4 stars,  romance,  steampunk,  urban fantasy

Review: ‘Steam and Sorcery’ by Cindy Spencer Pape

Date finished: 18 September

Rating: 4 stars

Format: eBook

Source: NetGalley

Genre: Urban Fantasy; Steampunk; Romance

Published: by Carina Press in March 2011

The Synopsis [taken from GoodReads.com]

Sir Merrick Hadrian hunts monsters, both human and supernatural. A Knight of the Order of the Round Table, his use of magick and the technologies of steam power have made him both respected and feared. But his considerable skills are useless in the face of his greatest challenge, guardianship of five unusual children. At a loss, Merrick enlists the aid of a governess.

Miss Caroline Bristol is reluctant to work for a bachelor but she needs a position, and these former street children touch her heart. While she tends to break any mechanical device she touches, it never occurs to her that she might be something more than human. All she knows is that Merrick is the most dangerously attractive man she’s ever met—and out of reach for a mere governess.

When conspiracy threatens to blur the distinction between humans and monsters, Caroline and Merrick must join forces, and the fate of humanity hinges upon their combined skills of steam and sorcery…

The Review

I’m going through a steampunk phase at the moment and am still very much enjoying indulging the phase by snapping up all things Victorian and mechanical. Prior to this, I’d read the first four of the Parasol Proctectorate series by Gail Carriger and since finishing this I’ve read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. Both big hitters on the steampunk scene that appears to be all the rage at the moment. I enjoyed this as much as I did those so although it isn’t “pure” steampunk, it is certainly no black sheep of the genre!

Sir Merrick Hadrian is a (rather delightful sounding) knight whose job is to use his natural magickal abilities to stalk the shadows, hunt vampires and generally be the kind of tall and dark hero that any Victorian lady (heck, any lady!) would be happy to have protecting her. On one of his investigative jaunts around the slums of London, Merrick is helped out by five feisty little street urchins. When the children are spied by some nasty night-time horrors, Merrick gets all paternal and decides to bring that really he shouldn’t just leave them to be picked off and eaten but should bring them home with him. As a character in a steampunk/fantasy/romance, he’s perfect! Brooding and dashing, with the type of protective streak that might include sword-fighting for your honour – could you ask for anything more from a Victorian knight? No…

Caroline was a more difficult character for me to like because she can be a little prim at times and a bit too much with the damaged-and-won’t-trust-anyone persona. On the whole though I did grow to like her – she’s feisty and independent and the kind of Victorian woman that actually might garner the respect of a “modern” woman (i.e. she doesn’t faint all the time and allow a man to save her!).

The book is also made by the five children who capture Merrick’s heart. Honestly, I’m not always the most maternal woman that ever lived but these kids made me do a very girly “Awww…”. In true steampunk/urban fantasy spirit, every one of them is endowed with a special talent, including a girl that can talk to the dead and a boy who dreams the future. They’re such a motley little street gang and so charming (you know, for kids…) and a perfect supporting cast that I hope are carried into the remainder of the series (that I only recently learnt existed through GoodReads…)!

So the characters are good, what about the story? A few chapters in, I realised that I wasn’t reading because I had been lured in by the characters but because I wanted to read about what was going on in their London – the plot is intriguing enough to keep all of the strong personalities occupied and there’s a good dose of fisticuffs every now and then just to keep you on your toes! Plus, the vampires and bad guys are properly bad, which is always more fun!

It has been a very long time since I read a book in one day; as in years, not months. I know that’s shocking for a professed book-lover but because I often find that either I don’t have the time/concentration (because I tend to read longer books). Because this book balances so many aspects, however, I was completely caught up and, every time I tore myself away to do some boring housework, I found myself right back with my eReader in my lap as soon as physically possible. As good an accolade as any, I’d say!

A minor health warning: The romance is on the more…adult side, shall we say. No simpering heroines or chaste heroes here! I personally don’t mind the odd raunchy episode (because I’m scandalous like that) but I know that some people don’t like it, so here’s my way of politely saying that if you like your romance books to stop at the bedroom door, you might want to give this a miss…

Overall: A great example of both steampunk and urban fantasy with a healthy dose of romance for good measure. The vampires and other nasties are those from nightmares, the engineering and machinery are well-integrated into the Victorian aspects and the romance also manages to fit into the dark story without ruining the tone – definitely worth a couple of hours!