Steampunk Sundays: The Shadow Revolution by Clay & Susan Griffith + Series Intro

Series: Crown & Key 1
Format: eGalley
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Del Rey
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Steampunk

They are the realm’s last, best defense against supernatural evil. But they’re going to need a lot more silver.

As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.

After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.

Let me forewarn you that in the next few days or weeks, you’ll see Clay and Susan Grffith’s THE SHADOW REVOLUTION popping up in the blogosphere. If they sound vaguely familiar to you, the writing duo penned Vampire Empire, which I know some of you are familiar with, have read, and probably loved. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting their vampires, but I’m happy to report that Crown & Key is off to a fantastic start. Let’s whip out the bullets!
  • I know a few of you don’t read Steampunk. Understandable. Now even if Crown & Key is filed under this genre, THE SHADOW REVOLUTION is not riddled with Steampunk components, such as steamships, archaic/futuristic gadgets, and cleverly coined nouns. It’s more historical paranormal similar to Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series minus the romance. 
  • Speaking of paranormal, the lead, Simon Archer, is by all intents and purposes, a (sexy) druid, and he’s up against a pack of rabid werewolves. I love the supernatural element in this one, the magic is aether-based and the wolves are very scary. There’s not much lore or myth incorporated just yet, just enough mentions to give us a good grasp of what Simon is and what he’s capable of. 
  • Simon has a serious crush on Kate Anstruther and it’s obvious that the feeling is mutual. However it seems that it’s going to be a slow-buring one. I guess our heroes are more intent of ridding London its werewolf problem than scoring a few gropes and kisses. 
  • THE SHADOW REVOLUTION is packed with fast paced action, very character driven, engaging dialogue, and likable characters. The climax in particular came in waves and each one is better than the last. I had total bookgasm especially in the last quarter of the novel. 
  • I love Simon and Kate, they’re flawed yet very ideal heroes. Both are very smart, discerning, witty, and they perfectly complement each other. Simon is the braun while Kate is the brains. Also Simon has this bad boy thing going on for him, infamous and known to be a trouble maker; while Kate is learned, an aristocrat, a bit haughty, but just as brave and daring as Simon.

    The secondary characters are just as great. Nick, Simon’s partner/mentor, is like an elder Sherlock Holmes/Nicolas Flammel. Malcolm MacFarlane, aside from being a Scot (instant sexy points!) is super hunky and every bit of an Alpha. Charlotte, the young werewolf is perhaps my favorite of the cast. She’s simply amazing! If you’ve read or have plans of reading THE SHADOW REVOLUTION, pay attention to the epic battle that ensued in the last quarter of the book. Charlotte kicked some serious ass during the battle! Woot!

Going back to my post intro. Even if you’re not a reader of Steampunk but love a good action fantasy novel, please do yourself a favor and pick up THE SHADOW REVOLUTION. You won’t be bogged down by engineered marvels and endless talk about machinery. You’ll instead have a grand adventure in Victorian London, fighting off evil werewolves vicariously through Simon & Co. It also helps that the books are released in close succession so you don’t have to wait too long to get your next fill. 
Instant gratification + extraordinary adventure = fantastic Summer read. Win-win!
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The Birth of a Series

The background concept of CROWN & KEY came to us originally from our publisher, Del Rey. They had developed an outline about a hidden history of the world where magic was real but secret. We were thrilled that they asked us to take this sprawling outline and craft a trilogy of novels introducing the world to readers. After much debate, we decided to focus on a few of the main characters (our favorites) and develop their histories. In the early 19th century, the ancient guild of magicians that has always controlled the shadowy world of sorcery as well as the horrific population of monsters shatters because of simmering rivalries and betrayal. The once orderly world of magic flies apart into revolution and bloody chaos. There are those who are trying to bury the old order and those who are desperate to revive it before the world is forever corrupted. Our story places our heroes into this treacherous world and reveals their hidden pasts as well as the mystical legacies of their fathers and mothers. All the while, the reader discovers the amazing magic around the world.

CROWN & KEY is designed to be a thrill ride of a series, but the best kind of thrill ride. While it is certainly fast-paced and action-oriented, it is populated with terrifying villains and memorable heroes who will stick with you. Our main heroes include Simon Archer, the handsome and jovial rake who hides the fact that he is the last surviving scribe, once one of the most powerful styles of magic on Earth. His primary partner is Kate Anstruther, brilliant scholar and alchemist, the headstrong daughter of a famous explorer, who is desperate to keep her family together and make a mark on the world with her mystical science. Malcolm MacFarlane is a grim Scottish monster hunter, tormented by his past and forced to confront his own intolerant view of his enemies. Penny Carter secretly worked her way up through a man’s world as an engineer, crafting weapons and tools of power based on steam and arcane energy sources.

The three books in the CROWN & KEY trilogy will be published in quick succession (The Shadow Revolution on June 2, The Undying Legion on June 30, The Conquering Dark on July 28) which means fans won’t have to wait long to get their hands on the entire series. This publishing scheme allowed us to view the entire trilogy a bit more omnisciently and fine tune the details over the course of writing three books. We could insure that important themes resonated through the entire series. We tightened the plot and linked the characters through subtle twists and turns that we might not have been able to accomplish if the early books were already published as we were writing the third. We are very pleased with the results and we hope readers will love and cheer the members of CROWN & KEY as much as we do.

Clay & Susan Griffith are a married couple who have written and published together for more than a decade. Their credits not only include two novels for Bantam Doubleday Dell in the mid-1990s and another novel for Pinnacle Entertainment Group in 2002 but also numerous short stories published in many anthologies, some featuring noted genre characters like Kolchak the Night Stalker and The Phantom. They’ve also written scripts for television and published graphic novels.

Follow Clay & Susan
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Talk Supe


Steampunk Sundays: Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

Series: Standalone (?)
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: YA | Steampunk

What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if there is more than one world? From Heather Dixon, author of the acclaimed Entwined, comes a brilliantly conceived adventure that sweeps us from the inner workings of our souls to the far reaches of our imaginations.

Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he’s a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.

Venen, a rabid disease that only affects women, is ravaging Arthursian (basically London). The death toll is high and rising by the minute. Desperate to find a cure, the King came to Dr. Gouden, Jonathan’s father, to find a cure. But the King did not just bring with him a request for help, he also brough Venen to Jonathan’s family and now his sister, Hannah, and his mother has contracted the disease. Desperate to save them, Jonathan came to the last perso he should be seeking aid from. Lady Florel is an enemy of the empire and the only one who holds the anti-toxin to Venen. The price might be too high for Jonathan but he will do anything in his power to save his family and the realm.
Oi vey! Reviewing ILLUSIONARIUM by Heather Dixon’s, I feel, is causing me to splice. Let me start with ILLUSIONARIUM is a very imaginative and scientific novel. It deals with parallel universes, the power of thought, and how our dreams are possible if only one is determined enough to fulfill it.
Unfortunately, how HDixon imagined the novel didn’t exactly turn out that way. Let me start with ILLUSIONARIUM books at least. The world and magic involved is so complex, building it alone should’ve taken up most of ILLUSIONARIUM. The story was so lean that the universe she created and its limitations weren’t defined. Remember, the premise is, an illusionist is able to create and build a world, or multiple worlds, given the right conditions. That said, she didn’t provide sufficient mythology to explain what an illusionist is and the extent of their powers. Is it an inherent capability? Can someone train to become one? I have my theories based on the narrative but I can’t tell you for sure because HDixon didn’t quite definte it.
In addition, ILLUSIONARIUM felt more like sci-fi/fantasy than Steampunk fantasy as some of the early critic reviews imply. The novel is fast paced and an easy read, but due to the lack of crucial details, the events went from 0-100 in a blink. Jonathan is an illusionist and became the best one there is in a hot minute. I’m good with “gifts” and prophesies and all that, but I expect the hero to work for his title somehow. I mean, Hercules has his 9 labors, what were Jonathan’s feats before he became great?
On the surface, I enjoyed ILLUSIONARIUM. I got into the chase, the fight scenes, the confrontations, even the scientific notations fascinated me when those things bores me in general. However, ILLUSIONARIUM had me wanting to read the deleted scenes because the novel lacked depth, the characters felt one dimensional, and the resolution felt so simple compared to the complicated plot and conflict. There were moments where I seriously though “so this must be what doing acid feels like,” because of the absence of fine details.
That said, if ILLUSIONARIUM were MG-YA, then I think I could give it a pass and ignore its flaws and take it at face value. MG fantasy in general are more action-centric than character development. And as this seems to be a standalone, the lack of character growth might be understandable so it can give way to the development of the plot. But as that’s not the case with ILLUSIONARIUM promising a lot of things: YA-Steampunk, intricate premise, spectacular plot devices, etc.; the novel just scratched the surface IMHO. I’m not completely disappointed by this, ILLUSIONARIUM has some good things going for it and I am NOT discouraging you from reading it either. Just don’t overthink things and I think you’ll find yourself enjoying the novel much more than I did.
Bloggy Friend’s Review: The Social Potato

Talk Supe

Steampunk Sundays: Back to the Future with the New Victorians by Paul Roland + Music Influences

Steampunk: Back to the Future with the New Victorians
Paul Roland
Non-Fiction | History
Oldcastle Books
April 1, 2015
Credited with cofounding the movement with his Edwardian/Victorian themed albums, Paul Roland traces the history of the genre, drawing on exclusive quotes from leading writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers in the field.

What began in the late 1980s as an underground community of science fiction and fantasy aficionados with a fetish for Victoriana now pervades almost every aspect of popular culture from music and movies to comics and computer games. Written by one of the godfathers of steampunk, this cultural history includes exclusive interviews with key figures including Cherie Priest, Mark Hodder, Kris Kukski, Chaz Kemp, Professor Elemental, and Abney Park. This account demonstrates that steampunk is much more than a retro-futuristic fashion statement or a subgenre of science fiction. On the surface its adherents profess a penchant for neo-Victorian fashion, fanciful clockwork accessories, and have a desire to live in an alternative reality inhabited by airships and eccentric inventions. But the literature, art, music, and movies of this burgeoning community offer a radical and irreverent reimagining of society the way it might have evolved had history taken a sharp detour prior to the industrial revolution giving us a world without electricity, the infernal (sic) combustion engine, and the technology that we take for granted today. The world of steampunk as explored here is the elegant gas lit world of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, of Michael Moorcock and their literary antecedents for whom the digital age never dawned.
Today’s feature is going to be a little different in that I’m featuring a book that traces the grassroots of Steampunk and it’s influence. This genre isn’t just exclusive to books, it’s a movement, a lifestyle, and continues to inspire different people in many creative ways. 

I give you Paul Roland to tell us more about the Steampunk music.
Steampunk & Music
by Paul Roland

Airship Pirates and Clockwork Quartets

It may be of little concern to the bureaucrats who drew up the Trade Descriptions Act, but it’s an undeniable fact that there isn’t much punk in steampunk. At least not of the three-chord thrash variety spat out by the snotty, glue sniffing, safety pin and spiky hair, pogo-till-you-puke brigade who stormed the barricades back in ’76, or ‘Rock’s Year Zero’ as the NME would have it. Back then it was ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and the wholesale slaughter of the dinosaurs of corporate rock. Now it’s more like anachronistic fashion accessories in the UK and US as the likes of Abney Park, Sunday Driver and Vernian Process describe a dystopian fantasy world through rose-tinted goggles with a sentimentality that would make the late Bill Grundy doubt he could goad them in to saying something risqué about Queen Victoria.

No, steampunk acts in the new millennium are disarmingly polite, even reverential to the past, musically and lyrically speaking. The punk element refers solely to their anarchic fashion aesthetic, which inspires devotees to rummage through attics and antique shops in search of cast-off corsets, lace-up boots and discarded bits and pieces from fictitious eccentric inventions.

It’s the Victorian explorer look mashed together with the ‘shabby genteel’ appearance of your local body snatcher.

Thematically speaking, their music is visionary in a retro-futurist way and as image conscious as any popular music genre that preceded it—but is it significant, or merely an elaborate sideshow until the Next Big Thing comes along?

If one can disregard the Victorian trappings and the ubiquitous airships, which seem to adorn every album cover and glide soundlessly through the sepia-tinted videos, and instead evaluate the music on its own merits, it could be argued that Abney Park and their contemporaries are a logical development from the New Romantic movement of the early 1980s. Yes, implausible though it may sound, steampunk bands owe more than a nod to those ruffle-shirted dandies who delighted in pretentious names such as Spandau Ballet, A Flock of Seagulls and Visage and partied like it was 1999.

For one thing, in the engine room of every steampunk contraption worthy of the name beats a modified drum machine propelling the track as steadily as the rudimentary rhythm boxes beloved of Ultravox, Classix Nouveau and their contemporaries. To this are added throbbing keyboard lines, ethereal pads (a wash of sustained chords) and the occasional pulsating sequencer to provide a backdrop suggestive of a parallel universe populated by automatons and wheezing, steam-driven machines.

And like the New Romantics before them, this throbbing pulse often proves irresistible to those New Victorians who are not too inhibited to take to the dance floor. But what truly sets Steampunk apart from mainstream rock or pop is the conspicuous absence of self-indulgent guitar solos.

Take Abney Park’s first authentic Steampunk offering ‘Lost Horizons’ (2008), for example. Having assimilated a smattering of world music and Industrial influences in the preceding years, it wasn’t such a large step for this former goth outfit from Seattle to morph into a mutinous crew of self-styled airship pirates utilizing trance-dance drum machine patterns and brassy synthesizer sounds interwoven with mellifluous violin lines and the odd slab of abrasive guitar to underscore the macabre narratives of their captain, Robert Brown. Brown is at the helm of Abney Park’s mighty dirigible and he provides the narration for their nautical adventures to uncharted lands inhabited by mad scientists, clockwork dolls, twisted romances and sinister secrets—but there is also a glimmer of mordant humour to some of the songs on subsequent albums such as ‘Victorian Vigilante’, ‘To The Apocalypse In Daddy’s Sidecar’, ‘Space Cowboy’ and ‘Throw Them Overboard’, the latter of which refers to the good captain’s habit of jettisoning human ballast to see him through stormy waters!

There’s an epic quality to much of the band’s music giving the impression that we are listening to the soundtrack to a movie that has yet to be made. But that can’t be far off, for already the band have created a board game and inspired a novel (‘The Wrath of Fate’, 2012) recounting their adventures in their time-travelling contraption.

In contrast to the prolific Abney Park, their San Francisco-based counterparts Vernian Process(whose name pays homage to Jules Verne) take the creative process at a far more leisurely pace, if their modest output is anything to go by. Their debut album, ‘Behold The Machine’ (2010), was four years in the making, although it was certainly worth the wait. It’s a rich kaleidoscope of primary-coloured sound that draws on a diverse range of influences from prog rock and neoclassical to darkwave electro pop, and all shades in between. The unquiet spirit of Dead Can Dance, Fields of the Nephilim and The Sisters of Mercy haunt such tracks as ‘Unhallowed Metropolis’ and ‘Into The Depths’, while Danny Elfman appears to have inspired their follow-up ‘single’ ‘Something Wicked’, which in a parallel universe would have provided the main theme for Ray Bradbury’s darkest fantasy ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’. So roll up, roll up! Step this way and see the bizarre exhibits of the dark carnival presided over by Joshua Pfeiffer, vocal funambulist extraordinaire and master of ceremonies of the greatest show on this or any other Earth. File under symphonic punk perhaps?

However, if you’re on the search for steampunk with all the snotty, in-your-face attitude left in (and not a synth in sight), you couldn’t do better than to seek out The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. Their cheekily titled debut, ‘Now That’s What I Call Steampunk Vol 1’ (2010), which—while giving a two-fingered salute to those endless ‘Now…’ chart compilations—takes the starched collar steampunk aesthetic by the scruff of the neck and gives it a good seeing to. Both ‘Now’ and its sequel of sorts, ‘This May Be The Reason…’ (2012), are chock full of irreverent three-chord thrashers with much shouting, drunken barracking from the backbenches and splashing cymbals, which distances them from the airship-and-goggle brigade by several social strata and a half. Musically it’s a grown up version of The Toy Dolls, but in place of the Dolls’ knockabout comic strip humour TMTWNBBFN are sharply satirical as they gob all over everything the Victorians held dear from good manners (‘Etiquette’) and self-sacrifice (‘Blood Red’) to modesty (‘Tesla Coil’) and the monarchy (‘Victoria’s Secret’). It may not be strictly steampunk as the mainstream defines it, but it is arguably more true to the term than many of their contemporaries, and it might even have raised a smile from the sullen old sovereign herself had she had the good fortune to own a gramophone.

NOTE: The article is quite lengthy so if you’re a Steampunk enthusiast and would like to read the full guest post, you may find it HERE.

Paul Roland is a former Editor of ZigZag magazine and has been a freelance feature writer and reviewer for numerous national publications since the early ’80s including Kerrang!, Sounds, Which CD?, Total Film and The Mail On Sunday. He is the author of 35 books including Cosmic Dancer – The Life and Music of Marc Bolan, Dark History of the Occult, The Crimes of Jack The Ripper and The Curious Case of H.P.Lovecraft. He is also a cult indie recording artist with more than 15 albums to his credit including Danse Macabre, A Cabinet of Curiosities, Re-Animator and Bates Motel.

Follow Paul
Website | Blog | Facebook | @RealPaulRoland | Goodreads

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Shelly’s Steampunk Sundays: Dawn’s Early Light by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 3
Publisher: Ace Penguin
Released: March 25, 2014
Source: Amazon
Format: E-Book | 384 pages
Genre: Adult Steampunk

Working for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, one sees innumerable technological wonders. But even veteran agents Braun and Books are unprepared for what the electrifying future holds…

After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.

This post is going to be a bit different from my other review posts in that Braine and I discussed doing the top 5 reasons why I loved DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT. So, without further adieu, let’s get right to it!
  1. Eliza Doolittle Braun – Eliza is an agent with the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences and something of a rogue. She’s known as a colonial, having been born and raised in New Zealand before catching the eye of the Ministry. Eliza is the most kick-butt female heroine that you will read about in the Steampunk Genre. She loves to cause trouble, she loves guns, blowing things up, and is the furthest from a Mary Sue character that one can hope for. Eliza faces villain after villain with a grin on her face, and a snarky comment on her lips.
  2. I loved that Pip and Tee takes our intrepid heroes, Eliza and Wellington Books, to the US in the late 19th century where they meet their counterparts from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical. I think the newest setting is just what readers need instead of the same old same old. The authors take our heroes, plus new partners Felicity Lovelace and Wild Bill Wheatley, on a cross country journey from North Carolina, Detroit, Arizona, and finally ending in San Francisco where things come to an interesting head. The journey and the action will boggle the readers mind, and keep them from being bored.
  3. Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire – Welly, as both Eliza and I like to call him, is the Archivist for the Ministry. He’s been with the Ministry for 8 years, and his entire world has been turned upside down by one Eliza Braun. Books is something of a mystery, but has now been elevated to the status of Agent thanks to his and Eliza’s actions against the Phoenix Society. I will say that part of the mystery surrounding Books is covered in The Diamond Conspiracy which releases March 31, 2015. Welly is a sharpshooter, inventor, and just wait until you get to reading his latest invention!
  4. I do love the fact that the authors don’t gloss over Thomas Edison’s participation, but makes him a legitimate villain who is working in conjunction with Eliza and Welly’s nemesis the House of Usher. I also love the fact that the authors added Henry Ford, as well as Nikola Tesla. Both of these gentlemen were ahead of their time, and created some amazing inventions that we are still using today.
  5. My only real hesitation about giving this book an even higher rating, is the unresolved issue between Eliza and Welly’s kiss in The Janus Affair. THIS issue forced me to bite my tongue several times throughout the book. THANKFULLY! This is easily resolved by taking 5 minutes to fix. I actually found the mix of Eliza and Wild Bill interesting. The two of them together are a thrill ride that just won’t stop.
In the end, DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT is a wild journey with plenty of action, twists, revelations, danger situations, romance, and a shocking ending that leads directly into the fourth installment called The Diamond Conspiracy which I shall be reviewing on Gizmos Book Reviews on Tuesday, March 31, 2015.

Read a more detailed review of 
DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT at Gizmos Reviews
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Steampunk Sundays: The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences

Format: eGalley 
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins Voyager
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Adult Steampunk

Certainly no strangers to peculiar occurrences, agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are nonetheless stunned to observe a fellow passenger aboard Britain’s latest hypersteam train suddenly vanish in a dazzling bolt of lightning. They soon discover this is not the only such disappearance – every case inexplicably unexamined by the Crown.

It’s SPRING! Finally, the bitterness of Winter is out (in my neck ‘o the woods at least) and it’s that time of the year where we’ll see bright colors, longer days, and sneeze til our eyes pop out! That said, I apologize if this post is late and brief. I got busy worshipping Mr. Sun and tending my garden beds. Without further ado:
5 Reasons why I loved THE JANUS AFFAIR
  1. Romance Shmomance: I don’t like love triangles HOWEVER, I’ll make an exception here. Why? Because our lovely heroes, Welly Books and Eliza Braun, are so dense! Obviously they got the hots for each other and sometimes it takes another dashing dude, like Eliza’s former suitor, Douglas Sheppard, to bring that attraction the forefront. Oh the tension!
  2. Ministry of Seven (or Eight): These street urchins that serves as Eliza’s eyes, ears, and cohorts when she’s out cracking cases are too cute! I don’t want to be their mark, that would horrible because they know how to pull a good con. It’s great being on their side though. 
  3. Badass Females: as Women’s Suffrage is the topic at hand, you can expect a lot of badassery from the female persuasion. Aside from Eliza there’s Kate Sheppard (Douglas’ mother), leader of the suffrage movement and current target of this sinister group who’s abducting members of her organization. Then there’s the villainess’, Sophia del Morte, whome we’ve met in Phoenix Rising, and Diamond Dottie, a sort of a gang leader who is tall, imposing, and has bad fashion sense. 
  4. The Empire Takedown: Aside from the episode plots, someone or something is plotting to take down the Empire. One would think this has been resolved in the previous book, obviously whoever or whatever this group is is far from finished. This is the overarching arc of Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, and it’s as exciting as Eliza and Welly’s adventures! As I mentioned before, I’m most curious what Doctor Basil Sound is up to as well as the double agents who are helping out the Maestro execute his planned anarchy.
  5. The Interludes: Oh I love the interludes! It’s a mix of different things like Doctor Sound sneaking into the archives, the Maestro meeting/threatening poms (aristos), etc. This gives the series a holistic feel, an expansion of the story in the sense that the world doesn’t revolve around Braun & Books.
I hope y’all have a good week ahead! As for me, I’m back to playing with dirt!

Bloggy Friends’ Reviews

Steampunk Sundays: Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 1

Format: Hardcover
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Bought
Genre: Steampunk

In Victorian England, Londoners wash up dead on Thames, drained of blood and bone. Clandestine Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is forbidden to investigate. But Eliza Braun, with bulletproof corset, fondness for dynamite, remarkable devices, drags along timorous new partner Wellington Books, of encyclopedic brain, against Phoenix intent on enslaving Britons.

And because this brilliant and super fun novel by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris has been floating around for quite some time now, I’ll keep this short and lay out the reasons why I love PHOENIX RISING:
  1. No paranormals here. Just some jolly ‘ol bad guys out to get Queen Vic & topple her monarchy. I love villainous secret societies, you never know how vast and long their reach is. Just when you think you got them, they surprise you with more deviousness.
  2. Wellington Books, Archivist and a hunky one at that. You know I love geeks as much as I love them Alphas. Welly is a gentleman, learned, and resourceful. Don’t let his (hot) librarian demeanor fool you, this dude’s got some surprising skills up his sleeves.
  3. Which brings me to Eliza Braun. The anti-thesis of Books and the brawn of this duo. A native of New Zealand and fresh off a (jumbled) mission in Antartica, I can’t help but adore a girl who loves fashion and explosives in equal amounts. This girl is dynamite! Literally.
  4. The banter (verbal foreplay) between Books & Braun is too funny (sexy)! They might be an uncanny pair but they complement each other to a tee! Imagine Holmes & Watson, only imagine Watson as a gorgeous and vivacious woman who can (not) hold her liquor and knows how to kill you a million different ways. Also their love-hate relationship is so cute! They’re obviously in-love, I know it before they did.
  5. I thought PHOENIX RISING was going to be a serious and heavy read. Boy was I mistaken! I got a few solid laughs while reading this. Also it goes without saying that this is action packed with lots of clock & dagger missions. 
  6. Doctor Basil Sound, Ministry boss who reminds me of the Monopoly Man. Only Sound is stealthier and is always a few steps ahead Books & Braun.
As you can probably tell, I’m kicking myself for not picking up Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences sooner. Unbeknownst to me, I got Steampunk gold sitting on my shelf, ignored, and gathering dust for years now. Better late than never! The upside is I get to binge read the series and have a roaring good time while I’m at it. Books & Braun are a fantastic duo and I’m very happy that we’ve been finally introduced. On to the next!

