“Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.
Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.”
This book came with the July box from The Dragon’s Hoard. Seeing as this book was described to me as being part wild west part steampunk, I was a little unsure going in as that is not usually my sort of book. I ended up being pleasantly surprised, while it isn’t one of my favourite books it was definitely enjoyable and am glad I read it.
As I said steampunk, and the wild west, are not usually genres that I enjoy or have read much of. I was worried that this story would go too far in trying to incorporate the two genres that it would feel a little fake or too cliche. But I felt that Bear did a great job of exploring those genres without going too far into them so that they felt overdone. I enjoyed getting my toes wet (so to speak) in both the wild west and steampunk genres. I also felt that the author did a great job with world building, I was able to get a solid image of all the places described in the story which made me able to get drawn in.
I liked how we got to know all the characters progressively, we got to discover and get to know the characters more naturally as the story went on. Lately a lot of books seem to be giving an info dump about the characters at the start of the book instead of working it more into the story, which i hate so much. This allowed me to feel more connected and able to relate to the main character Karen who was such a different, unique and badass character. One thing that was a little odd for me with Karen is that her dialect (not sure if thats the right word?) changed a bit throughout the book and was often a little off in my opinion. Her dialect seemed to go back and forth, she knew the correct pronunciation or way to phrase sentences and then later in the book she didn’t and at times she would know some pretty sophisticated words that would require some education but then she would not know basic words. Despite the inconsistency of Karen’s dialect, I felt that her accent really added to the story and the theme of the book.
I also enjoyed that while we learnt more about the main character, we also got to know the other characters a fair bit. All of the characters in this book were independent and kickass, making them so interesting to learn about. I loved that this book had a strong focus on friendship, loyalty and just sticking together when times are tough. Without giving any spoilers as to the exact characters, this book had a few LGBT and/or diverse characters. This was really interesting to me as I rarely come across books with those sort of characters or topics.
I definitely think this book could have been a little better and there were a few parts in the book where I got a little confused and had to go back to get some clarity, but apart from that, I found it to be a really fun and interesting read. Despite enjoying the book I would not recommend it to everyone as I could see some people having a hard time enjoying this book, particularly those people who enjoy more contemporary or fantasy focused books.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars