be doing a bunch of stuff closer to launch. We’ve got an Aussie giveaway on Goodreads in July (ed: it’s on right now!), I’ll be doing my first ever signing at Manifest in Melbourne at the end of August (terrifying). I’ll be doing a bunch of press too – my Aussie publicist is actually a bit of a gun, and everyone will be frackin’ sick of me by the time the book actually hits.

By the by, my book launch will be at Dymocks in Melbourne city on the 7th of September, and it’d be awesome if someone other than my mum showed up. She doesn’t even read fantasy. She wouldn’t know a griffin if one fell out of the sky, landed on her face and started to beatbox.

US cover

Q: Who are some of your favourite fantasy authors, Aussie or otherwise?

A: William Gibson, Douglas Adams, Robin Hobb, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Katsuhiro Otomo, Stephen King, Robert Cormier, someone stop me or I’ll be here all frackin’ day….

Q: You’re a self-proclaimed tragic nerd. Care to tell us about your nerdy credentials? – Gamer? Star Wars/Star Trek/Firefly? Ever dressed up for a con or for a tabletop game?

A: Yes to all of the above. I could nerd for Australia at an Olympic level. If you weaponized nerdery, and put said nerdery under a microscope, you would see lots of little Jays with sweet beards swimming around having lightsaber fights and playing Collectible Card Games in the corner.

The last full-on argument I had with my bride (we almost never argue) wasn’t about money, or “were you looking at that girl’s ass” or whatever. It was about Theon Greyjoy and whether or not he is a tragic character torn between blood and duty, or just a straight up douchebag. We were yelling at each other. Drunkenly. Outside a pub. At 2am.

True story.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring Aussie fantasy writers (or writers in general)?

A: To the Aussies – Don’t think of yourself as Australian, just think of yourself as a writer. Aim high. In this day and age, there’s no reason at all your words can’t be read all the way across the globe. If I can do it, anyone can.

Writers in general – I could say all the usual bollocks about write every day, write what you love, yadda yadda. But everyone says that. The best piece of advice I can give is this:

Believe in yourself.

The only belief that matters in this equation is your own. It’s nice to have the support of betas or trusted friends, but it’s not necessary (the only person who had more than the vaguest idea that I was writing a book until I got repped was my wife). The only person who needs to believe you can do this is you. Everything else is window dressing.

The peoplewho reject you? The people who tell you that you can’t do it? The people who give you a funny little look when you mention your book? The people who are waiting for you to fail?

Fuck them.

Say those words. Sing them.Take a deep breath and scream them.

Fuck.

Them.

It doesn’t matter what theythink, or what they say. It doesn’t matter what they believe. It only matters what you think, what you believe. Because if you believe you can do it, and you’re meant to be doing it, then you will. You can. And that’s all there is to it. No more, no less than that.

Believe.

 


Details about Stormdancer

Title: Stormdancer (Goodreads)
Author: Jay Kristoff (@MisterKristoff)

Series: The Lotus War #1 of 3 (possibly more)
Genre: “Japanese-inspired Steampunk Dystopia”
Published: Pan Macmillan Australia, September 1, 2012; TOR UK September 13 and St. Martin’s Press (US) on September 18.
Pages: 352

Pre-order Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
Pre-order E-book copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?


I know Rebecca linked this in her post yesterday, but if you haven’t seen Jay’s review of Stormdancer on Goodreads, you really need to read it.  Right.  Now.

Also, you can read the first three chapters for free at Tor.com! Can you wait until September? I know I can’t!

 

Five For Friday: Get Excited For Stormdancer

 This Discover Australian Fantasy Five For Friday is brought to you by the amazing Rebecca of Reading Wishes. Make sure to come back tomorrow for an interview with the man himself, Jay Kristoff!

5 reasons to get excited for Stormdancer!

1. La Blurb

I’m not a huge fantasy reader, the one’s I’ve read so far haven’t exactly won me over but this one sounds incredible! *rereads blurb*

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she’s determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

2. Jay Kristoff, author

Jay is AWESOME. Not only does he take the time to connect with his readers but he’s so nice and thoughtful. The dude is epic. Oh and he’s hilarious and his personality is freaking
fantastic. Plus, he’s male! *throws confetti* We need more males in the YA biz, YO. If you need more reasons to love the guy, read this!

US Cover

3. Cover Love

The cover(s) for Stormdancer are fierce! Whilst both covers are amazing, I love the US one the most. I mean, can you blame me?! Totally badass! 😀

4. Deadly Combo

Not only is Stormdancer billed as ‘a dystopian Japanese-inspired Steampunk fantasy’ but it’s also an Aussie title! You know what to expect then, right? BRILLIANCE.

5. Riveting Reviews

So far the reviews that are circulating the blogosphere are brimming with awesomeness and positivity! If you need more convincing…

“Stormdancer lived up to the hype AND THEN SOME.” – Brodie @ Eleusinian Mysteries

“Something I like very very very much is that THERE IS NO CLIFFHANGER! It is a well-rounded individual book that so happens to have two books to follow continuing Yukiko and Buruu’s legacy.” – Braiden @ Book Probe

“Stormdancer is a novel filled with vivid detail and dazzling descriptions.” – Claire @ Claire Reads

Excited yet? I bet you are! After writing this post I’m sold all over again! Get ready world because here comes Stormdancer!