Steampunk Sundays: Risen by Elizabeth Watasin

Series: The Dark Victorian 1

Format: Mobi
Release Date: January 28, 2014 
Publisher: Self
Source: Author
Genre: Steampunk | LGBT

“Way will open.”

She is Artifice.
A resurrected criminal and agent of HRH Prince Albert’s Secret Commission.
An artificial ghost.
A Quaker.

He is Jim Dastard.
The oldest surviving agent of the Secret Commission.
An animated skull.
A mentor to newly resurrected agents.

It is 1880 in a mechanical and supernatural London. Agents of Prince Albert’s Secret Commission, their criminal pasts wiped from their memories, are resurrected to fight the eldritch evils that threaten England. Amidst this turmoil, Jim Dastard and his new partner Artifice must stop a re-animationist raising murderous dead children. As Art and Jim pursue their quarry, Art discovers clues about her past self, and through meeting various intriguing women—a journalist, a medium, a prostitute, and a mysterious woman in black—where her heart lies. Yet the question remains: What sort of criminal was she? A new beginning, a new identity, and new dangers await Art as she fights for the Secret Commission and for her second life.

I simply love Elizabeth Watasin’s brand of steampunk! Her novels are intricate enough to be compelling yet simply contructed that it makes for an enjoyable quick read. As you all have probably experienced in the past, novellas are tricky to pull off and only a few have mastered the art of writing SHORT and SUCCINCT stories that still manage to be satisfying. Well, I’m adding EWatasin to my list. 
RISEN is the first volume of her Dark Victorian series. Simply put, her heroine, Artifice, is a reanimation or what they call Quaker in this world. Nothing like Frankenstein or a zombie, Art’s more majestic than that and doesn’t look like she was butchered. In fact, Art is such an imposing figure, handsome comes to mind when I first read her. She’s somewhat Amazonian in appearance, talks funny, fights like a warrior, but has the kindest heart. The hook for me is her past, who was Art before she became a soldier for the Secret Commission? RISEN has given me vibes that Art’s past self is a far cry, if not entirely opposite, from her current life. 
Jim is not Art’s love interest because Art like women. He is her partner and sort of Art’s guide in this reawakening of hers. I love Jim, he’s funny, intuitive and observant, he isn’t pushy nor does he feel threatened by Art. He doesn’t come across like a thirsty dude too, you know the type who can’t seem to keep their ding-a-lings in their pants and would make a move on every woman that crosses his path? These two make quite the tandem and I look forward to reading more of their Batman-Robin-like adventures. 
Dark Victorian has a simplistic yet very Steampunk-ish world. As I mentioned, EWatasin builds her world as the story progress and doesn’t dump all of these info on us. Her descriptions are vivid but not too heavy as to weigh down the pace of the story. The mystery and investigation was pretty straightforward too. Capture the dude who’s been re-animating vengeful corpses and as Art & Jim pursue him, Art’s curious story tricked in slowly. And although there is an element of sexy to her novels (both I’ve read are LGBT), it’s clean. The intimacies are implied and I love that about her books. Art’s past made me even more curious towards the end because her ex-girlfriend had a chapter, talking about Art before she became and agent and her (girldfriend) hand in Art’s transformation into a Quaker. I look forward to discovering Art’s backstory and how her reunion with her ex is going to be. I’m very intrigued…

Steampunk Sundays: Of Silk and Steam by Bec McMaster

Series: London Steampunk 5

Format: eGalley
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Adult Steampunk

Enemies. Allies. Lovers.

When her beloved father was assassinated, Lady Aramina swore revenge. The man responsible is well beyond her grasp, but his dangerously seductive heir, Leo Barrons, is fair game. When Mina obtains evidence proving that Leo is illegitimate, she has the means to destroy both the killer and his son, a man who troubles her heart and tempts her body.

A woman of mystery, Mina’s long driven Leo crazy with glimpses of a fiery passion that lurks beneath her icy veneer. He knows she’s hiding something, and he’s determined to unravel her layer by silken layer. He just doesn’t expect the beautiful liar to be the key to overthrowing the corrupt prince consort… or to saving his own carefully walled-off heart.

