Tag Archives: steampunk

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare (unabridged audiobook read by Daniel Sharman; 15.5 hrs on 13 discs): And here we are at the end of the trilogy. I have thoughts and they are all disjointed, so, bottom line up front: I really enjoyed it. I found this trilogy to be far better, both in story and in mechanics, than The Mortal Instruments. The characters have far more depth, and thus are far more interesting to read about. However, I do still believe it was helpful to read The Mortal Instruments first because of how fun it was to see the origins of many things that pop up in that series.

I didn’t think I could love Magnus any more than I already did, but clearly my affection for him knows no bounds.

The revelation about Tessa’s talent was satisfying, as was the defeat of Mortmain and the truth behind Tessa’s clockwork angel. I felt the resolution of the Jem/Tessa/Will love triangle to be a little too convenient, however, despite how much I loved all three characters. Jem’s epilogue was generally unconvincing as well, but perhaps Clare has another book in store for these characters. I kind of hope so, actually, because I love this universe, though I like it better in Victorian times than modern day.

A note on the audio: Finally a good narrator! Why couldn’t they have Sharman narrate the other two books as well? Stupid stupid stupid.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare (unabridged audiobook read by Ed Westwick and Heather Lind; 15.5 hrs on 13 discs): The story of Mortmain and his clockwork soldiers continues with the angst of Will. Amazingly, Will’s jerkface tendencies from the last book are actually explained realistically here, with a twist that did not surprise me but was still pleasing in how unusual it was. Will’s character in general is given a surprising amount of depth; that plus the secrets revealed and exciting battles and romantic shenanigans made this my favorite Shadow Hunter book so far (including all of Mortal Instruments, which really isn’t anywhere nearly as well-written as this). I’ll be curious to see how various issues are cleared up in the final book: the love triangles, the unrequited loves, the terminal illness, the villain’s mysterious motives, etc. All around a fun ride.

A note on the audio: While these narrators are a huge improvement over the one from the previous book, it’s disruptive to constantly be switching readers. I do not understand why anyone would have thought that was a good idea.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (unabridged audiobook read by Jennifer Ehle; 15.5 hrs on 13 discs): When Tessa travels from her native New York to London to meet up with her brother, she is greeted by the Dark Sisters, strange women who hold her captive, forcing her to master a talent she never knew she possessed: shape shifting. She soon finds herself in the company of shadow hunters, those half-angel humans who uphold the law among the supernatural. Unlike the modern Mortal Instruments series, this takes place in Victorian times. There’s a bit of a steampunk vibe, what with clockwork critters and all that, but it’s not overbearing or overly unrealistic (for a story with demons and warlocks, that is). I like Tessa; she’s smart and confident without being reckless (using “character is too headstrong and doesn’t listen to reason and gets herself into trouble” as a plot device is a pet peeve of mine). The shadow hunters are also pleasantly individual: surly Will, kind Jem, prissy Jessamine, determined Charlotte, flighty Henry. I liked that I couldn’t predict where everything was going, but also never felt like things were plucked out of thin air. I don’t know if I would be enjoying it as much if I hadn’t already been introduced to the shadow hunter universe through the Mortal Instruments series, though I do feel the characters and story are much stronger here. The book ends on a slight cliffhanger, but that’s okay because it’s the beginning of a trilogy. Game on.

A note on the audio: When only a couple of the characters are American, it is best to get someone who can pull off a decent British accent. This reader, alas, cannot.

