Book Review: Chasm Walkers by Raquel Byrnes

Publishing Date: March 2018

Publisher: Pelican Group

ISBN: 9781611169416

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

Rating: 1.0/5

Publisher’s Description: Charlotte Blackburn—Legend, traitor, the Order’s worst nightmare —she escaped the torturous experiments by the villainous Viceroy Arecibo, but is forever changed. Now, she battles to retain her humanity as she fights to survive among the wild sky settlers of Outer City. But an old threat emerges and Charlotte must choose between revenge and redemption.

Review: Ah, where to start. Lets begin with the scene development. I think this author is a good writer, she just needs to find her voice rather than using established tropes. And when I say tropes, the author just doesn’t use one or two, she uses many to build her characters.

For example, Charlotte and Ashton are placed in scenes that you swear, came straight out of a Princess Bride movie. Ashton with his CHISELED JAW, flashing eyes and stalwart self-deprecation in times of heated stress, always professing his undying love for Buttercup…….er, Asshat. He is great with a sword (if you know what I mean <wink, wink>), and always shows up just in time. Of course he almost dies just like the dread Pirate Roberts. Charlotte is an idiot that runs around with a trembling lip because she bites it so much. She is petulant when the scene doesn’t demand it, so she comes off like a spoiled brat. She wants to save all the poor little puppies of the world and will not listen to reason as she pursues her goal as savior. She takes in “steadying breaths” and “muffles her yelps”, while biting her cheek so hard she tastes blood. She is at once a fainting speshul violet that turns into a disease ridden zombie slayer at the drop of her hat, that sits on her ass.  And that is just the tip of the Doucheberg.

So where would our story be without the villain(s), “Dun, dun, dun…..”. Viceroy Arecibo is a combination of Snidely Whiplash, Dr. Evil, Hannibal Lechter and The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He is so evilly evil-ish, that the mad cackles emanating from his chapped lips (he licks them a lot) send chills or drips of sweat, up or down Asshat’s neck or spine. He goes from a political savant to a savage killer, spilling guts without an ounce of remorse. Of course where would our villain be without his counterpart….an evil princess. And we know she is evil because she has red/ruby lips and smirks in an evil way.

So, as I conclude this review, I am often reminded that a good technical writer does not always guarantee a good novel. The author’s voice got lost in patterned cliché’s and determined outcomes where she relied on scenes well established in the romance genre to grind out a story line. There is no creative development in the characters and the only interesting thing about this novel is the premise, where a disease becomes an asset in a world of sky ships and dumb asses.

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Book Review: Wind Reapers (Blackburn #2) by Raquel Byrnes

 

Publishing Date: February 2018

Publisher: Pelican

ISBN: 9781611169430

Genre: Steampunk

Rating: 1.8/5

Publisher’s Description:Charlotte Blackburn—Hero, hunted, the unwitting symbol of a dark rebellion—she thwarted the deadly intent of the treacherous Order of the Sword and Scroll, but at a shattering cost. Now, she fights to survive among a tribe of fierce Wind Reapers who troll the wasteland aboard massive metal walkers. But a new storm is brewing and Charlotte is once again the linchpin in a deadly plan.

Review: The overall story line was compelling in that the world where this takes place has the full steampunk vibe. Airships, mechanical walkers, goggles and filters and the attire is rendered in superb fashion.  So what went wrong?

Well, Charlotte did. She never grows into anything worth reading. In short she is a gasping, trembling, flouncy asshat that happens to be in situations not of her own design. She is thrust into scenes that could have been spectacular but her presence just drags everything to a halt.  While the supporting caste is excellent, Charlotte is in a constant state of emotive exasperation and docile frailty, punctuated by instances of a vinegar like backbone. This constant dichotomy wears on you, especially when the fast paced movement demands a stalwart character, not some mewling cowering douche that needs help at every turn. Charlotte is so absorbed in her own condition that any good development is lost in her characters myopia. Of course the other ruination of her character is the budding love tribangle. Riley’s Emerald eyes, sinewy muscles, chiseled jaw or Ashton’s flashing eyes and etc. etc. round out Charlotte as a complete fail.