And so it has come full circle. What was started in Kiss of Steel has now been concluded in OF SILK AND STEAM, book 5 of Bec McMaster’s fiery and sexy series, London Steampunk. This latest installment is explosively action packed, filled to the brim with damaging secrets, devastating betrayals, tempered with love and loyalty. Should BMcMaster decide to end the series at this point, I wouldn’t have complaints because she gave full closure on every long standing conflict and wrapped-up every story thread, big and small.
OF SILK AND STEAM is predominantly a friends-to-lovers kind of story. For 5 books, we saw the rivalry and tension build and swell between Lady Aramina, Duchess of Casavian, and, Leo Barrons, the Duke of Caine’s heir. Their long standing feud started when Caine allegedly murdered Lady Aramina’s father. Undeterred, Leo Barrons relentlessly pursued Lady Aramina through high water and Hell (intentionally reversed) and said pursuit was fruitful because these two eventually had their HEA.
It’s a little challenging to characterize these two as characters, and as a couple. In so few words, Lady Aramina is fire and ice, haughty yet passionate, and very loyal. Leo Barrons is playful, arresting, principled, determined, and Aramina’s perfect match. As a couple? These two are dangerous. I’m barely skimming the surface because as I mentioned, it took 5 frickin’ books to get them (and us) here. And that’s partly why OF SILK AND STEAM has an epic feel to it, BMcMaster has been building up London Steampunk to this moment from all angles and the novel’s scope is all encompassing. Now all the previous books are tied together by OF SILK AND STEAM. All the previous characters made cameos not just BMcMaster wants to give us treat, but because they all play important roles in ousting the cruel tyrant that is the Prince Consort: Blade the Devil of Whitechapel and leader of the Nighthawks, Lena and her tinkering genius, Lynch and Rosaling’s humanist efforts, and even Lady Peregrine’s stealth and skill as a Nighthawk proved integral in winning their impromptu coup de

If you remove the romance and paranormal elements of OF SILK AND STEAM, you’ll end up with a civil war story of sorts. The vein of this novel lie on the conflict between classes, discrimination between humans and the paranormal citizens of London, political conlfict within the Echelon, and other odds and ends that makes up for this ticking bomb. Add a madman into the equation and a Queen who’s been manipulated and abused close to breaking, and you end up with a story akin to Tolstoy’s epic novels…. albeit fantastical and definitely fictional. But you get my drift, right?
The best part? OF SILK AND STEAM isn’t the last book of the series. It may close off this particular story arc but there’s more to come! I had the pleasure of interviewing the super cool Bec McMaster and here’s a snippet of it:

Braine: How many books are you still planning to write for London Steampunk?

Bec McMaster: [As mentioned], if I continue the series, I will have to start a new story arc. I have two arcs in mind, which excite me, so I’m dabbling with one of those ideas at the moment. I’ve basically plotted out six books, all featuring characters that have appeared in the previous series, though right now I’m playing with a couple of other worlds and stories to keep me fresh.

The rest of the interview will be published on Romance at Random on March 11, 2015. We talked about a lot of things, and not to toot my own horn, it’s a juicy one because Bec was so game and shared a lot of great things about this novel and the series. I hope you’ll catch it!

Suped Up: Soulbound by Kristen Callihan

Series: Darkest London 6

Format: eGalley
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Forever
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance | Steampunk

Once two souls are joined…

When Adam’s soul mate rejected him, there was more at stake than his heart. After seven hundred years of searching, his true match would have ended the curse that keeps his spirit in chains. But beautiful, stubborn Eliza May fled—and now Adam is doomed to an eternity of anguish, his only hope for salvation gone…

Their hearts will beat together forever…

No matter how devilishly irresistible Adam was, Eliza couldn’t stand the thought of relinquishing her freedom forever. So she escaped. But she soon discovers she is being hunted—by someone far more dangerous. The only man who can help is the one man she vowed never to see again. Now Adam’s kindness is an unexpected refuge, and Eliza finds that some vows are made to be broken.

