A stand-alone steampunk book.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours 45 minutes
Narrator: David Giuntoli, Claire Coffee

When June Stefanov was a young girl, her grandfather told her a story about an angel helping the Russians during WWII. Her grandfather leaves behind to her a keepsake, a mechanical part that the ”angel” gave her. Now, June is an anthropologist specializing in ancient tech. She travels around the world to find mechanical, human-sized dolls hundreds of years old. Now, she has found a female doll in Oregon. It is about three hundred years old. June fixes it so that it writes down the message it has been waiting to write. But others don’t want humans to know anything about the mechanicals, so June is in grave danger.

Russia, 1725. Peter awakes in the Kremlin. The tsar’s (Peter the Great, after whom the mechanical Peter is named) mechanician has just built him a body. Peter’s anima, his spirit, is older but he doesn’t remember anything before awakening in Russia. Soon, the mechanician awakens another mechanical being Elana, whom Peter thinks of as his sister. Peter has feelings and thoughts and is conscious of himself, but he’s bound to a word, Pravda which means justice. Each mechanical being has such a word and is internally driven to behave in such a way as to fulfill that word.

The mechanical beings fascinate the tsar, but the queen of Russia hates them. Still, Peter does his best to serve the tsar. But when Peter the Great dies, his wife Catherine banished Peter and Elena from Russia. They flee across the country and continue to hide from humans for centuries. They also try to find clues about who made them. Before they leave Russia, they meet another mechanical being who threatens them.

Every other chapter of the book is set in the current day and the next chapter is set in the past. June is a first-person narrator while Peter is a third-person narrator. This worked surprisingly well for me. The historical aspects were fascinating, and June was an interesting POV character in the modern chapters. Both sides of the story have a lot of fight scenes, but in contrast, Peter and Elena ponder about their own existence and June is uncovering the mystery of the mechanical beings.

Elena is a fascinating character. She’s in the body of a 12-year-old mechanical girl and she soon grows tired of being treated as a child. Peter is also very protective of her. She yearns to find out more about herself and the other possible mechanical beings, while Peter considers them a threat. I did wonder why they didn’t try to build her another body.

Overall, this was a very entertaining story.

Collects Lady Mechanika Vol 2. issues 1-6.

Writer: M. M. Chen
Artist: Joe Benitez, Martin Montiel

This is a fun and action-packed steampunk comic, especially if your tastes run to big breasted women. However, it doesn’t continue the previous story line so the lady’s past isn’t explored at all.

The story opens with professor Thomsen and his young assistant Strassman who are on an archaeological dig in Africa, apparently near Kongo. Using a mechanical bird, they’re reporting to Strassman’s mysterious bosses. Then we return to lady Mechanika who is in the Alps with a pair of siblings who are big game hunters. However, lady Mechanika doesn’t like it. Apparently, she took the job purely for the money. The brother ends up shooting a snowman but the lady prevents him from taking down the young pups.

Some time later, the lady returns to London where she’s met with Winifred Thomsen, the professor’s pre-teen granddaughter. The professor is missing and Fred wants the lady to find him. The lady agrees and Fred tells her that her grandfather is looking for ancient alchemical tablets. Purely for the scientific and historical value, of course. They return to the professor’s house to look for clues. However, the professor’s housekeeper has been murdered and soon after men speaking German kidnap Fred. The lady pursues but can’t get the girl back. She followed the clues to a secret Rosicrucian house but she’s barred entry because she a woman. However, breaks in and a mysterious gentleman, Mr. Jabir, agrees to help her get the girl back. Together, they board his airship to fly to Africa.

This was almost like a female Indian Jones adventure! A few historical facts has been mixed up with mythology, a fast-paced action adventure, and a dash of fantasy. The lady has impeccable fighting skills and she even finds a tribe of desert Amazons! The plot has a couple of gaping holes, but they don’t really matter.

Winifred is a great character. She’s a brave and smart kid. However, she’s not action heroine yet but maybe the lady will decide to train her when she’s a bit older.

