A steampunk book.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook

The second book in the Drifting Isle Chronicles and part of the Storybundle’s Steampunk bundle. All of the books are written by different writers. They happen in the same city but have different main characters.

Caspar Goldstein is the heir to Goldstein Industries but much to his father’s dismay, he has no interested nor talent to become a businessman. Instead, he loves to race steampowered cars and has a talent for that. More than anything, he wants to win the Autocarriage Cup. But during a qualifying race for the Cup, Caspar sees one contestant deliberately crashing into his best friend’s car. Angry, Caspar deliberately collides with the troublemaker in turn, almost totaling his own car. His friend, Lukas, breaks his leg and is out of the races. Caspar is bruised and has a concussion but is still able to race, if his aunt Hildy can repair the car. But soon he has bigger problems than the Cup.

Clara Koh is Caspar’s assistant and also Hildegar Goldstein’s friend. She also helps Hildy with her secret project. Hildy has gotten her hands on a new substance which is called black mercury and is testing it. Everyone else thinks it’s a waste product but Hildy thinks that it can be used to increase engine performance. She’s invented the first flying machine, the autogyro, but it doesn’t fly very far. When Hildy wants to test black mercury in her autogyro, Clara won’t let her do it alone. Together, they find out that Hildy is correct: black mercury does enhance the autogyro’s engine remarkably. This doesn’t go unnoticed by the media or by mysterious people who want the secrets of black mercury for themselves.

Hildy and Clara make the historical first flight to the floating island, which is right above the city of Eisenstadt. However, they don’t have the time to explore it any further but return almost immediately. The authorities ban the use of autogyros and are sending their own expedition which is shown in the next book, The Machine God.

Clara and Caspar are the two POV characters in the book and they’re very different. Clara is very practical and level-headed woman, to the point that even she herself wishes she could be more spontaneous, while Caspar is a spoiled man who has never taken any responsibility for anything. They bicker a lot but they clearly like each other a lot and Clara spends a lot of time worrying about Caspar.

This was a quick, fun read with plenty of action. I liked the secondary characters a lot. Hildy is an inventor and almost reckless in testing her inventions. She’s also frustrated because she’s under that thumb of her brother Max, who leads the Goldstein Industries. She’s doing secret projects in order to get enough money to make her own company. Her other assistant, in addition to Clara, is Til, a huge but gentle mechanic always looking out for her. And then there are the pigeons. In this world, pigeons can talk and Minnie is Clara’s companion. Min tends to speak before she thinks – and she mostly thinks about food. She and the other pigeons are a great comic relief and also dependable companions.