A major part of this novel resides in suspending your disbelief. Winged contraptions strapped to your body, then catapulted to fly 5 or more miles is really a flagrant disregard for physics. The living environment is not biologically supportable what with acid fumes, molten geysers and the like. Floating cities round out the unexplained along with mechanized walkers that need sails in order to move. Perhaps these portions should of had better focus in order support the ideas tendered.

I really wanted to like this alternative steampunkian world but the story line was constantly derailed and steeped in heavy doses of dialogue that merely provided points to an argumentative exchange.

If Charlotte ever grows the fuk up, I will keep reading this series.

Book Review: Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

 

Publisher: Orbit

Publishing Date: March 2018

ISBN: 9780316517959

Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5

Publishers Description:The Tower of Babel is proving to be as difficult to reenter as it was to break out of. Forced into a life of piracy, Senlin and his eclectic crew are struggling to survive aboard their stolen airship as the hunt to rescue Senlin’s lost wife continues. Hopeless and desolate, they turn to a legend of the Tower, the mysterious Sphinx. But help from the Sphinx never comes cheaply, and as Senlin knows, debts aren’t always what they seem in the Tower of Babel.

Review: Well something happened in a not good way to this installment of the Books of Babel series. From high adventure and fast movement in Senlin Ascends to languishing in the Sphinx’s lair while everyone gets in touch with their feeeeeeelings. Barf. Oh but wait, Voleta becomes just too foxy and speshul that even the weirdo Sphinx comes to love her (pounding……….head…………..against………..wall).

This seemed like a strange filler/ interlude novel to setup the grande finale where douche…..er, Senlin is finally reunited with his slut………er, wife. I would skip this ripoff and wait for the conclusion.

Book Review: Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Publisher: Orbit

Publishing Date: January 2018

ISBN:9780316517911

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

Rating: 5.0/5

Publishers Description: The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel in the world. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of luxury and menace, of unusual animals and mysterious machines. Soon after arriving for his honeymoon at the Tower, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, Thomas Senlin, gets separated from his wife, Marya, in the overwhelming swarm of tourists, residents, and miscreants. Senlin is determined to find Marya, but to do so he’ll have to navigate madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassins, and the illusions of the Tower. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just endure.

Review: Wow. I really don’t know where to start. This was an epic ride that takes you from the bowels of humanity and thrusts you to emotive heights both wondrous  and compelling. A sometimes stark look at desperation and the lengths people take to ensure survival.

Senlin is a principled and straitlaced teacher with high moral accountability i.e. he and his wife are prey where the inhabitants of the Tower are concerned.  What follows is Senlin’s rise in the Tower to find his stolen wife while keeping his morality intact less he become like most of the wretched beings that ply their trade in and around the Tower.

The writing is just dam fantastic. Senlin and the other characters he meets along the way grow superbly with the movement. World building? Fug me. I swear I was there along side Senlin while he was trapped in a Tower cage with a lovely actress or fighting pirates on an airship while stealing a portion of their shipment. I was never happier when characters  that I thought were lost to death or left behind in a lower level to await misery, reappeared, transformed by their trials and travails.  Like welcoming a friend home you have not seen in years. The story line is simple and allows for miraculous and surprising twist and turns while enabling characters to literally jump off the page.

It is a rare occurrence when a novel drives me into the wee hours of the morning to finish. I liked it even better knowing I had the sequel to this masterpiece. If you like high adventure and daring-do set in a steampunk atmosphere………GET THIS!!!!

Book Review: Flotsam by R J Theodore

 

Publisher: Parvus

Publishing Date: January 2018

ISBN: 9780997661361

Genre: Mixed but mostly Steampunk

Rating: 4.4/5

Publishers Description: Captain Talis just wants to keep her airship crew from starving, and maybe scrape up enough cash for some badly needed repairs. When an anonymous client offers a small fortune to root through a pile of atmospheric wreckage, it seems like an easy payday. The job yields an ancient ring, a forbidden secret, and a host of deadly enemies.

Review: A crazy blending of Steampunk, Fantasy and SciFi that takes you on a genre bending wild ride through the skies of Peridot.