The Manual of Aeronautics by Scott Westerfeld and Keith Thompson

The Manual of Aeronautics by Scott Westerfeld and Keith Thompson: The alternate-WWI, steampunk world of Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath required a surprising amount of pre-work, describing all the technology and creatures and uniforms so the illustrations of the novels would match Westerfeld’s vision. This book contains a small sampling of those designs, from detailed floor plans of airships to Latin names for fabricated beasties to portraits of some of our favorite characters. It was a very fast read, but I loved the full color drawings. The pictures really helped bring the books to life, and this slim volume only enhances that experience. Recommended for fans of the series, but not until after you’ve finished reading it.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Alan Cumming; 10.5 hrs on 9 discs): This final installment of the Leviathan trilogy had me on the edge of my seat pretty much the entire time. If Deryn’s secret wasn’t on the verge of being discovered then Alek was in danger or the engines were smoking or some other calamity. This part of our story takes us from Siberia to Japan to the USA, introducing a number of memorable new characters and visiting old friends along the way. And Bovril the perspicacious loris was endlessly adorable. There were far more historical figures this time around, making Westerfeld’s “what actually happened” epilogue even more interesting. You know, I don’t really care for steampunk or alternate histories or books about war – fictional or otherwise – but I really, really loved this trilogy. I loved the characters, how you’re never quite sure who knows what or whom to trust. I loved the technology, the mix of science and fantasy involved in these genetically engineered critters. I loved the story, the adventures, the romance, the suspense. And the ending was quite satisfying, which is saying a lot considering how many loose ends were flapping about prior to it. Highly recommended.

A note on the audio: Cumming is a master of a wide variety of accents – American, German, Scottish, and numerous forms of English – but Russian, alas, is not one of them. It was a little painful listening to his Russian characters. But that’s a pretty small complaint, considering he remained simply fantastic for the rest of the book. It’s also worth noticing that since I was listening to this in my car, I did attempt to make up excuses to drive places.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Alan Cumming; 9.5 hrs on 8 discs): Deryn and Alek are in Istanbul, where they meet anarchists (who aren’t really), a perspicacious loris, and a nosy American reporter. I laughed aloud when Deryn and Alek were discussing Lilit, and there were several times when all I could think was, “How are they going to get out of this one, then?” I am thoroughly enjoying this series, which is interesting since I don’t generally consider myself to be a steampunk fan. I guess it helps that this is more alternate history and science fiction than a mere obsession with gear-and-goggle-based fashion. I can’t wait to see how the story ends.

A note on the audio: Cumming continues to dazzle. I’m almost certain that some American dude showed up, shoved Cumming out of the way just to say the American character’s lines, and then left. To my American ears, it was perhaps the best accent I’ve ever heard by a British narrator.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Alan Cumming; 8.5 hrs on 7 discs): What we know as World War I is about to begin, but in this world the two factions are the Clankers and the Darwinists. The Clankers have huge mechanical contraptions, sort of a steampunk AT-AT. The Darwinist’s giant war machines are actually carefully designed animals created through grafting genes. Alek is the son of the recently assassinated Archduke Ferdinand, now on the run from his own allies; Deryn is a Scottish girl pretending to be a boy so she can join the military. It’s a fun story, but unquestionably part of a series – the ending leads into the next stage of the plot, leaving you wishing for just one more chapter. I’m so glad I’m reading it now, after the whole trilogy has been released, so I don’t have to wait. I also appreciated the “this is real and this is made up” afterword. Definitely recommended if you like steampunk or WWI alternate history.

A note on the audio: Alan Cumming is fantastic. No, seriously, amazing. To the point where I want to watch every movie he’s ever used an accent in ever.

Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve

Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve: This is the third installment in a science fiction series (The Hungry City Chronicles) of which I have read no other books. It felt very sequelish: the heroes of the previous books have settled down and had a daughter who grows up with tales of their adventures back in the day. Said daughter then runs away and revisits old villains from said adventures. Despite the rather cliche set-up, it’s a reasonably fast-paced book with fairly interesting characters. If I sound a little tepid, there’s a reason. I couldn’t really get into this book. But it may be due to my ignorance of the setting. I don’t know what anti-tractionists believe, or what the Green Storm is trying to accomplish, or the significance of Stalker Grike. I also don’t have any context for Hester Shaw’s past sins, so such revelations meant nothing to me. The only real lasting impression I got of this book was how violent it is. People – even children – die graphically left and right. It was a little shocking to find in a book aimed at young adults. One thing I’ll say for this book, however: the author knows how to keep his audience. While the main plot issue is resolved at the end, all kinds of loose ends and vague cliffhangers remain. I am curious what happens to Hester and Tom and Wren and Fishcake. However, I am not a very patient reader; I’ll wait until the entire series is released before revisiting it, this time from the beginning.

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