Welcome to the Clockwork Carnival!

Roll up, roll up! The Clockwork Carnival is in town and do we have some epic content for you. We will have articles, giveaways, interviews, recommendations, and a few other things so make sure you check back daily for something new to explore and discover!

Of course, there are those of you within the crowd who may not know what steampunk is. For those of you I say go forth and discover and enjoy! This post may be of particular interest to you, but make sure you return for the wonderful events of the Carnival, you wouldn’t want to miss out.

But where did steampunk come from?

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used, typically the Victorian Era and the Edwardian Era, that incorporates prominent elements of science fiction and fantasy. A modicum of fantasy is necessary because steam alone simply will not do enough to fulfil the visions of most authors and artists.

Steampunk is often associated with cyberpunk, from which it is derived. They have considerable influence on each other and share a similar fan base, but steampunk developed into a separable movement. Apart from time period and level of technology, the main difference is that steampunk settings tend to be less dystopian. Steampunk is described as “full of wonder” and as “functional, logical, and very British”. Steampunk stories are often romantic and peppered with historical references and brewing rebellions.

The term steampunk was first coined in 1987  by author K.W. Jeter and was used to describe a genre of speculative fiction in which steam, not electricity, drove technological advancements. Steampunk, however, draws on history, first appearing in the 1800s in the scientific romances of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

Steampunk as a literary phenomenon has its roots in the 19th century, courtesy of Verne, Wells, and other authorsand since then has begun to appear in other media as well, such as television shows, video and roleplaying games,films, literature, comics and graphic novels, and even Japanese anime and manga. Because these are all visual mediums, the steampunk genre has also developed a visual expectation, although it does tend to vary from story to story.

SourceSteampunk Wiki.

We hope you enjoy the show!

The Clockwork Carnival couldn’t have happened without the wonderful behind the scenes help and support of Ciska, Ellie, and Hanna, so please make sure you give their blogs some love. They are amazing friends and fantastic bloggers. Thank you ladies. So much. And I must also thank the lovely Ravven for the Carnival’s badge. 

Do You Remember Discovering Steampunk?

Back in October 2011, I ran a two week long feature called Discovering Steampunk. In this I aimed to introduce new readers to a quirky genre, and provide some interesting content for readers who already knew about steampunk. There were guest posts, author interviews, giveaways, and reviews. Guest posts talked about certain aspects of steampunk and I did my best to get authors and publishers involved. It was a lot of fun!

Well, it has been about 1 and a half years since Discovering Steampunk and earlier I got thinking: it would be fun to run another feature while I have all of this spare time. I had toyed quite seriously with the idea of running a fantasy feature last year when Naithin was onboard but Naithin didn’t have the time really and I was left to do A LOT of planning and gathering myself so it never happened. I’m not entirely sad about that because while fantasy is my first love, everybody knows what fantasy is, more or less. As fun as some of the pre-planning was looking to be.

So earlier when I started daydreaming after a long session of reading on the bed, I had a ponder over different feature ideas I could run. Fantasy, chick lit, historical fiction, memoirs, magical realism, British literary fiction, dystopian, other cultures… but it all came back to steampunk. While we “discovered” steampunk back in that October 2011, the genre has since exploded with more and more readers discovering the likes of Cherie Priest and Gail Carriger and more steampunk styled novels have been released than ever before. There’s a lot of exploring to be done, and still a lot I didn’t get around to “discovering” the first time.

This time, I’m hoping to look into the origins of steampunk in greater detail, consider steampunk as a sub-genre to fantasy, paranormal, and so on, look more into indie steampunk, invite authors over for a chat, invite bloggers (that’s you!) over also, and hopefully wrangle in a few giveaways (money is extremely tight so any help with this authors/publishers would be amazing!). Since Discovering Steampunk I have collected more and more books which I plan to look into reading and reviewing. It’s going to be awesome.

As such, I’ll be re-opening review requests for a few months. I’m going to be very strict with what I accept, but I am in particular going to be looking for some good steampunk books, and if you’d like to run a giveaway or some kind of guest feature, please let me know. As for any bloggers, publicists, or other steampunk interested parties – I’ll be needing you too! If any of you would like to get involved, please let me know. It’s going to be at least a couple of months in the design and preparation stages so don’t worry about time constraints, there’s plenty of time.

