Book Review: That Inevitable Victorian Thing

victorianThat Inevitable Victorian Thing
by E. K. Johnston
Fiction/Alternate History
327 pages
Published 2017

Representation, bitches! This book features a bisexual, intersex young woman. (I say woman, because she is female-presenting and uses female pronouns.) It also features a not-quite-love-triangle that turns into something more like polyamory. (Sorry, that’s a bit of a spoiler, but you can see it coming from a mile away, and the cover description heavily implies the same.)

It’s not realistic in the least – everything falls together nicely and it’s a bit of a “princess saves the day by virtue of being a princess” kind of plot. But the twist on the history is a very pleasant one – and making the British Empire an Empire that values diversity and the melding of cultures and not looking down on anyone because they’re different is a really nice change of pace. It’s a WONDERFUL bit of escapist fantasy given today’s world, I have to say.

I’d actually really like to see the darker side of this same world explored. One of the main plot points in the book is that there is a computer database of genetics. Everyone in the British Empire, when they turn 18, is encouraged to have their DNA sequenced and entered into the computer to find good genetic matches. They then have the opportunity to chat with those matches and eventually meet them. It’s accepted custom, and you’re definitely viewed as odd if you choose NOT to do it, though Helena’s parents were a love match and never had their DNA matched through the computer. Helena’s love interest is a boy she grew up with, she really only ran her DNA through the computer for kicks. So it’s not mandatory – except for royals. But that this computer and database exists leaves room for a darker side. What about genetic modification? Forced marriages for certain genetic outcomes? That has to be happening somewhere. That Inevitable Victorian Thing really only looked at the fun, light-hearted, good uses of this technology. I’d love to see the other side.

Oh – while the book definitely has a Victorian flavor, it’s definitely set in modern day, or perhaps a little past. It’s not Victorian era.

Fun little book. A good escape from a racist, homophobic world to a more diverse, accepting one. But a little TOO fluffy bunny for my personal tastes.

The book is set entirely in Ontario, making it part of my Read Canadian Challenge. You can find the rest of my Read Canadian books here:
1. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
2. The Red Winter Trilogy
3. Station Eleven
4. The Courier
5. The Last Neanderthal
6. American War
7. Next Year, For Sure

From the cover of That Inevitable Victorian Thing:

Set in a near-future world where the British Empire never fell – a surprising, romantic, and thought-provoking story of love, duty, and the small moments that change people and the world.

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the Empire, a descendant of Queen Victoria I. The traditions of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage and a life of duty. But first she’ll have one summer of freedom in a far corner of the Empire. Posing as a commoner in Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the Empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir to a powerful shipping firm besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and raucous country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an extraordinary bond and maybe a one-in-a-million chance to have what they want and to change the course of history in the process.

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Book Review: London Steampunk series

kissofsteelKiss of Steel/Heart of Iron
Bec McMaster
Victorian Steampunk Urban Fantasy Romance
400ish pages
Published 2012/2013

Holy crap. I have only read the first two of this series – I have three more to read. (My Lady Quicksilver, Forged By Desire, and Of Silk and Steam, with a second series in the same universe called The Blue Blood Conspiracy.)

THESE ARE SO GOOD.

Victorian Steampunk in London with vampires, mechs, and werewolves (sort of) with romance, a political conspiracy plot, and plenty of action? YES PLEASE. These books are excellently written, with a hefty plot that moves at a perfect pace. Both romances have been very believable and intertwined seamlessly with the larger world’s plot. Each book is a hefty length, enough to really get absorbed in and flesh out everything that needs to be covered, without dragging on and getting old. The characters are fascinating – even the side characters are interesting enough that I really hope future books focus on them.

I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this series, and I can’t wait to read the next books. I am forcing myself to take a break from the series, even though I have the next two books, because I have library books that are due sooner that I need to read.

The first book, Kiss of Steel, is available on Kindle Unlimited, my library had #2 and #4, and #3 is also on Kindle Unlimited, so they’ve been very convenient to read. This series is definitely going on one my list of best reads for this year, it’s that good.

If you like Steampunk, READ THESE.

From the cover of Kiss of Steel:

Honoria Todd has more secrets than most people and she’s hiding them in Whitechapel. Blade is the master of the rookeries and agrees to protect her, but at what price?

Most people avoid the dreaded Whitechapel district. For Honoria Todd, it’s the last safe haven as she hides from the Blue Blood aristocracy that rules London through power and fear.

Blade rules the rookeries-no one dares cross him. It’s been said he faced down the Echelon’s army single–handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood–craving he’s been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.

When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She’s so…innocent. He doesn’t see her backbone of steel-or that she could be the very salvation he’s been seeking.

From the cover of Heart of Iron:heartofiron

In Victorian London, if you’re not a blue blood of the Echelon then you’re nothing at all. The Great Houses rule the city with an iron fist, imposing their strict “blood taxes’ on the nation, and the Queen is merely a puppet on a string…

Lena Todd makes the perfect spy. Nobody suspects the flirtatious debutante could be a sympathizer for the humanist movement haunting London’s vicious blue blood elite. Not even the ruthless Will Carver, the one man she can’t twist around her little finger, and the one man whose kiss she can’t forget…

Stricken with the loupe and considered little more than a slave-without-a-collar to the blue bloods, Will wants nothing to do with the Echelon or the dangerous beauty who drives him to the very edge of control. But when he finds a coded letter on Lena-a code that matches one he saw on a fire-bombing suspect-he realizes she’s in trouble. To protect her, he must seduce the truth from her.

