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Fly Girl's Cabinet of Curiosities

curated by Thornton Rigg

Category

steampunk

Cogheart : Peter Bunzl

… a riveting good read …

I love it when I can relax into a story, enjoying the easy ride of a born story teller.  Cogheart is just that type of book.   With a host of clockwork mechanicals, including Mrs Rust and Mr Wingnut and a stubborn fox mechanimal, Lily and Robert race through a thrilling plot, fighting  deliciously sinister mirror eyed villains towards a tremendous finale full of airship chases and clockwork skullduggery.

cogheart

Peter Bunzel spins a well constructed story with immaculate pacing and lovely plot twists which create various anticipations to savour for a sharp eyed reader.  Nothing  is wasted or extraneous, though Peter takes time to add decorative Steampunky flourishes.   It’s a great fun and I highly recommend it – probably in the 9 to 12 age range.

Cogheart is Peter Bunzl’s debut novel. He is a successful animator working on commercials, promos and 2 BAFTA winning kids’ TV shows. He has also written and directed several short films.  This is why there’s a delightful mini website for this book: cogheart.com and some FREE gifs on offer.

Cover design moment: With Peter’s visual background, it’s not surprising that Cogheart has a great cover, map and occasional illustrations by a wonderful American artist,  Becca Stadtlander.  Her work really enhances the story.

Cogheart was published on 1st September 2016 by Usborne and recommended to me by Emily at A Festival of Books.  Thanks, Em!

The Aeronaut’s Windlass : Jim Butcher

windlass  … steampunk adventuring with added cats …

A master of adventure fantasy is having fun in a new steampunk playground.

Jim is an expert at weaving his storylines around the multiple viewpoints of his assorted cast, from the noble Captain Grimm, who was drummed out of the Fleet, to the hazy etherealist, Folly, who talks to people via her collection of crystals.  It is a delight to relax into this bright-as-a- brass-button page turner.  Yes, the characterisation maybe stereotypical and the plot might fade away a little towards the end, but it is a very pleasurable read and, judging by his other series, we are in for a long ride so the slightly muted ending is because there’s an overarching storyline.  I particularly liked the Patrick O’Brian “Master and Commander” hommage.  And it might just be me but Bridget is Game of Thrones’ character, Brienne of Tarth, right?

One of the characters is a cat.  Some chapters are told from his point of view.    I found this amusing, particularly the scene describing cat diplomacy though I can understand if this makes some potential readers put the book down immediately.

The Goblin Emperor : Katherine Addison

The_Goblin_Emperor_cover

….  absorbing and thoughtful with court intrigue

Fourth in line to the throne and teenage, Maia is suddenly pulled out of a bleak exile to become the new Emperor.  Naive, bewildered and embarrassed, Maia stubbornly and painfully carves out his new role surrounded by court intrigue and distant servants.   There is little action, magic or sword play.   Doesn’t sound much of a sell … and yet, the decency and loneliness of this half-goblin amidst a fabulously rich and self-assured Elven Court makes for an absorbing, thoughtful read.  The world building and naming, though dazzlingly imaginative and well built, can be slightly too rich but stick with it for the ear signals, the Court Rituals and the gradual development of Maia’s character from gauche teenager to young and outward looking Emperor.

It won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy novel in 2015.

The Invisible Library : Genevieve Cogman

9781447256236The Invisible Library_10.jpg

steampunk romp through an alternate Victorian London

Cogman has created a great adventure in a fabulous steampunk London with a vibrant heroine, Irene, and her distractingly handsome assistant, Kai.

She’s had great fun populating her London with delightfully fashioned baddies: mechanical centipedes,  robotically controlled alligators, a Fairy Ambassador of Liechtenstein, a ghoulishly fiendish villain, Alberich; and stolid Victorian allies including Inspector Singh and Mr Vale, the Earl of Leeds.  Her sheer exhilaration and imaginative force is a delight to read as these characters tumble across the pages.    Her overarching theme of an Invisible Library linking many alternate worlds adds to the pleasure and the possibilities for further stories.  She wraps it up nicely with a thrilling climax and, in doing so, lays down the springboard for the second in her series, The Masked City, which came out in the UK on 3rd December 2015.

 

RailHead : Philip Reeve

latestbookimagethe romance of the steam age with interplanetary travel : what’s not to like?

A really pleasurable action adventure story following Zen Starling, petty thief and marked man, helter-skelter through a series of dazzling different worlds with an intriguing array of characters.  Reeve translates the romance of train travel into interplanetary voyaging: refashioning the evocative noises of steam, rails, arrivals and departures into futuristic living machines, Station Angels, and the beautifully realised “un-bang”.  He balances the sheer exhilaration of dashing through a high tech universe with the 1930s vibe of plush double deckered carriages of a private, sentient train.  His satisfyingly solid and well thought world is populated with a dazzling collection of characters including a freckled Motorik called Nova; a very memorable Uncle Bugs; Flex, the graffiti artist; and the enigmatic, Raven.  Read it.

Why I Love Old Science

I write in an alternative c17th world, researching into the history of inventions and occasionally pulling technology back into that space from later centuries.  Why?

It is fun.  It is accessible.

It recreates a sense of wonder and creativity – the sheer exhilarating Romance of scientific discovery and invention.

I grew up with a very scientific older brother who seemed to grasp instantly the detail of incomprehensible particle physics and who revelled in all the  logical-Mr Spock- shiny white sterile laboratories it seemed to entail.

Whereas I have always wanted simple, mechanical explanations that I could visualise.  I want dirt and grime and the smell of grease on hot metal. It is more tangible and emphasises the work-in-progress feeling.   It makes me remember that scientific theory is a collection of ideas about how to explain the world.  It may not be right but it fits.

And to celebrate that fact here is Solomon’s House, a fictional institution in Sir Francis Bacon’s utopian work, New Atlantis, published in 1627.

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