Oh, and as steampunk has already been discovered, we’re going to need a snazzy new name! I just came up with “Clockwork Summer” but not sure yet. Ideas?

Please get in touch with me if you’re interested in joining in. You can comment below or even better, contact me directly! I’m looking for people who know a little about steampunk as well as people who are intrigued and want to know more.

Steampunk Winners!

A very quick post to announce the winners of the Discovering Steampunk giveaway and the Dearly Departed UK ARC giveaway as chosen at random by Rafflecopter.

The winner of the Discovering Steampunk giveaway is Becky! I have already heard back from Becky and shall get her book to her as soon as I can.

And the winner of the Dearly Departed UK ARC is Kristy! Kristy, I still haven’t heard back from you, if you could please get in touch by tomorrow lunchtime else I will have to pick a new winner. There should be an email for you!

Thank you to everybody for your entries and participation in the giveaways and the entire feature. I’m completely over the moon by how much of a success it was and can’t wait to do another sometime!

Discovering Steampunk Wrap-Up

So we finally come to the end of Discovering Steampunk. It’ll be nice to get back to a normal reading/blogging ‘routine’ but it’s been really fun! I’m going to check out a few new blogs and twitter folk when I get time to, promise I’m not ignoring you all there’s just a lot of you, and heck, I’ve learnt a lot and I’m over the moon to see so many of you did too. I’m glad you guys enjoyed the feature so much, hopefully I’ll find time to do something else next year along the same vein.

In the meantime, there are a few guest spots coming up as well as the Bout of Books (no pressure) readathon next week. I’ll also be reading a tonne of Rachel Caine soon so stay tuned! ;) I have a meaty In My Mailbox coming up next Sunday and I should be blogging pretty regularly with the readathon going on in the week (click the button in the sidebar to take part, it’s really worthwhile), and I’m pondering taking part in the Pretty When She Dies readalong as well in November. I bought the kindle version of the book so hopefully I’ll have time to join in, it sounds like a great read! So stick around, the next couple of months are going to be epic! I can’t wait.

I’ll be leaving the Discovering Steampunk button up in my sidebar for a while. It links to the Discovering Steampunk tag so if you fancy a browse through all of the posts, that’s nice and easy, and here’s a list. If you missed any of these, do have a read and leave your comments!

Hopefully there has been something in the past couple of weeks for everyone and I’m so glad you guys enjoyed this as much as I hoped you would! Winners of the giveaways will be emailed when Rafflecopter picks them and they will have 48 hours to reply before I choose a new winner. They will also be announced here on the blog on Tuesday.

[Review] Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

[rating:3.5]
Author: Cherie Priest
Series:
 The Clockwork Century #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Tor
Pages: 414
Published: 2009
Goodreads | Amazon (UK/US)

First sentence:

Unpaved, uneven trails pretended to be roads; they tied the nation’s coasts together like laces holding a boot, binding it with crossed strings and crossed fingers.
Blurb

In an alternate 1860s Seattle, Briar Wilkes and her son Zeke are living hand to mouth on the outskirts of a once bustling city of the gold rush. Sixteen years previous, the city was literally torn asunder by the Boneshaker, a great drill-engine built by Briar’s then husband, Dr. Blue, to mine through Alaska’s ice in search of gold. This terrible disaster not only caused many deaths and ruined livelihoods but unearthed a blight gas that turns anybody who breathes it into the living dead. Now Zeke wants answers. Was his father really to blame? He heads off to the other side of the wall with an old gas mask and an antique rifle and only Briar can bring him back.

Thoughts

Last but not least in Discovering Steampunk: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Boneshaker is a cleverly weaved nail-biting story full of intricacies and hidden history. Beginning with a catastrophic event that shakes the very foundations of Seattle and its’ people, causing them to have to wall off the main part of the town to remove the possibility of blight contamination from the strange gas that was unearthed all those years ago, it reminded me a lot of an action-horror film.

It is a fantastically written piece of fiction. It’s atmospheric, chilling, and dark. The entire story has layers and hidden depths that I can only hope are explored in later books and the rich description paints such a clear picture of the environment that it is just the story and you. It is told from two perspectives, those of Briar and Zeke, and their stories are so tightly connected yet distant with entirely different voices that it really keeps the narrative ever-changing and fresh.

The relationship between Briar Wilkes, and her son Ezekial is explored in depth as he runs off to recredit his family name from beyond the wall, and Briar strives to rescue him from a world of ‘rotters’ (zombies), blight gas which turns people into rotters if breathed, and the criminals who have made a life for themselves there. It is heart-rending and gripping to the very end.

Briar might actually be one of my favourite heroines in modern fiction. She reminds me of a Ripleyesque 80’s action heroine, kicking arse and not just for the sake of it but because she has to. There is no romance, just a grim fight for survival of herself and her son and she is willing to do anything to save him. The strong female heroine is a very difficult trope to manage because very often it is taken too far and you know it’s been used just to make a statement, or they aren’t that strong at all, however, Briar is neither and I love that about her character.

I would recommend Boneshaker for folk who enjoy a good adult novel. There’s no sexual content but if you don’t enjoy adult fiction, you won’t enjoy this as it can be quite slow-going in parts. However, if that doesn’t bother you, then it comes highly recommended from me as a steampunk staple. There’s a bit of a horror element to it, though nothing that will have you hiding under the covers if you read it at night, there are a few zombies, a strong criminal underground, and everything fits together so well. It’s easy to lose yourself in the story and forget that you’re reading a work of fiction.

The Clockwork Century series:

1. Boneshaker
2. Clementine
3. Dreadnought
4. Ganymede

[Review] Soulless by Gail Carriger

[rating:4]
Author: Gail Carriger
Series:
 The Parasol Protectorate #1
Genre: Paranormal
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 291
Published: 2009
Goodreads | Amazon (UK/US)

First sentence:

Miss Alexia Tarabotti was not enjoying her evening.
Blurb

Miss Alexia Tarabotti, resigned to life as a spinster, is rudely attacked by a vampire when she escapes the ball to find something to satisfy her sweet tooth. Her soulless ability to diffuse supernatural powers with a mere touch is also how she manages to kill the out-of-control hungry vampire. The brash Lord Maccon, rough and messy werewolf, turns up to investigate and Alexia is caught up right in the middle of it. Some supernaturals are going missing, whilst new ones are appearing unregistered. Just what in the heck is going on?

Thoughts

Soulless is a book I’ve had sat on my shelf for a fair few months. I’d heard great things about the series and so when I spotted the first three in The Works (amazing discount bookstore in the UK) I snapped it up. Since reading it, I massively regret only buying the first one when I could have had all three in the 3 for £5 offer and been able to read them as a series, because it is just such a fun read and I really didn’t want to put it down. A lot of paranormal novels are a little bit dark and as much as I love that, sometimes you really want to read something a little lighter and Soulless was absolutely perfect. Gail Carriger has a great sense of humour and has created an interesting alternate world with such colourful characters that you can’t help but love it. It is entirely immersive.

The novel is written in the style of Victorian high-society but much easier to read than, for example, Austen. It feels more like a tip-of-the-hat than a replication and it is very witty and elegant. I found myself giggling along a lot of the time and the characters had a lot to do with that. Noteable mentions go out to Lord Maccon, of course, who is a gruff, scruffy Scottish werewolf with whom Alexia seems to be constantly at war. Their arguments had me in hysterics, I loved them! Then there’s Lord Akeldama, a very flamboyant vampire who lives apart from the hive with his own drones. He’s a friend to Alexia and such a great addition to the alternate world I couldn’t imagine it without him. Ivy Hisselpenny is Alexia’s human friend with a terrible taste in hats, she’s a very silly character who brings a sense of humanity to Alexia’s life. Alexia’s family never ceased to remind me of the Bennett’s of Pride & Prejudice with their obsessions with putting in a good appearance in society and marrying well and their general demeanor. I both hated and loved them. And of course, Alexia herself, who is a half-Italian preternatural spinster with a mind of her own. She is a sarcastic and outspoken strong female lead with a brain. What’s not to love?

