Monday, March 7, 2011

Book Review: Steam Queen by Jack Hessey

Title: Steam Queen
Author: Jack Hessey
Publisher: Lazy Day Publishing
Release Date: 12/26/2010

I have to admit, I wasn't really expecting to get into this novel. Overall I do like steampunk, but I've never really sought out any books in the genre. Most of my experience has been through movies & the odd webcomic such as Girl Genius. That's why I was pretty surprised that I was so easily drawn into this book.

Europe is a dangerous, virtually lawless place. Armed bandits prowl the railway lines in their armed Steam Locomotive looking for easy marks, and heavily armed mercenary engines travel from town to town looking for work in a world where every day is a struggle for its civilians. Erica, an emotionally disturbed girl from England finds herself joining one of these mercenary teams. What follows is a trek across Europe to where two mighty cities, each representing a different way of life, stand on the verge of a war which will shape the way Europe develops. On one side are the Steam using traditionalists of St Vith, led by the charismatic and cunning General Roosje Cuvelier. On the other, stands the mighty Winterscheid Diesel Empire under the iron fist of the merciless Kaiser Sigmund Eisenburg. Two vicious armies, treachery from her own allies and the world’s deadliest super-weapon are just a few of the dangers that Erica must face in her journey.

The author takes a huge amount of risks in this book & I respect that. Not only did is the main character a complete sociopath that kills animals & maims people in retribution for real (or imagined) slights, but it's a female character that does these things & the author doesn't try to sugarcoat any of it. Erica is insane, yet there's really no big attempt to make these things seem socially acceptable or pardonable. I rather liked this story- it's a good idea & apart from my open mouthed horror at Erica's actions, I found myself fascinated by her actions. I'll be honest & say that I didn't like her character, but then the main character doesn't have to be likable or sympathetic as long as the story keeps you entertained & captivated.

My only real complaints about the book was that while the characters were pretty decently done, I didn't get a good sense of the world as a whole. I knew what the motivations of each character were, but as far as knowing what daily life was like or what the world was like, those details were at a minimum. There's enough here to fuel the plot along, but I couldn't help but feel that the story would have been greatly improved with just a little bit more world building. It just kept the book from really being as good as it could have been.

There's a sequel to this, so I really do hope that the author gives us more than just a brief glance at Erica's world as well as the events taking place in it.

Final Diagnosis: Overall this was a fun read & far better than what I'd expected, but a lack of definition in the overall world kept this steampunk tale from really soaring.

(Reader copy provided by author)

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