Collects issues 0 and issues 1-5 of Lady Mechanika miniseries.

Writer and artist: Joe Benítez

This is a very interesting comic set in a steampunk world. There’s a mention of werewolves and the mechanical humans are an amalgam of humans and steampunk machines but no other magical stuff.

The first issue in the collection is issue 0, where Lady Mechanika meet the monster of Satan’s Alley. In it, we’re introduced to most of the cast. Lady Mechanika is hunting a monster which has been haunting the street called Satan’s Alley. She’s listening in on the mercenaries which Blackpool Armament has hired. She manages to catch the creature before them. She fights the creature but then she realizes that the “creature” is an intelligent being who is just hungry and scared. He’s a boy who has been created by someone he calls “master”. He’s half human and half mechanical creature. To Lady Mechanika’s surprise, he remembers meeting her. She doesn’t remember him but then she doesn’t remember her past. But before he can tell her more, lord Blackpool’s mercenaries shoot him.

Lady Mechanika fights with Blackpool and the mercenaries. She also meets a timid young doctor Littleton. Blackpool is established as the main villain who wants world domination through machines.

The rest of the story starts a year later. A young woman with mechanical arms is trying to escape from a group of men in dark, military-like outfits. She jumps to a train which takes her to Mechanica City. However, she dies at the train station. Lady Mechanika thinks that she might be related somehow to her own origin so she starts to investigate. She meet again doctor Littleton and this time she also meets his young daughter. Later, she tries to steal the corpse from Ministry of Health’s building but someone knocks her out and takes the corpse. Lady Mechanika is left behind to deal with Commander Katherine Winter who has just one eye and long, flowing red tresses. Apparently, they knew each other previously and have grudges against each other (probably about a man). The Lady shoots the commander’s troops and leaves. She follows the mechanical corpse’s previous escape route to a Romani Circus (Circue du Romani). She finds the gypsies similar to herself: they’re shunned by others just because they’re different and they keep secrets.

The Lady (we never find out any other name for her) has a close colleague, Lewis, who drinks all the time. He seems to be a mechanical genius and builds all sort of gadgets for her. We briefly find out about his tragic background and reason behind the drinking. The Lady is determined to find out about her past and to stay independent from anyone else. She’s an excellent shot and hand-to-hand combatant. She wears man’s clothing while on the job, but she wears large skirts and tight Emma Frost type corsets at other times, probably to fit in to this pseudo-Victorian world. She also takes part in a masked ball where she wears a very detailed dress and mask.

Unfortunately, the women have impossible figures and pouty lips, and the lady herself is contorted to impossible positions when fighting, in high heels. Otherwise, the art is very nice and very detailed. The mechanical body parts were especially nicely done.

This was a fun romp. I liked the rivalry between Mechanika and the commander .Although it was quite a let down when the hints in the dialog established that is was just over a man. I also quite enjoyed the precocious girl who knows all about Lady Mechanika (presumably from reading fiction about her) and doesn’t believe that Mechanika is herself. She was hilarious. I also love a good masked ball where the heroes and villains meet and can talk without knowing (or at least pretending) they don’t know who the other is. It was far too short in this comic but I really liked it while it lasted.

The first book in a steampunk trilogy.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours 37 minutes
Narrators: Luke Daniels

Romulus Buckle is the captain of the steam airship Pneumatic Zeppelin. In this post-apocalyptic world, people die young and so Buckle himself and his crew are all under 22. He’s an orphan, like many of the young people, and he was adopted by Balthazar Crankshaft, the leader of the Crankshaft clan. Now, Balthazar has been kidnapped and he is in the dungeons of the impenetrable City of the Founders. Romulus and his crew are on their way to rescue him. But first they must brave the terrible dangers of the wastelands of Noxious Mustard where forgewalkers, steampipers, and other enemies lurk.

The chapters are very short and the point-of-views switch from chapter to chapter. Some of them are flashbacks. I didn’t mind the flashbacks, in fact I found some of them quite interesting but on the other hand sometimes they frustrated me when a flashback was inserted in the middle of a fight scene.