I absolutely loved Gail’s unique take on the supernatural mythos. In the Parasol Protectorate, a person’s ability to become supernatural (vampire, werewolf, ghost) depends on how much soul they have. Alexia could never be supernatural because she doesn’t have a soul, some people have a large abundance of soul and some don’t, but it’s difficult to know until they undergo the metamorphosis process. If they make it, they become supernatural, if they don’t, they die. It’s a fairly big risk to take but it is much more interesting than the usual. The other thing that stood out to me was that all supernaturals had something in common. Werewolves are as dead as vampires and ghosts. They’re all hindered by the sun in some way, and Lord Maccon is about 200 years old. It all fit so well.

I did have a little chuckle at the American spellings dotted throughout the book amongst the very otherwise English style of the writing. My only criticism would have to be for the perspective switching mid-scene with no warning. After a while you do get used to it but it can be quite jarring to suddenly be following the story from another perspective when you were with Alexia just in the last paragraph, and there is no indication that it’s happening, not even so much as a line break. I also found the story a little bit predictable though that didn’t take anything away from the story as such, it was still thoroughly enjoyable, it just meant I yelled at Alexia more than I otherwise might have done.

I would definitely recommend this novel. For who? Well, the 18+ crowd. There are a few saucy bits that would be inappropriate for younger readers and they are totally hot. Seriously. It is a witty paranormal steampunk romance and if that description appeals to you, then you will enjoy Soulless.

Basically put: if you’ve been thinking about reading it and/or you think there’s a possibility that you might enjoy it – read it. I know a few of you have mentioned it.

The Parasol Protectorate series:

1. Soulless
2. Changeless
3. Blameless
4. Heartless
5. Timeless

Reader question: What do you guys think of the addition of colour? Too distracting? Or do you think it adds a little bit? Like it but perhaps use less? I thought I’d experiment a little!

Modern Steampunk Apparel

There’s a pretty big sub-culture at cons and such based around steampunk and it can be absolutely awesome to browse image galleries of men in smart suits with top hats and goggles and ladies in gorgeous gowns or some kind of suit themselves depending on the look they’re going for and all sorts of things, but what about a plain old modern t-shirt? I also love looking at novelty t-shirts. I’ve bought one, ever, but I always eye them up and pick a few out I’d love to get my hands on. How about a few steampunk-styled favourites. (Click on the images to be taken to their sources if you’re interested)

Lacks Pinkie Pie and Rarity *sniff* but if I could own any novelty t-shirt in the world it would have to be this one. I love the My Little Pony art and hello?! Steampunk!

Probably the sexiest cartoon character in existence and only improved by the steampunk-stylings. I love it. Shirtoid have some really awesome t-shirt designs on their site.

I love the style of this t-shirt, just has to include it. There’s also an antiqued brass button on the back to do it up, it’s such a lovely idea for such a basic piece of clothing.

Okay, not strictly a t-shirt so much as a bag but I love it so much! Only thing better than this would be a steampunk Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie bag in the same style.

Interview With Lia Habel Plus UK ARC Giveaway

Hey guys! I’m really excited today to be able to welcome Lia Habel to Once Upon A Time! She kindly agreed to take part in an interview for us and also has the honour of being my first author interview. Thanks Lia!

Credit: Winter Wolf Studios

Hi Lia! Thanks for stopping by. First of all, could you please tell us a little about yourself?

Sure! But this one is always tough, because I tend to think of myself as genetically uninteresting. I’m a writer, Neo-Victorian fashion nut, and eater of far too many Red Vines. I live in a small city in New York. I’m a mix of hyperactive, girly shyness and “whoo, chainsaw *and* pipe bomb!” horror and action movie fan-ness. If I were a My Little Pony, I’d be the unholy hybrid of Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie – with a grenade launcher. (Hannah: I will forever love you for this reference, I’ve always thought the same thing but without the grenade launcher but now you’re just giving me ideas..)

How long have you been writing?

Since forever – but never with an aim toward being published. I never thought I was that good (I still don’t think I’m that good!). I remember writing little stories as far back as first grade, and I constantly wrote to entertain myself as a child and teenager. DEARLY, DEPARTED started as a writing project to entertain myself and my friends, in fact. I emailed the chapters out daily.

What is your preferred writing environment?

My room – which must be either absolutely silent, or blaring with one of my “work” soundtracks (usually something by Hans Zimmer). I can usually be found at my iMac, earplugs in (if it’s a silent day), surrounded by scraps of coffee-stained paper. Organization? Ahahahahaha.

