Joel has always wanted to be a Rithmatist, but he wasn’t chosen. He still gets to go to the prestigious Armedius Academy and, while he can’t take the courses that the Rithmatist students do, he can still sneak into the occasional class. His obsession with Rithmancy earns him a summer assistantship with his favorite Rithmancy professor, Fitch. When students studying Rithmancy start disappearing with no trace save for some drops of blood, the whole school is in an uproar. It’s believed that someone or something is targeting Rithmatists. The likely weapon is a set of oddly drawn Chalklings that have the ability to attack physical forms rather than chalk lines, the sort that are typically only seen far away on the war-torn isle of Nebrask. Professor Fitch is charged with assisting in the investigation and Joel is eager to help. The artistically-gifted-but-geometrically-disinclined Melody, also assigned to help Professor Fitch over the summer, teams up with Joel as they work to solve the mystery of their missing classmates.
Author Sanderson has created a fascinating and original world where battles are drawn in chalk. A working knowledge of geometry is every bit as important as a steady hand. Joel excels in geometric strategy, but ultimately can do little more than watch from the sidelines. The ability to become a Rithmatist is not one that can worked towards; either one is a Rithmatist or one is not. The setting is the United Isles of America (a detailed map of which appears at the beginning of the book). The Rithmatist is interspersed with illustrations featuring chalk-drawn defenses and Chalklings. Joel and Melody both break the mold of the middle-grade magic novel. Joel has no magical abilities. Melody, while a Rithmatist, is at the bottom of her class. She doesn’t particularly enjoy being a Rithmatist either. She is, however, an excellent artist, which winds up being far more useful than she had previously believed. This book works on a number of levels: it’s a mystery/fantasy/steampunk/action/adventure story. And it does all of these things quite well.
The League of Seven is an alternative history steampunk adventure. It is 1875 and the world is much different from the one we are familiar with. The east coast of America is the United Nations: seven tribes united together (six of the Indians and the last Yankees). The old world of Europe has been lost to darkness. Everything runs on steam mainly because lektricity wakes the monsters. That’s right there are monsters imprisoned in the earth. The Septemberist Society keeps the knowledge alive even though most people just think of history as myths and legends. It seems the mangleborn feed of lektricity and every thousand years or so they break out of their prisons and destroy the world. It is up to the League of Seven to imprison them again. The League is always made up of seven heroes: a tinker, a law-bringer, a scientist, a trickster, a warrior, a strong man, and a hero.
Archie Dent’s parents are members of the Septemberist Society and have been brainwashed by manglespawn as have all the other members of the society. Instead of working to prevent the rise of the mangleborn they are working to free one of them. It is up to Archie and his two new friends Fergus and Hachi to stop the mangleborn and save his parents. Archie believes they are the new League of Seven. Fergus is the tinker, Hachi is the warrior and Archie thinks he is the hero but he doesn’t feel very heroic. Their quest takes them from the swamps of Florida to the streets of New Rome to the ruins of Atlantis under Niagara Falls and back again. They are fleeing from Thomas Edison, who is mad with the power of lektricity, and his evil tik tok ninja (think robot). They are helped along the way by Archie’s tik tok Mr. Rivet, Tesla (who is a Septemberist and quite mad) and a variety of other fun characters.
This was a great start to this trilogy. The world building is very comprehensive and wonderful. The steampunk is really well done with airships and aether guns and mechanical men and pneumatic tubes. I also thought the alternative history stuff was very well thought out. I love the thought of all these great societies rising and falling because of the mangleborn (Atlantis, Rome, Cahokia, etc.) We don’t learn why Europe has gone dark or who the other Seven are, but those things will probably get covered in the next books. The heroes defeated one mangleborn but there are lots more out there and they are going to need help. Can’t wait to see what happens next.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Sophronia is being sent to finishing school. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality to be exact. Sophronia would rather be figuring out how things work than learning how to curtsey, but her mother has other ideas. Her mother would be appalled at what she is actually learning at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s. Not only does Sophronia learn how to curtsey and act appropriately in social situations she also learns how to poison someone and the fine art of gathering intelligence. Her other skills come in handy when she and her friends must figure out what has happened to a communications prototype that is wanted by a lot of nefarious characters.
I like this Victorian steampunk world a lot. I have read Souless, the first in Carriger’s adult series, but didn’t really remember it a lot. This series is set in that same world. The school is a giant balloon that floats across the moors. There are vampire and werewolf teachers. And there are flying skypirates who attack the school. I found the whole thing fun and ridiculous and really enjoyable. There is just enough steampunk, just enough historical fiction, just enough zaniness to make this a really fun read.