The world building is incredibly epic for a newly minted author and hints at uncovering even more as this series evolves. The characters were not only well developed with the movement but continued to draw interest as their personal histories unfolded.  At one point I thought this novel was going to take a nose-dive into many buckles being swashed and overly elaborate descriptors on how they were dressed for battle (if hot looking sky pirates are your thing). Thankfully the instance was short lived and the novel gained in grittiness what it lost in glamour.

Although mixing genres has been done before, this author elegantly combines the visceral and fantastical into a salable whole. Well done noob.

Review: Spectre of War by Kin S. Law

Publisher: City Owl Press

Publishing Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9781944728533

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

Rating: 4.4/5

Publishers Description: A third Victoria has ascended the throne of a steam-driven country where enormous clockwork giants walk the streets and airships carry news of the Ottoman threat in the East.
In the wake of a calamity that engulfed all of Europe, Inspector Vanessa Hargreaves of Scotland Yard is given the dubious task of policing steamcraft crime. Along with flamboyant detective Arturo C. Adler, she stumbles upon a conspiracy to use a horrific plague in an effort to prevent war.

Review: The second novel in the Lands Beyond series, delivers a thirst for more. Hargreaves wends her way from the Royal Palace to the sewers of New York City in search of a solution to the plague corpse. Arturo is along for the ride in all his Liberace like regalia along with Cezette, Hallow, Cid and the crew of the Huckleberry.

Once again the author paints a grand picture with incredible movement and characters built with elegant simplicity. You care for every single one of them and that says a lot about the writing talent. The story line has many interludes with separate tales that are a part of the bigger world building picture. No 5 stars here though, as the novel ends abruptly and the author likes cats.

Just a bit on cats and why they suck. They decimate all forms of endemic wildlife, in particular neo-tropical migrant bird species. They spread disease, most notable the feline leukemia virus affecting  the endangered Florida Panther. They carry toxoplasmosis (killing sea otters), ringworm, tularemia, hookworm and CSD to name a few.

Review: Time Weaver by Jacinta Maree

Publisher: Ragnarok

Publishing Date: February 2017

ISBN: 9781941987872

Genre: Steam

Rating: 3.5/5

Publishers Description:  have a clock for a heart…and the man who put it there tried to take it out. Time Collectors are modern day genies capable of exchanging wishes for time. Elizabeth Wicker lives within a steampunk world riddled with the supernatural. Among the stories of witches, Bacts, and other monsters, Time Collectors remain as the greatest hushed secret among the noble families. They are temptation’s greatest tools. A contract with a Time Collector is a guaranteed death sentence, and for some the price isn’t worth the prize. But when Elizabeth is struck down by a fatal heart attack, she finds herself trapped beneath a Time Collector’s blade. With no time left to offer, she makes a desperate sacrifice for a second chance at life. If there’s only one truth, it is a Time Collector will always come back to collect.

Review: How come the cover girls’ hair is not white?  Anyway, hottie-white-haired Beth Wicker is on the run from men who want to bang her, kill her, kidnap and rape her. She faints and cries a lot but has a tough mien and a heart of gold, um, errr…….iron? While the man she loves kills everyone that is important in her life, like family, she still pines for him.  Not only that, but the man that killed her mother has a chub for her. Wait, what? Yeah, I am confused as well. Why this has to be rendered vile with unsupported emotions is beyondo.

If you begin to deconstruct this novel you are going to have a bad time. Like how Beth was a lowly floor scrubber made to be sold to the elite and raped etc. etc. BUT, she is really a noble herself and is saved from a life of destitution by her famous Father of the House Wicker. Yawn. Or how every interesting and viable character is killed off without regard.

So what’s good about it. World building and scene construction are epic. Supporting characters, and I mean all of them, are developed seamlessly with the movement. The writing is exceptional and takes some interesting and creative turns. The story line never follows a patterned model, but instead decides to go in various directions that ultimately strengthens the novel. I had a really late night reading this as I could not put it down. In the end, Beth was made palatable only by the entirety of the novels brilliance. A good start to this story might have been Elizabeth’s early demise and the rise of Catherine. Oh well.