The book has a lot of swashbuckling action and a bit of drama, as well. The airship itself is very well described and it’s often right in the middle of fighting, a character by itself. The writing style is very verbose and might get some time to get used to, but it gives a unique atmosphere to the story. The names are also very distinctive, such as Pluteus Brassballs who leads, of course, the Ballblasters, and Andromeda Pollux, leader of the alchemist clan.

The story has a couple of significant female characters, as well. Sabrina Serafim is the navigator and the second in command of the ship. She’s also Romulus’ adopted sister. Max is the half-Martian chief engineer and she keeps her emotions under tight control, because Martian emotions run hotter than humans. Some characters are also prejudiced against Martians.

This was a fun and action-packed adventure. It didn’t quite end a cliffhanger but the crew isn’t safe yet.

The first book in a steampunk series.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Publisher: HarperCollins
Page count: 322

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy aboard the luxury airship Aurora which travels from Lionsgate City, US, to Australia. He loves his job and dreams of being a sailmaker, like is father was. His father worked aboard the Aurora before he died in an accident. Matt is restless on the ground; only aboard an airship can he feel truly alive and also close to his father.

One night, he sees a balloonist nearby. He doesn’t answer any hails, so Matt volunteers for a daring rescue hundreds of miles up in the air. The old balloonist is in a really bad shape but right before he dies, he manages to tell Matt about beautiful creatures in the air. Matt hasn’t seen such things and thinks the balloonist is raving.

A year later, young lady Kate de Vries comes on board the Aurora. She happens to be the old balloonist’s granddaughter and she’s determined to prove that the strange air creatures are real. Matt likes her and he wants to help her. But then the air pirates raid the Aurora.

When I got this book, I didn’t realize it was YA. Matt and Kate are both quite young, even though not children anymore. The nice side effect is that the book has very minimal courtship romance elements.

The captain has promised Matt that he’ll be made a junior sailmaker when an opening comes. However, when a position opens up, it’s goes to another: the son of one of the owners of the air ship line. Matt is bitter but continues his work. He doesn’t really like the passengers because his dream is to work on Aurora and someday, maybe, command it. The passengers aren’t interested in the ship and just want a smooth ride which should be as short as possible.

However, Kate is inquisitive and curious. She wants to know about the ship and that really wins Matt over. Of course, Matt is poor, and Kate is rich, so they both know that nothing can come of their relationship. Also, Matt starts to get jealous of Kate pretty soon. Kate’s chaperone Miss Simpkins is a hilarious figure: she’s dramatic and commanding but also likes to sleep quite a lot. However, Kate is very determined to get what she wants and somewhat spoiled, too.

The story focuses on exploration and adventure which are both things I like quite a lot. It’s quite straight-forward story with a little bit of commentary on the women’s station (especially young women) and the divides between the wealthy and the poor. But mostly adventure.

It doesn’t end in a cliffhanger.

The first book in the steampunk/science fiction series Peridot Shift. I got an ARC from the publisher.

Publication year: 2018, in March
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: Parvus Press
Page count: 535 on Goodreads

Talis is the captain of Wind Saber, a small airship with a total crew of four people. To keep her vessel in the air, Talis is sometimes forced to take jobs which are borderline legal, or outright illegal. Like the one that starts the story. One of the few fences Talis trusts offered her a job that looked easy enough. An old ring needed to be retrieved from the wreckage of an airship. Talis agreed to the job even though the payment barely covers for the cost of the equipment needed for diving the wreck. However, she thinks that she can do similar jobs in the future, so the cost is really an investment. Her crew agreed. The only problem is that anything found from wrecks are the property of the Cutter Empire, so they’ll have to be fast and silent.

Unfortunately, only moments after Talis gets the ring, an Imperial warship appears, and its captain is none other than Hankirk with whom Talis had a fling years ago when they were both in the Imperial Academy, and now they loath each other. After a battle, which will no doubt put Wind Sabre on the Imperial most wanted list, the Wind Sabre manages to escape. But when Talis tries to bring the ring to the fence, she and her crew are attacked and later they find the fence murdered. Talis has no idea what’s going on, but she needs to get rid of the ring and with a price that will cover some of her losses.

