Cogs and corsets
Ever since I read Gail Carriger's Soulless (reviewed by my co-MADreader, Katie in 2009 - I can hardly believe it's been that long! and it's now even been re-imagined as a manga) I've been on a quest to find other steampunk romances.
I know, I know. Carriger's book isn't truly steampunk because of the vampires and werewolves. I hear you. And I'm admitting up front, right here that these books, like Carriger's series, are a mixture of things: steampunk and/or urban fantasy and/or romance and/or science fiction and/or mystery and/or you name it. And no two books are alike as to the mix. What does run throughout are the steampunk elements (to lesser or greater effect) and that is what has drawn me to each.
Tarnished by Karina Cooper
This is the best of my recent steampunk reads and though I've sub-titled this post as steampunk romances, Tarnished only has a touch of romance. I do think over the course of the series (book two, Gilded is due at the end of the year) there will be romance but for right now, heroine Cherry St. Croix has only met a couple of interesting men. Cherry St. Croix is a lady by day, living above the smog and the crime, and a collector (think bounty hunter) by night to make ends meet. When a friend asks her to look into the murder of four women Cherry agrees, only to find herself caught in more then one trap. What intrigued me about the book is Cooper's version of London where the richest and the elite have moved to the city above the city. Think of the massive raised freeways in California. Up there are the cleaner, more well-to-do London denizens. Down below are the poor and disadvantaged. There are opium dens and a Jack the Ripper type murderer roaming the streets. Can't wait to read Gilded.
Heart of Brass by Kate Cross (first in the Clockwork Agents series)
This one is more strictly a romance but the steampunk elements are well-imagined and necessary to the story. Arden Grey is a member of the Wardens, a secret organization charged with protecting the British Empire. She became a Warden after her husband Luke, Lord Huntley, disappeared almost seven years ago. The book opens with Arden called out to view a murder scene and possibly help the police. As she leaves the scene Arden spots a man she's sure is her missing (presumed dead by everyone else) husband Luke. When she once again sees Luke she is horrified to discover that not only does he not remember his wife, he's actually in London to kill her. What's a wife to do? Arden gets out her discombobulation device (think taser) and captures Luke before he can kill her. What Cross does so well here, other then layer her story with wonderful steampunk elements and gadgets, is to realistically draw a marriage before and after this seven year absense.
God Save the Queen by Kate Locke
Xandra Vardan is a member of the elite Royal Guard charged with protecting the undead Queen Victoria (yes she is a vampire who has ruled for 175 years) and the other undead members of the aristocracy. Xandra, who is a half-blood (aristocratic vampire father, and human mother) is fiercely loyal to the Queen and Royal Guard and thinks the caste system is right and good. Her confidence in the people she works for is shaken and as she opens her eyes to the inherent injustice in her world, she discovers that much of what she's been told about herself and her past is not true. Of the three I'd say this one is the weakest on integrating the steampunk into the story. There're lots of mentions of gadgets, but little explanation for how they actually work and fit in this world. Instead there's a lot of energy in Locke's story and though this is a mix that has just about everything I mentioned above (sf, mystery, urban fantasy, steampunk, romance) it was still a fun read.
How about you? Are any of you steampunk fans? I'm always looking for new reads.