Before anything else, I know a lot of you have never tried Steampunk, and would like to dip your pretty toes in the genre. If you love romance, historical and/or paranormal, Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series is something I’d recommend. The Steampunk element is very light, a few gadgets here and there with some volumes devoid of it, like SOULBOUND, not too overwhelming for Steampunk virgins; the historical aspect is very Victorian London, complete with the necessary accoutrements associated with the era; lastly, the romance is very heavy, totally swoony, breathtaking, and bodice ripping! 
This installment is my favorite of the series next to Winterblaze. Like in previous novels, Adam and Eliza’s story started a book ahead, so the foundation of their story has been established as well as its conflict. The short of it is Adam has been cursed by Mab, Queen of the Fae who has the hots for Adam. His curse has been active for 700 years and the only way to break it is if he finds his soulmate. Turns out it’s Eliza, who is incidentally is Mab’s granddaughter and bethrothed to Mellan, an Unseelie Prince and Eliza’s granduncle (Yuk!). So it’s quite the conundrum with the players having complex connections and motives. The ultimate question is can Adam break his curse and will Eliza acknowledge her role in this considering she hates Adam at the moment? 
I absolutely love SOULBOUND. It’s very affecting, I found myself clutching my chest, making faces and laughing on a few scenes, tearing up on some, rereading lines and passages, because I’m utterly swept by the story. Adam is probably one of the most tortured and pitiful hero I’ve ever met, and yet he handled it with much candor, and refused  to play the victim. Eliza is every bit a heroine, sharp, witty, and compassionate to Adam’s plight despite her own issues with him.
Adam and Eliza are engaging characters and even more as a couple. I want to highlight their romance because it’s so so swoony! For starters, Adam is a 700yo virgin (part of the curse) whose cherry is practically begging to be popped. But sexual innuendos aside, Adam’s sincerity and brutal honesty tugged my heartstrings hard. So many lovely quotable quotes, Hallmark would be jealous!
The fae angle was well developed too.  KCallihan adapted the fae myth well and its incorporation to her series didn’t disappoint. I also enjoyed cameos made by other characters and previous couples. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed them and delighted in getting news of their current situations. It seems all’s well in their respective paradises.
SOULBOUND is a book that sent ripples through the world KCallihan created. Adam touches a lot of lives and his imprisonment and Mab’s cruelty affected Darkest London in many ways. It gave us a glimpse of something apocalyptic if Adam doesn’t survive Mab and as a reader, you will definitely feel the pressure and how high the stakes are here. SOULBOUND is nothing short of fantabulous, it’s superlative in every way. The final confrontation in particular, though the outcome was expected, was fantastic! It’s one of those scenes where it will make you exclaim WTF! out loud and if not for the guaranteed HEA, you’ll feel grief and helplessness.
Another thing that I love about this series is how the novels are set up. Once again, the premise for the next book has been started which will feature the Ellis sisters brother, St. John “Sin” Evernight. I’m a little anxious about his book because the plot feels big at this point and I can’t see how he can BE and still have his HEA in the end. 
Please read SOULBOUND. I promise you, mine won’t be the last gush-filled review  you’ll ever read in the coming days. It is VERY VERY VERY good, if Valentine’s is a fantasy/paranormal book, this would be it!

Steampunk Sundays: The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr

Series: Electric Empire 1

Format: eGalley
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Adult Steampunk

Magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy retelling of the classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde–in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of the infamous Henry

In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London with blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching “the Chopper” could make Eliza’s career—or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father’s forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde.

When the Royal Society sends their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she’s a sorceress, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London’s luminous, magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own.

Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free

3.5 Cauldrons

THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE by Viola Carr, is the first book in a brand new series called, Electric Empire, and it’s Gothic Steampunk! Not only do you have a Jekyll/Hyde adaptation, but Dr. Frankenstein’s legacy is also present as well as peppering of fey, alchemy, and lycanthrope to boot. This book is pure madness! I don’t think I’ve ever come across a lot of cray-crays in one tome, and I absolutely loved it! 
So Dr. Eliza Jekyll, as you probably assume, is the daughter of The Dr. Jekyll, and apparently she inherited her father’s “condition”, and Eliza is trying in earnest to control her strange affliction with a serum of some sort. During the day, Eliza plays the doctor, helping the Royal Society investigate a series of murders. At night, Lizzie Hyde comes out to play, prowling the dank streets and pubs of London, acting like a vigilante of some sort. But is this all Lizzie’s doing at night or is she the one responsible for all the killings? Eliza can’t answer for certain because once Lizzie’s back in the shadows, Eliza barely remembers what her other half has done the night before. 
I love not only the plot but how THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE was told. The setting is very gritty, the people Eliza finds herself in company with, thanks to her work, are the scum of London. There’s nothing comely or even harmless about them. Everyone looks suspicious, a lot of them looks like they’re guilty of something. Very foreboding and exciting at the same time. Like part of me is thinking that something or someone is lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to jump Eliza/Lizzie. There is this one scene where Eliza went to this club, it’s like a members-only place, and to me, that scene is the epitome of this book’s madness! That chapter illustrates how insane this series is going to be and I cannot wait to read more of Eliza/Lizzie’s story.
THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE was told in a very interesting way as well. It shifts from the 3rd person POV to Lizzie’s voice when Eliza has a hold of their body. I love Lizzie’s musings, VCarr successfully contrasted how different Eliza is from her alter-ego in these moments, it’s very much like the two are different characters. It’s very night and day and the concept about split personality is well fleshed out and wonderfully executed. Now there are some parts in the middle that were slow, I had to put the book down for a day, but it picked up again on the last quarter. The murder mystery was a good twist too! The conflict-resolution was charged with adrenalin and the ending provided a good hook, designed to have you waiting for the next book and following the series.