Book Review: The Clockwork Witch by Michelle D. Sonnier

With a title like The Clockwork Witch, who needs a synopsis? You got clocks, you got witches, and you got a witch that fixes clocks. What else were you expecting? Michelle D Sonnier hits the nail on the head with this Victorian-Era Urban-fantasy about discovering the most counter-intuitive witch powers a teen girl could ask for.

Arabella Sortilege is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, born to the Grand Dame of the great Blackstone House under the auspices of a not so subtle prophecy. Except unlike all her sisters, she can’t seem to manifest any abilities. What’s a girl to do? Until she sneaks into a World’s Fair type of Exhibition and meets a certain Mister Westerfeld and his Distinction Engine (see while the women all go and do their witch thing, the mundane men compensate with motors and machines). Having been sequestered within her mother’s overprotective bubble, this first experience with machines awakens her gifts in what essentially amounts to the antithesis of natural witchcraft. Continue reading “Book Review: The Clockwork Witch by Michelle D. Sonnier” »

Book Review: Esper Files by Egan Brass

Esper Files mixes the charm of your usual Victorian steampunk setting with the spectacle of a superhero popcorn flick and keeps the action pistons pumping throughout this first novel by Egan Brass.

Nathan and James are Espers with superpowers, feared and hated by the public at large, and when they aren’t bickering with one another like step-brothers, they’re getting into your usual fisticuffs around town with their less reputable counterparts and rescuing pubescent children who are only beginning to understand the changes they’re going through. Along with the requisite evil henchmen, they confront a villain named simply the Baron, a former associate of their enigmatic mentor known only as the Professor who runs an Institute for Espers to learn to control their powers. If this is starting to sound familiar, you aren’t the only one thinking this is just another X-Men knockoff set in set in a vaguely steampunk Victorian England. The only part that didn’t feel X-Men to me was the little girl they rescue after her unexpected expression of powers turns the entire scene into a block of ice, threatening to kill everyone. That’s straight out of Disney’s Frozen. Continue reading “Book Review: Esper Files by Egan Brass” »

Book Review: The Machine by E.C. Jarvis

Opening with a curmudgeonly engineer, “Cid” adjusting his goggles, moving quickly to the bouncing blond curls of our naive young heroine, “Larissa”, and leading swiftly into the explosion of a mysteriously ominous machine, E.C. Jarvis’ steampunk powered novel, The Machine, kicks off with a literal bang and rollicks along at a near unrelenting pace. We are whisked from Larissa’s fairly mundane existence as a humble clerk at a clothing emporium, her modest apartment where we meet her best friend and confidante, “Imago” her cat, to a flight for her life, and a desperate mission to save the life of a man she might be in love with…delicate details, twists on the all-too-common tropes, are what make The Machine such a pure pleasure to read, that draw us in to discover the true nature of Larissa’s romantic entanglements, as well as to understand the evil machinations, of not only our evident villains, the sadistic “Dr. Orother”, his giant henchman, “Hans” or even the seductive, yet seemingly heartless female assassin, “Serenia”, but later even deeper and more insidious implications of intrigue on a grander scale.

E.C Jarvis paints in vivid hues a world of corsets, cogs, pirates and airships, with a gently restrained romanticism, and even a few heated scenes of sexual passion. She balances these elements skillfully with raw action and harrowing suspense, tempering it all with a touch of playful humor. She is a master at tension and release. I found myself reveling in the beautifully rich descriptions of a somehow familiar yet delightfully exotic future/past, where clerics in robes guard temples to the gods, ladies of the evening laugh raucously from the balconies of a city tavern where denizens of the night brandish knives and pistols under their waistcoats.

Our author warns, “This is a work of adult Steampunk Fantasy. Possible triggers are present within the book including…sex, murder, torture and violence.” I was surprised only once at how far into the abyss she takes us. Yet even when I found myself wince a bit, Ms. Jarvis handles her re-balancing act deftly and with a renewed sense of purpose and worldly wisdom gained by our heroine.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Machine by E.C. Jarvis” »