Steam punk’d

Once again, I purchased an e-book on Amazon’s recommendation.  (Actually, I purchased several – I went on a bit of a Kindle-binge early this month.  Urp.) Sometimes Amazon steers me right – I’m still digesting an excellent series by Ilona Andrews.  Sometimes it’s a massive fail.  This one falls somewhere in between.

Steamside Chronicles by Ciar Cullen features NYPD’s Emily Fenwick, a young woman who is mystically transported to late 19th Century New York.  There she falls in with the “punks,” a group of similarly situated individuals led by “the man” Jack Pettigrew.  It’s unclear exactly why all of the punks have been transported to this point in time (though there’s a strong suggestion that they may in fact be ghosts).  While they can move about in “Normal,” i.e. the real world of 1890s New York City, they live in a little side pocket of reality (Steamside) where part of life is guarding “the wall” from apparitions and nightmares.

The point of view shifts between Emily and Jack, a narrative trick I enjoyed.  I also liked our heroine Emily, whose reaction to being plunked down in 1890’s New York was believably bewildered.  There are also some very funny references to pop culture, including the inviolate rule Twenty-Eight, named after a seminal Star Trek episode .  Overall, though, I felt like I was watching the action through a blurry lens – I never really grasped the reality of the world the characters inhabit.  I was quite disappointed at the amount of action that actually took place in historic NYC, which is to say, little to none.  While the characters venture out to the city and interact with ‘civilians’ of the era, those scenes tend to occur ‘off camera’.  I felt like every time I was about to get a glimpse of some really interesting historical context, we cut away Steamside to deal with our heroes’ thoughts and feelings.

Overall, it’s a decent read, but not a book I’ll revisit.  For my money, the more compelling steampunk urban fantasy is Meljean Brooks’ The Iron Duke.

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