This was a very enjoyable read. The world-building is good and very interesting. The planet Peridot was destroyed in the past and only the powers of the five gods, the Divine Alchemists, kept the world together as islands of floating lands. The Divine Alchemists recreated the plants, animals, and everything and created five races, each in the image of one of the alchemists. Two of them look pretty much human while the rest are somewhat different. The world has also aliens which use starships to come from different planets. The people of Peridot don’t really know much about them.

In addition to two lift balloons and maneuvering and stunsails, the airships have steam engines, too, to propel them across the skies and between different islands. The planet has been divided into five areas, one for each race. There’s the Cutter Empire and the Bone islands are ruled by a sort of tribal council.

The crew of Wind Saber includes Dug who is a fearsome warrior, the first mate, and Talis’ best friend, Sophie who is the wrench, or mechanic, and Tisker who is the pilot and a former street urchin. They’re quite a close-knit group. They each have their own pasts and personalities. Talis is the only point-of-view character so we naturally get to know her the best. She seems like an experienced captain, very protective of her crew (especially Dug) but not so great at long-time planning. She also has a dry sense of humor. All of the crew are able to defend themselves and can kill people when necessary. I also really enjoyed the deep friendship between Dug and Talis: they’re friends through thick and thin but not lovers.

Besides Talis and Sophie the book has several interesting female characters. But for me the aliens almost steal the show. We get to know a bit more about them, but I’d love to know more. For example, they use pronouns not to identify gender but class, and they have over fifty pronouns. Also, the story doesn’t include romance which I really appreciated because courtship romances are so very common that’s noteworthy to find a book without one.

I’m eagerly waiting for the next book and really hoping that it will be just as good.

A stand-alone alternate history steampunk clearly inspired by the Shakespeare play in the title.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook
Publisher: Xchyler Publising

A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk is pretty much what the title says: A Midsummer Night’s Dream recast in Steampunk. The story begins with a group of mechanics; men who have lost body parts in wars and those parts have been replaced with mechanical parts. Even though they now serve their country and fellow citizens very diligently, they are shunned by all other people. Our six heroic mechanics have decided to perform a play to the Queen in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Sadly, some of the mechanics require repairs before the Queen can fully enjoy “Pyramus and Thisbe” and they don’t want to return to the malicious care of the man who built them: Doctor Oberon Malieux. So, they head up to the Queen’s Artificer, Pauline Spiegel. The mechanics, Pauline, and her friends becomes embroiled with a plot to overthrow Britain.

Of course the retelling needs two pairs of star crossed lovers. They are Pauline Spiegel, a humble artificer, and her intended, Alexander MacIntyre who is a lowly clerk in the British Royal Household and Pauline’s friend Clemmie Hozier and her intended, certain young Lieutenant with the name of Winston Churchill. However, Pauline’s and Winston’s mothers were best friends and promised that their kids would be married to each other and to Winston duty becomes before love. Clemmie isn’t thrilled and Pauline is adamant that she wants Alex.

The villain of the story is Oberon Malieux, a brilliant doctor who has built the mechanized men from wounded soldiers from the Zulu War. However, lately has also built mechs from the criminally insane and uses them as his private army. He want power and wealth for himself and doesn’t care whom he hurts in the process. He also requires the expertize of his estranged wife, Lakshmi Malieux, who is an expert in eye surgery and has created small, insect like mechanoids. But she doesn’t want to help him; in fact she wants to stop him.

The book has lots of steampunk elements and very clever use of mechanical objects and people. It’s set in a Britain which is on the brink of war but that doesn’t darken the mood of the story. It uses quite a lot of real historical people with twists. The political scene is also somewhat different from the real politics around that time. I greatly enjoyed them and the characters, too.

The story is fast-paced, almost breathlessly fast and great, light-hearted fun. It also has lots of references to various Shakespeare plays.