Where did your interest in steampunk begin?

Birth. I’m serious. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in love with the Victorian and Edwardian eras – first in a childish, idealistic sort of “EVERYONE WAS SO PRETTY AND SMART AND EVERYTHING WAS BETTER AND THE MODERN WORLD SUCKS, MOMMY!” way, then in a more adult, realistic “I love you, sins and dirt and all” fashion. I found the steampunk subculture about six years ago, and was immediately on board – though I don’t actually consider myself an active part of it. I don’t think I’ve earned that designation. I’m too shy to speak to anyone, even online! (Which is why I’m so grateful when people reach out to me!)

What is it about steampunk that you love?

I love steampunk and Neo-Victorianism because it’s allowing me to realize my dreams! I really do get to live a little like a futuristic Victorian, now (which is my ideal aesthetic/philosophy – I’d rather incorporate elements of Victorianism into my modern life than try to retrocede entirely). If nothing else, I get to dress the way I’ve always wanted to dress, from bloomers to boots to hats.

For how long have you been collecting Victorian ball gowns and how many do you own?

About five years, now. I currently have four ball gowns and about eight “day” outfits of various sorts. This fall I’m expecting a new coat, another casual dress, and my fifth ball gown (my seasonal orders go out a few months ahead of time). I love shopping for and commissioning clothes, but probably the most expensive/annoying things I have to buy are gloves and fans…they have to be constantly replaced, especially white gloves and fans for balls, which have an unfortunate tendency to get stained and stepped on.

Why zombies, specifically?

I love monsters – and zombies are one of my favorite types. To me, zombies literally embody (as in, they ARE bodies) everything that’s GOOD about life and the human condition. These are people who drop, get up again, and keep going. I see them as strong, resourceful, and such a wonderful source of stories about loyalty, love, and letting go. I think when you’re dead, and you understand that you’re dead, everything comes into much sharper focus – that when you’re staring a limited second lifespan in the face, you have to become very true to yourself, and very clear about the decisions you’re going to make and what you’re going to do with the precious few days that you have left. I often think the world might be a better place if we all lived like zombies conscious of their condition – because, in a way, we are!

You can find Lia at her website and also on Twitter.

And now for the giveaway! I was sent 2 copies of Dearly Departed for review and so I figured the best thing to do would be to give away my extra copy, right? I figured you guys would appreciate this idea. I absolutely adored this book so I’m only giving away the one copy because I want to reread this someday and shutup. As I’ll be personally shipping it out, this particular giveaway will sadly be UK only. I’m very sorry but I can’t afford too much in the way of postage. However, I have at the very least kept it nice and simple, so all you UK folk need to do is enter your name and email address and click “I Did This!” so that I can contact you if you win and that’s it!

You will have to click “Read more” to see the Rafflecopter widget if you’re reading this on the main page.

[Read more...]

[Review] Dearly Departed by Lia Habel

[rating:4.5]
Author: Lia Habel
Series:
 Gone With The Respiration #1
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 451
Published: 2011
Goodreads | Amazon (UK/US)
Received review copy from  Doubleday.

First sentence:

I was buried alive.
Blurb

The year is 2195 and Nora Dearly is living in a New Victorian society with all the technologies of the future, yet she is much more interested in the war documentaries she used to watch with her father than being proper. Little does she know her life is about to get much more interesting when the living dead come for her in the night.

Thoughts

I really wanted to categorise this book as a “Futuristic New Victorian Zombie Romance With A Steampunk Twist” as that is what it is, but it was just a little too long for a category sadly. There is so much going on in this novel that you really do have to read it for yourself to see what it’s like and what it’s all about because I can’t accurately sum it up.

I wasn’t in the mood to read when I picked up Dearly Departed and I thoroughly loved and enjoyed it, it may even have rekindled my then-dwindling passion for reading. The execution of this story is just perfect. It’s so easy to get into and sympathise with the characters because it is such a cleverly weaved story. I could tell from the get-go how much love and effort has gone into this novel. The world-building and characterisation is so strong and there is never a dull moment. Everything from the history to the science to the emotions and backstory of each character has been intricately thought out and it gives the story so much depth.