Uncrashable Dakota is an alternate history/steampunk middle grade adventure novel. During the Civil War, Samuel Dakota discovered the power of flight. Seems a certain kind of beetle really likes whiskey soaked sap. You feed it to them and they can fly. Put the beetles in a ship and the ship flies. This discovery ended the Civil War years early, started the flight industry in the 1860s and allowed Lincoln to live to be an old man. Fast forward to 1912 and Dakota Aeronautics is getting ready to launch its biggest ship ever, the Dakota. On board is the elite of society as well as the general public. The Dakota family, consisting of Hollis and his mom and her new husband and his son Rob, are ready to set sail with the ship. During the voyage the ship is hijacked and Hollis, Rob and their friend Delia have to save the day.
This was a pretty hefty book with a lot going on. Not only do we have the hijacking story, but there is also a lot of backstory for when Samuel Dakota invented flight. I thought it was pretty inventive to have beetles be the mode of flight, especially ones who like to eat whiskey sap. There was definitely a Titanic vibe to this story (giant ship, best of its kind, supposedly unsinkable/uncrashable, disaster). I do with the book would have been just a tad shorter or better edited. I think a lot of the story of the kids running around the ship could have been condensed. That being said I also wish the ending would have been expanded a bit. You have 300 pages of the hijacking and just a couple pages of the crash and its aftermath. I also thought the story of Rob and his father kind of went off the rails a bit and its ending was just about the worst thing in the book. I think the book had potential and it was an enjoyable read, but the ending was too rushed with too many loose ends for my tastes.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Continues the story of Cinder and introduces the reader to Scarlet and Wolf. But is he a Big Bad Wolf or a hero in the making? How is Scarlet’s grandmother involved with the Luna princess and who kidnapped Grandma? Can’t wait to read the third book in the series!
Piper is a scrapper in a scrap town on the fringes of society. Scrappers pick through the bits that come into their world from the meteor showers. These meteor showers deposit things from other worlds. Piper works to fix the things up and make them work again. One day she chases a friend into the dangerous meteor shower and discovers a destroyed caravan with a girl inside. She brings the injured girl back home with her. Soon Piper and Anna are running for their lives as they are chased by a mysterious man who claims to be Anna’s father. Anna has no memories. The only thing she has a is a dragonfly tattoo which marks her has protected by the king of the Dragonfly territory. Anna and Piper make their escape onto the 401, a train headed to the Dragonfly capital. Along the way they become friends with the 401’s crew: Jeyne, Trimble and Gee. There is danger, adventure and new insights into who exactly Anna is.
This was a fun steampunk story for middle grades. I really enjoyed learning about Piper and Anna’s backgrounds and abilities. I think kids will really enjoy the adventure of this story; however, it is a bit on the long side which might turn off some readers. I think my complaint is that it started out one way and ended up another. I was fascinated by the meteor showers and the debris from other worlds at the beginning of this book. However, that pretty much got dropped once they boarded the train. I think I would have liked for the two parts to tie together a little bit more. I still really enjoyed reading it though and the ending does leave the story open for further adventures.
This was an enjoyable steam-punk retelling of Cinderella. Cinder is a cyborg mechanic who can’t remember her life before the accident that claimed her parents and made it medically necessary to replace her leg and other parts with machinery. She was adopted but her new guardian dies before he is able to bring her home to his wife and daughters and tell them why he has adopted a cyborg child. She works to make money for her stepmother and keep their household afloat though they treat her like a servant.
A plague is running rampant throughout their country and attacking young and old, rich and poor alike. Her favorite sister becomes ill days before a ball is planned. She tries to encourage her sister by telling her how she met the prince when he brought an automaton to her shop for repair and how he invited her to the ball. She promises to get the prince to dance with her sister if she will just get better and be able to go to the ball.
The prince has troubles of his own. His father is gravely ill with the plague. The ruler of Mars is on her way with an entourage to discuss peace talks that all his advisers believe is a prelude to war. Of course, the prince could marry the queen of Mars and make her his Empress ensuring peace but would that really be the best thing for both planets?
A wee bit hit or miss as far as the quality of the stories goes, but overall a fun collection. Particular favorites of mine are the tales by Libba Bray, Cory Doctorow and Kelly Link. Extremely varied, both thematically and in setting, the steampunk element is represented in its broadest definition.
12-year-old Mila has a knack for noticing the things that others do not. This particular talent will come in handy as a series of events play out. She and her father had been planning to visit her father’s old friend in the United States for quite some time, but recently this friend has gone missing and no one has any idea what has happened to him. Mila and her father decide to make the trip overseas anyway. If her father’s friend, Matthew, isn’t back by the time they show up, they can spend some of their vacation trying to track him down. As soon as Mila and her father arrive at the home owned by Matthew and his wife, Mila notices quickly that this is not a happy house. The wife, Suzanne, appears stressed out but not overly upset. Their baby, Gabriel, has no idea that anything is wrong and charms everyone who comes in contact with him. The family dog, Honey, appears adrift with her master missing. Mila has a lot of theories, but the pieces have yet to fall into place. It will take some time, but she’s fairly confident that she and her father can track down his best friend. When the search takes them further into upstate New York, Mila finds more than she bargained for.
