Tag Archives: steampunk

Review of The Girl and the Clockwork Cat (Clockwork Enterprises Book 1), by Nikki McCormack

I picked up a copy of Nikki McCormack‘s The Girl and the Clockwork Cat when it was a freebie on Amazon.

Description from Goodreads:

Feisty teenage thief Maeko and her maybe-more-than-friend Chaff have scraped out an existence in Victorian London’s gritty streets, but after a near-disastrous heist leads her to a mysterious clockwork cat and two dead bodies, she’s thrust into a murder mystery that may cost her everything she holds dear. 

Her only allies are Chaff, the cat, and Ash, the son of the only murder suspect, who offers her enough money to finally get off the streets if she’ll help him find the real killer. 

What starts as a simple search ultimately reveals a conspiracy stretching across the entire city. And as Maeko and Chaff discover feelings for each other neither was prepared to admit, she’s forced to choose whether she’ll stay with him or finally escape the life of a street rat. But with danger closing in around them, the only way any of them will get out of this alive is if all of them work together. 

Review:

Not bad, though I thought it a tad over-long and (as always) I was annoyed to find a love triangle. Beyond that, I liked Maeko as a character and appreciated the somewhat dystopic steampunk London. I would have appreciated a bit more world-building though. My main complaint however, is that the whole premise of the book is anchored in a decision Maeko is supposed to have made at six, based on an overheard conversation. Even in a dystopian world, I can’t believe a six-year-old would do what she’s supposed to have done (and never gone back on the decision). This really undermined the believability of the story for me. It also made the predictable “Oops, my misunderstanding” exceedingly annoying. All in all, I didn’t not like it. I just had niggles with it.

As a side note, I’m additionally annoyed to find a girl in fishnets and a frilly skirt on the cover of a story about a girl who spends the whole book dressing as a boy and ACTIVELY tring to hide that she’s a girl.

Review of Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve


I borrowed an audio copy of Philip Reeve‘s Mortal Engines through the library.

Description from Goodreads:

London is a city on wheels – a future city like you’ve never known before. In the terrible aftermath of the Sixty Minute War, cities which survived the apocalypse became predators, chasing and feeding on smaller towns. Now London is hunting down its prey, getting ready to feed. But as the chase begins, Tom uncovers a secret – a secret full of deadly consequences. Soon he is plunged into a world of unkillable enemies, threatened by a weapon that will tear his life apart…

Review (with spoiler):

Ugh, a young, beautiful, innocent girl sacrifices herself for the sins of a man and all that can be saved are. The evil give up their dastardly ways, the vengeful forsake their life-long quest for revenge and the cowardly become brave. In her death she averts disaster and saves the masses. Welp, no one has ever seen that plot device before, surely. <<—sarcasm to the utmost. Nor have we seen lack of beauty equated with lack value or a boy shown as virtuous because he’s willing to look past a physical deformity. Nope, never ever have we seen this. <<—more contemptuous sarcasm. 

I thought the world was interesting and the writing engaging, but the rest of it was just dull as dishwater. It’s all been done before and I didn’t like it anymore here than anywhere else. I don’t intend to continue the series and, while I read the book in order to see the movie, I just don’t think I can be bothered after all. Barnaby Edwards did a fine job with the narration though.

Review of The Book of Esther, by Emily Barton

I received a copy of Emily Barton‘s The Book of Esther from Blogging for Books.

Description from Goodreads:
Eastern Europe, August 1942. The Khazar kaganate, an isolated nation of Turkic warrior Jews, lies between the Pontus Euxinus (the Black Sea) and the Khazar Sea (the Caspian). It also happens to lie between a belligerent nation to the west that the Khazars call Germania—and a city the rest of the world calls Stalingrad.

After years of Jewish refugees streaming across the border from Europa, fleeing the war, Germania launches its siege of Khazaria. Only Esther, the daughter of the nation’s chief policy adviser, sees the ominous implications of Germania’s disregard for Jewish lives. Only she realizes that this isn’t just another war but an existential threat. After witnessing the enemy warplanes’ first foray into sovereign Khazar territory, Esther knows she must fight for her country. But as the elder daughter in a traditional home, her urgent question is how.

Before daybreak one fateful morning, she embarks on a perilous journey across the open steppe. She seeks a fabled village of Kabbalists who may hold the key to her destiny: their rumored ability to change her into a man so that she may convince her entire nation to join in the fight for its very existence against an enemy like none Khazaria has ever faced before.

Review:
I had a strange experience with this book. When I was reading it I didn’t want to put it down. Once I’d put it down, I didn’t want to pick it up again. So, the whole thing was read by gorging on it and then wandering away to read something else, before gorging myself some more.

It isn’t that the book is bad. It’s not. But it’s heavy and there are a lot of Hebrew words that require repeatedly flipping to the glossary, which got annoying. The story is a good one though. It just only managed to hold my attention while I was actually holding it, if that makes sense.

Esther was a wonderful character and I enjoyed the way she learned and grew as the book progressed. There are a ton of interesting side characters too. I personally loved Gimmel, Chuluun and Shimon (it was great to see an arranged marriage that was obviously going to work well). But do prepared for a lot of named characters.

There is also the history to contend with. This is an alternative version of WWII, from a Jewish perspective. Really interesting. But it is steeped in Jewish history and ceremony and while I enjoyed it, I think those with a stronger understanding of it all will get more out of it than I did.

All in all, I found The Book of Esther to be something I’m glad to have read and experienced.