The best thing about Dearly Departed for me was how it didn’t feel so much like a zombie book. Of course it is, but a lot of (not all) the zombies are able to retain their personalities and live out some kind of existence. This is why the romance between Nora and Bram (good guy zombie) works so well because Bram is still who he was when he was alive. I’ll admit that beforehand I was a little worried, I’m not usually big into Victorian style worlds or zombies1, but it really worked so don’t shrug it off as ‘not your thing’ before you try it because it is a wonderful and fun novel with a sense of humour.

I would recommend Dearly Departed for people who like their fiction particularly unique and who like their romantic leads a little flawed. If you’re into a more gentle romance, without any of the love triangles, destiny, or love at first sight overwhelming stuff, that carefully backs up an exciting story with various character point of views that keep the voice fresh, then give Dearly Departed a try. I honestly think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The Gone With The Respiration series:

1. Dearly Departed


  1. yeah I know how stupid that sounds during Discovering Steampunk but bear with me 

[Review] The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by G.W. Dahlquist

[rating:4.5]
Author: G.W. Dahlquist
Series:
Miss Temple, Doctor Svenson, and Cardinal Chang #1
Genre: Fantasy/Mystery
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 753
Published: 2006
Goodreads | Amazon (UK/US)

First sentence:

From her arrival at the docks to the appearance of Roger’s letter, written on crisp Ministry paper and signed with his full name, on her maid’s silver tray at breakfast, three months had passed.
Blurb

Following the perspectives of Miss Temple, a young lady recently jilted by her fiancé, Cardinal Chang, a renegade hired to kill a man, and Doctor Svenson, a German doctor sworn to protect his Prince, The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters follows them as they strive to uncover a deep and dark secret and perhaps become more swept up in it than they would care to be.

Thoughts

Though I had to force myself to read 100 pages every day to ensure I finished it in a week (and believe me that was a struggle with the tiny text, I was reading for about 5 or 6 hours per day), I did really enjoy reading The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters. Despite its’ length and having to push through it, the story is full of constant action and mystery that really had me gripped. I didn’t have a single moment of boredom which I think scared me a little bit because it’s such a long and heavy-going book, but it was so hard to put down and I couldn’t imagine the book being any shorter because everything was interesting and relevant. It just happens to mess with your head a little bit, is all.

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters is very gently steampunk. There wasn’t really a moment that leapt out at me and made me think, “Yes, this is steampunk!” But there are small hints in the styling of the characters, the characterisation of the heroes and heroine (more on this in a moment), and quite late on in the novel you come across a little more that hints towards steampunk, but rather than jumping up and down at you screaming, “I’m steampunk! Look at my goggles and my whacky Victorian style and my dirigibles and.. and.. exploration! See?!” It’s very subtle. It’s also simultaneously quite gothic with how very dark a story it is and with all of the venturing into the unknown the characters do, as well as a nightmareish overtone.

The story in its’ entirety is exceedingly well-crafted. Dahlquist uses wonderful imagery that paints such a clear picture of the visuals, smells, and emotions that it is very easy to lose yourself in the intimacy of the prose. You long to discover the mystery behind everything the characters are discovering and you could never imagine what truly lies within the heart of this book due to its’ unpredictability. It’s extremely dark and dramatic and erotically charged.

Each characters’ individual story is told in turn from their own perspectives. They each get one chapter in rotation and chapters can be as long as 80 pages and very hard to put down in the middle of, which can make it difficult to read if you’re a slow reader. Their stories interweave, pull apart, cross-over, and weave together again and the way in which they have been written is utterly brilliant. Everything feels so real that it’s so easy to forget that you’re reading a work of fiction.

The three characters themselves are a very unlikely group but they fit together so perfectly and have so many depths. Plucky Miss Temple comes across as being very naïve but in reality she is quite smart. She has the odd moment that made me want to scream at her but she manages to pull herself out of so many tough situations and remain reasonably upbeat and I loved her for that. Heartbroken, she is driven towards discovering why her fiancé really broke off their engagement so coldly. Cardinal Chang is a killer, hired to do other people’s dirty work and thus he is constantly wary and very careful, but when his heart comes into play it’s a different matter altogether. And doctor Svenson. He was perhaps the most boring character to read in my honest opinion however he is still a very loveable character, I just didn’t enjoy his perspective quite as much as the others. As an educated man, he is determined to protect his Prince and the reputation of his home country. Feeling as though he has nothing else to live for, he happily throws himself into the fold to see an end to the madness whatever he has to do. Not one of them could ever imagine what they’ve got themselves into when they begin but once they get involved they’re constantly being hunted and they must either see it to the end or run for their lives.