This is a novel about families, friendship and love. But it’s not a sappy novel at all. There is pain; there is humor; there is hope. Mila is one of those characters who is a very different person by the time the book is over, and while she’s not initially the easiest character to understand, she becomes a person that most of us can identify with on some level. I’m consistently impressed with the variety of Meg Rosoff’s work and this is just one more excellent novel in an already illustrious YA career.
I can’t help but think that this manga is really more for established fans than those new to the Soulless series. I haven’t read any of the series, so I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up the manga-style adaptations. I was not terribly impressed. In fact, I was kind of annoyed at the whole experience.
The story is lacking in detail and world-building, but that’s probably the result of it being an adaptation. The artwork is merely OK; it uses a lot of manga tropes, which, in an American comic, feels off somehow. I’m honestly getting very tired of popular series being turned into “manga”. Particularly annoying to me in this particular volume is the depiction of the female characters. The ridiculously large breasts and plunging necklines come across as entirely superfluous.
I wanted to like this series; I really did, but ultimately it just fell flat.
Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.
Alexia is different from the rest of her family. She’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Her mother has remarried and her step-sisters and step-father all tolerate her but think she’s odd. But they have no idea that she has no soul and can render supernatural beings powerless with a touch.
Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently. At one of the biggest social events of the year, she is attacked by a vampire which breaks all standards of social etiquette but Alexia accidentally kills the vampire defending herself. Then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, Scottish, and leader of a werewolf clan) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing?
Eighteen-year-old Lena Mattacascar sets out for Scree, a weird place inhabited by Peculiars, seeking the father who left when she was young, but on the way she meets young librarian Jimson Quiggley and handsome marshall Thomas Saltre, who complicate her plans.
If you like steampunk you’ll probably enjoy this story, it’s got those unusual characters we come to expect and it’s setting is historical but in another land not in our reality. Lena journeys for Scree to find out whether or not she is really a Peculiar by finding her father. It was enjoyable enough to read, but I’m not quite sure I enjoyed parts of the book that seemed to lurch through the telling.
The two volumes of “Crossovers” are a fascinating and highly enjoyable read for anyone interested in the interactions between various pulp, mystery, adventure, and science fiction characters with each other and real people throughout history. The premise of the book was inspired by SF writer Philip José Farmer’s “Wold Newton” concept which he developed in the 1970s: a “radioactive” meteorite crashed near Wold Newton, England, in 1795 and affected several carriages full of people who were passing by. Their descendants became highly intelligent and powerful heroes (or villains) such as Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, Dr. Fu Manchu, Doc Savage, Lord Greystoke (Tarzan), and many more. Farmer wrote popular and detailed biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage in which he explored the family trees of many “Wold Newton Family” characters. Over time, the concept has been expanded and continued by Win Scott Eckert and others to become the “Crossover Universe.” Mr. Eckert has done a fantastic job of compiling references to literary heroes who have met each other (or “crossed over”) and had adventures together, and thus co-exist in the same fictional universe. Volume 1 covers the dawn of time up through 1939, and Volume 2 covers 1940 into the far future. (Mr. Spock himself claimed Sherlock Holmes as an ancestor of his!) There are 2000 entries in this chronology and 300 illustrations. Reading these two books is fun and will send you scurrying to find many of the stories and books that are referenced.
The two volumes of this book are a fascinating and highly enjoyable read for anyone interested in the interactions between various pulp, mystery, adventure, and science fiction characters with real people throughout history. The premise of this book is inspired by SF writer Philip José Farmer’s “Wold Newton” concept which he developed in the 1970s: a “radioactive” meteorite crashed near Wold Newton, England in 1795 and affected several carriages full of people who were passing by. Their descendants became highly intelligent and powerful heroes (or villains) such as Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, Dr. Fu Manchu, Doc Savage, Lord Greystoke (aka Tarzan), and many more. Farmer wrote popular and detailed biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage in which he detailed the family trees of many “Wold Newton Family” characters. Over time, the concept has been expanded and continued by others into the Crossover Universe. Win Scott Eckert has done a fantastic job of compiling references to literary heroes who have met each other (or “crossed over”) and had adventures together, and thus co-exist in the same fictional universe. Volume 1 covers the dawn of time up through 1939, and Volume 2 covers 1940 into the far future. Reading these two books is a fun and highly addictive experience!