– Rebecca, Reading Wishes

Mini-Review: Aladdin and His Wonderfully Infernal Device, Tee Morris

Title: Aladdin and His Wonderfully Infernal Device (Goodreads)

Author: Tee Morris (@TeeMonster)

Rating: ★★★★☆

From the imagination behind the award-winning Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series comes a steampunk novella to a legend from A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. 

Aladdin is a street-wise thief that finds himself under the tutelage of a world-renown illusionist. He is escorted deep into the deserts in search of a treasure beyond his wildest dreams, and discovers instead something far more valuable—a destiny.

Details

Series: Stand alone novella
Genre: Steampunk-ish fairy tale
Published: ImagineThat! Studios, February 2012

E-book only.
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

I love the story of Aladdin, and I’m not ashamed to admit that the Disney version is one of my favourite animated movies. Tee Morris’ steampunk’d version of the story has just enough mechanical contraptions to qualify for that label, while remaining fairly close to the first part of the commonly told version.

The story is set in Baghdad, with the thief Aladdin on the run from the law. A sorcerer claiming to be Aladdin’s long-lost Uncle finds him and invites Aladdin to join him to make his fortune, but what he’s really after is an old lamp, buried in a mystical cave in the desert. What adventures lie in wait for Aladdin in the cave?

The novella of Aladdin and His Wonderfully Infernal Device is fast-paced and reads just like a screenplay, and the mechanical devices are delightful and are a great addition to the story. My only gripe is that it’s too short – I would love to hear what the Sultan’s palace and the Princess are like in this version of Baghdad.

I enjoyed Tee Morris’ storytelling style and I think I’ll have to add the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series to my wishlist!

 Warnings: None, it’s squeaky clean.

Review: Aurorarama, Jean-Christophe Valtat

Aurorarama, Jean-Christophe ValtatTitle: Aurorarama (Goodreads)

Author:  Jean-Christophe Valtat (@theValtat)

Rating: ★★★★☆

1908. New Venice–“the pearl of the Arctic”–a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate carriage-sleds and elegant victorian garb, of long nights and vistas of ice.

But as the city prepares for spring, it feels more like qaartsiluni–“the time when something is about to explode in the dark.” Local “poletics” are wracked by tensions with the Eskimos circling the city, with suffragette riots led by an underground music star, with drug round-ups by the secret police force known as the Gentlemen of the Night. An ominous black airship hovers over the city, and the Gentlemen are hunting for the author of a radical pamphlet calling for revolt.

Their lead suspect is Brentford Orsini, one of the city’s most prominent figures. But as the Gentlemen of the Night tighten the net around him, Orsini receives a mysterious message from a long-lost love that compels him to act.

Details

Series: 1 (of 2 at present)
Genre: Steampunk, Science Fiction
Published: First published by Melville House, August 2010. Paperback version published May 1, 2012.
Pages (paperback edition): 432
My Copy: Digital ARC for review from Netgalley.

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

New Venice, the utopian city high in Arctic Canada, is protected from sub-zero temperatures by some kind of technological wizardry. The dark days of winter when the sun does not rise are made more bearable by the liberal use of “psylicates” drugs and alcohol, plus plenty of free and liberated love.

But all is not well in the city. Tensions simmer between the native inughuit people and the white “qallunaut” inhabitants of the city, and between the ruling council and revolutionaries.

Valtat is a brilliant storyteller – the twists and turns of this story kept the pages turning all the way through. The style of writing often requires concentration – sentences often run on and on, separated by numerous commas, but always sparkling descriptions and brilliant imagery. He also loves to make up new words in a rather Shakespearean way – there’s a whole range of jargon the citizens of New Venice use, from “poletics” to “anarchitecture”.

I have no knowledge of Inuit culture so have no idea whether the representations of it in Aurorarama are accurate, but the legends and descriptions of the Inuit way of life give a lot of extra colour to the cast of characters and Valtat certainly gives the impression that he knows what he’s talking about.

There were a few aspects of the story that I found a little baffling. The characters make references to some major disaster that befell the city long ago called the “Blue Wild”, but this is never described in any detail. Also, who is Helen? We never really find out, even though several of the characters seem to have had dealings with her at one time or other. It’s almost as if there was a previous book that I missed reading first, but this is the first in a new series.

There were formatting problems all through my digital ARC copy which I hope would be resolved in the final e-book versions, but because there are several sketches scattered through the book, I’d recommend a paper copy if you’re thinking of reading this book. Sketches don’t translate well to a Kindle screen!

Aurorarama is an amazing work with beautiful descriptions of the Arctic and Steampunk city scenery, plus plenty of action. Fans of Steampunk and of Fantasy will love it. I’ll certainly be trying to get my hands on the second in this series, Luminous Chaos, due for publication in October, 2012.

Warnings: Suggestive sexual content and drug use.

What did others think of Aurorarama?

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