I think The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters will appeal most to fans of literary fiction. It’s a little bit magical realism within an alternate history, but it really is something very unique. It’s heavy going, so if that doesn’t appeal to you then you will most likely hate this book, but if you don’t mind then it is a really fantastic read.

Miss Temple, Doctor Svenson, and Cardinal Chang series:

1. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
2. The Dark Volume

The Art and Soul of Steampunk

This is a guest post by the lovely and talented Ravven. The first image to the right there is one of hers, I absolutely love her and I was delighted when she sent this post over! Please do check out her DeviantArt profile.

Steampunk art has grown and expanded as a genre from the original concept of steam-powered tech in an alternative Victorian-era world. Although bustles and tophats combined with steam-powered machines remain at the traditional core, steampunk can encompass everything from Jules Verne to movies such as Wild Wild West and the more surreal City of Lost Children. What ties together such different examples is (in part) the magic of the visual aesthetic: romanticised history, glorious anachronistic technology, and an ethos of creativity and visionary spirit.

I do a lot of fantasy and steampunk themed art, and prior to sitting down to write this I went through my deviantART steampunk favourites. These examples of what I personally think are some of the best artwork from that community. There are alternate-world Victorian-era images alongside steampunk versions of Alice in Wonderland and Thumbelina, Art Nouveau steampunk and unashamedly sci fi works that still have a copper-and-steam humanity to them. This, for me, is the heart of steampunk: science, history, technology, inspiration, exploration.

So what is it about this artwork that says “This is steampunk”?

Wild Blue Yonder

In past eras, the world was not completely mapped down to the last Amazonian tribal village. Affluent Victorians could (and did) decide to mount archaeological expeditions to discover pharaohs and lost cities. They ventured into darkest Africa and the mysteries of the Far East. It was a world of new discoveries and magic…which is largely gone. Wherever we might go, no matter how exotic the locale, someone has been there before. There are travel guides. Somebody’s mum and dad have been there and have the holiday snaps to prove it…the world has lost its mystery.

Steampunk brings us back to that era of discovery and possibility, melding it with alternate-world technology and magic. (And what better illustrates Clarke’s third law better than steampunk?)

It’s All About the Girl

The Girl Genius archetype (inventor, explorer, pilot) is part of what I love so much about steampunk. This may sound a bit odd, but for me Claudia from Warehouse 13 is a perfect steampunk character. She’s sassy, smart, fearless and possessed of a mad passion for tinkering. She has an eclectic fashion sense, and although I’ve never seen her in long skirts, I can definitely picture her in brass goggles.

In the Victorian era females were obviously not encouraged to have careers that involved danger, dirt, travel to far-off locales without a suitable chaperone, or showing an unladylike amount of flesh. The plucky steampunk Girl Inventor is the antithesis of meekness – she designs and builds wild-ass, amazing contraptions and sails off in them to discover new lands. She goes to war, trusty steam robot at her side, and she knows that the world is as full of magic as it is cream cakes and tea.

Separation

Steampunk art is also about loneliness. Technology, both in that alternate timeline and our own, separates us from other people at the same time that it allows us to communicate and share. We use machines to measure and interact with the world around us, and as a result we become more separate. Perhaps steampunk is a way of humanising technology, bringing romance back to science, and illustrating the melancholy of technological futures. For me, anyway, I think that is part of the reason that (for instance) I lust after the historical veneer of Datamancer‘s creations – if that makes any sense. Steampunk science still has a soul.

Dodgy philosophy aside, this is what steampunk visual art means to me. A love of, and respect for, our history. A yearning for alternate worlds that are still high tech, but in a more human fashion. Romance and magic. And don’t forget new worlds to explore…I think there is an intrepid Girl Explorer in each of us, yearning for new horizons.