With London on the brink of revolution, Lena and Will must race against time-and an automaton army-to stop the humanist plot before it’s too late. But as they fight to save a city, the greatest danger might just be to their hearts…

Book Review: Her Sky Cowboy

herskycowboyHer Sky Cowboy
by Beth Ciotta
342 pages
Published 2012
Steampunk

This book is FANTASTIC. It’s the closest thing to a feminist, egalitarian romance I’ve seen in quite some time, and the romance subplot is expertly woven into the main treasure hunt plot. With it all set against the steampunk backdrop of a time-travel-altered Europe, this is a spectacularly fun read.

The book is set in 1887, 31 years after the “Peace Rebels” traveled back in time from 1969. They came back to warn the world of the dangers of technology – they had stories of Hiroshima, and the Holocaust, and the horrors visited on the human race by nuclear bombs and tear gas and pollution and other terrible things. Their travel had a consequence, though – they apparently came from another dimension. They’re still human, but when “Mods” have children with “Vics” (Moderns vs Victorians), their children then get labeled “Freaks.” Freaks have kaleidoscope eyes – they’re said to look like time travel, or what the Mods saw when they traveled back to 1887. And Freaks all have some sort of ability – the main Freak in the book is a healer. Others can read minds, or control weather. The danger of this is that no Freak is older than 31 years old; no one knows what they’re truly capable of, not even themselves.

Mods came back in time to warn of the dangers of technology, but at the same time, some of them couldn’t resist re-inventing some of the things they’d left behind. And spreading their knowledge. So the setting is Victorian Europe (Britain, mostly) but with varying amounts of steam power, electric power, gas power – dirigibles and air-cycles and the rumors of a lost time-machine.

Among all of this lies the Darcy family. The Darcys have a family connection to the man that built the first time machine, and as such are somewhat rejected from society, since a lot of people are not very happy with the sudden technology and blame them for bringing it upon them. Baron Darcy is an eccentric inventor who can never focus on one thing long enough to see it through. His three children, Amelia (the heroine of this book) and her twin brothers, Simon and Jules, are all equally brilliant, but it’s Amelia that’s taken after her father the most. She dreams of captaining her own airship someday. When Baron Darcy dies and leaves the family destitute, their only hope to regain the family fortune (and respect from their countrymen) is a contest for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. They each receive a personal invitation to join the hunt for “lost or legendary technological inventions of historical significance.” (Future books follow Simon and Jules’ adventures in this quest, and I WILL be looking for those!)

Amelia’s quest leads her to run into Tucker Gentry, a notorious ex-Air Marshal from America. Convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to hang, his crew rescued him and ran to Europe. Amelia and Tucker immediately strike sparks on each other and soon fall in love. And their love story is one of the best I’ve read recently. It’s repeatedly noted that it’s her mind and personality that drives Tucker wild – her aptitude with aeronautics, her sass, her ability to do things for herself. It’s also repeatedly demonstrated that she CAN, indeed, take care of herself. She rebuilds her air-cycle on his ship – or almost does, until one of his crew members takes over and adds a bunch of new stuff to it as thanks for saving his life. When she’s abducted he finds her having dinner with her captor, bargaining for her own release. She’s the one that leads them to the treasure, putting together the clues and finding the secret cave. It’s that self-sufficient streak that really captures Tucker’s heart: “By marrying you, I’m gaining the wife of my dreams, a woman who’ll share the wheel with me, soar the skies, experience adventures.”

Looking back on it, there were a few times where Tucker soared to her rescue, but I never noticed it while I was reading. They were equals throughout the entire book, and that’s not something you see often in a book with a strong romantic sub-plot. Even in the sex scenes, of which there are two or three, she takes an equal, demanding role. I was extremely impressed, and I cannot WAIT to read more about “The Glorious Victorious Darcys,” as the series is called. This is one hell of a book, and if you like steampunk and don’t mind a romantic sub-plot, you should DEFINITELY pick this up.

So far there are two more in the series, His Clockwork Canary (Simon’s story) and His Broken Angel (a novella about Doc, the Freak from Her Sky Cowboy.)

From the back of Her Sky Cowboy:

Amelia Darcy has no interest in marrying well. Her heart belongs to the sky and the dirigibles of brass and steel that swoop over Victorian England. But when her father, an eccentric inventor, dies, the Darcy siblings are left with scrap metal—and not a penny to their names. Their only hope to save the family name and fortune is to embark on a contest to discover an invention of historical importance in honor of Queen Victoria.   
Armed with only her father’s stories of a forgotten da Vinci workshop, a mechanically enhanced falcon, and an Italian cook, Amelia takes flight for Florence, Italy. But her quest is altered when her kitecycle crashes into the air ship of ex–Air Marshal—and scandalous dime novel hero—Tucker Gentry. 
  
Challenged by political unrest, a devious sky pirate, and their own sizzling attraction, Amelia and Tuck are dragged into an international conspiracy that could change the course of history…again.