Chris Moriarty: The Inquisitor’s Apprentice

The Inquisitor’s Apprentice is set in a vividly rendered alternate late-19th-century New York city. Magic exists in this world, but — officially, at least — it is controlled by wealthy industrialists like “J. P. Morgaunt,” a character inspired by J. P. Morgan (some more sympathetically rendered historical figures appear under their real names) . ThirteenContinue reading “Chris Moriarty: The Inquisitor’s Apprentice”

George Mann : The Osiris Ritual

The second of Mann’s “Newbury and Hobbes” steampunk/mystery/adventures (following The Affinity Bridge) struck me as stronger overall than its predecessor, with a bit more depth of character. I found the tone a little inconsistent — there are a few moments that veer into excessively broad parody of pulp/adventure conventions and require a greater level ofContinue reading “George Mann : The Osiris Ritual”

Gail Carriger : Soulless

Soulless is set in a fantasy alternate Victorian era, with vampires and werewolves alongside airships and mysterious brass apparati. It deftly mashes the modern urban fantasy/paranormal romance into the Regency-style historical romance, adds a hefty dollop of whodunnit, and seasons it with steampunk atmosphere and a tiny dash of xenophobic horror. I liked it aContinue reading “Gail Carriger : Soulless”

Courtney Milan : Proof by Seduction

I’m leaving this review up, but noting that I cringed at how patronizing it is when I re-read it, and I wouldn’t write it like this today. I was a little slow to warm to Proof by Seduction, mostly because of a familiar complaint with historical fiction: the characters seemed more like 21st-century people thanContinue reading “Courtney Milan : Proof by Seduction”

Liz Jensen: My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time

Harlot Charlotte finds herself catapulted from late 19th-century Denmark to 21st-century England in Liz Jensen’s odd fantasy. Charlotte is a mildly unreliable narrator somewhat given to giddiness and entirely given to elaborately structured sentences: When Franz finally departed for a place he referred to mysteriously a the Halfway Club, I resolved to confront Professor KrakContinue reading “Liz Jensen: My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time”

John Harwood: The Seance

I liked Harwood’s previous novel The Ghost Writer very much. The Séance shares several of The Ghost Writer‘s hallmarks: reserved, chilly, almost 19th-century flavored prose*; dark, complex and secret-spiked family histories; an elaborate, almost meta-textual, structure with multiple layers of nested stories; a brooding, slow-growing aura of menace; and lingering questions about which — ifContinue reading “John Harwood: The Seance”

Glen David Gold, Sunnyside

On the whole I liked Glen David Gold’s Sunnyside, even if I’m not quite sure what to make of it. It shares only superficial similarities with Gold’s debut novel, Carter Beats the Devil: like the earlier book it seamlessly blends historical and invented characters in a story fully of derring-do, heartbreak, and coincidence-fueled plot twists.Continue reading “Glen David Gold, Sunnyside”

Cherie Priest: Boneshaker

The phrase that kept coming to my mind to describe Boneshaker while I was reading it was “purely awesome.” The back cover copy gives away a little too much of the setup for my taste, but I will say that it shifts between being a steampunk adventure story and a gritty, claustrophobic zombie novel soContinue reading “Cherie Priest: Boneshaker”

George Mann: The Affinity Bridge

The Affinity Bridge sets some derring-do and a Sherlock Holmes-ish mystery in an alternate history where England had much more sophisticated technology under the Victoria’s reign (some of the tech, in fact, extends Victoria’s lifespan farther into the 20th century). Sometimes it seems like Mann is juggling a few too many plot threads — aContinue reading “George Mann: The Affinity Bridge”

Michael Moorcock: Gloriana

Good God, I hated this book, with an unreasoning, visceral passion. (Had much the same reaction to Nabokov’s Lolita). I made the perhaps-mistake of reading the Moorcock’s afterword first, in which he explains that Andrea Dworkin took him to task for including a graphic rape scene (with a troubling thematic implication) in book she otherwiseContinue reading “Michael Moorcock: Gloriana”