Clockwork Fairies: A Tor.Com Original

Review Photo
Author: Cat Rambo
Release: February 1, 2011
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy
Edition: Kindle
Pages: 24
Publisher: Tor Books
Buy it here: AMAZON

Blurb

Desiree feels the most at home with her clockwork creations, but Claude worries about all this science and Darwinist nonsense—after all, where do clockwork fairies fall in the Great Chain of Being?

Review—with Spoilers

John Barth described Cat Rambo’s writings as “works of urban mythopoeia” — her stories take place in a universe where chickens aid the lovelorn, Death is just another face on the train, and Bigfoot gives interviews to the media on a daily basis. Clockwork Faeries is another entry into this type of world where steampunk and magic exist side-by-side.

Clockworks Faeries is the story of Desiree, a mulatto heiress who grew up in Rambo’s reimagined Victorian Era England ostracized from upper class London society simply because of the color of her skin. It is told through the point of view of Claude, her fiancé, who is a traditional English gentleman, Oxford Dean, and stout believer in the religious dictates of the Church of England.
What makes Rambo a masterful writer is her use of conversation, interior monologue, and immediate events to describe the world in which Desiree lives. There are no long passages of exposition; the readers see the world through the eyes of Claude, mostly at the same time that he experiences it. (Some immediate events and conversation will trigger a short reminiscence on his part that directly applies to the storyline.)

The story opens with Claude visiting Desiree’s house one Sunday evening and encountering her newest creations:

At first I thought them hummingbirds or large dragonflies. One hung poised before my eyes in a flutter of metallic skin and isinglass wings. Delicate gears spun in the wrist of a pinioned hand holding a needle-sharp sword. Desiree had created another marvel. Clockwork fairies, bee-winged, glittering like tinsel. Who would have dreamed such things, let alone made them real? Only Desiree.
(Rambo, 2011)

Throughout the story Desiree continues her work and builds even more complex creatures. While he marvels at them, Claude also disapproves. He is very much concerned with appearances and the ways that society views both himself and his fiancé. The members of the upper class will not care about her inventions; they will only care about how she dresses, speaks, and behaves at social functions. Throughout the story Claude gives the impression of a weak man who almost blindly follows the values of his society, except for his fascination with Desiree.

This is what makes their love story tragic. Desiree is attracted to Claude because of the way he looks and his position as a Dean at Oxford. Being accepted in a society that made her late mother a near shut-in is important to her, but it hurts when the color of her skin exposes her to stares and outright snubs by others of her class.

Claude finds her beautiful and enjoys her company, but believes she could be so much more: “Dressed properly,” he tells her “you would take the city by storm” (Rambo, 2011). In effect, he is sometimes blind to the reactions of others. “Did you not see Lady Worth turn away lest she contaminate herself by speaking to a Negro? Or perhaps you did not overhear the sporting gentleman laying bets on what I would be like between the sheets?” she asks him after a social gathering (Rambo, 2011). He is shocked that such words would come out of her mouth and does not think to comfort her over the insults she suffered.

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Clockwork Fairies: A Tor.Com Original

Desiree’s father, Lord Southland, actively discourages the marriage because he believes Claude is not intellectual enough for his daughter and believes too much in religion. Claude admits that he is interested in Desiree for her inheritance as well as her beauty, but that is not unusual in the Victorian Era where marriages were arranged more often than not among the upper class based on social position and wealth. Lord Southland does everything in his power to entice Desiree to reject Claude’s offer. But Claude has something his daughter wants: a place in society where she will be accepted. They both want what the other has to offer; even though it is not everything they would wish.

A twist of fate intervenes when Lord Tyndall, an Irish noble and landowner, takes an interest in Desiree’s clockwork designs. Tyndall invites Desiree, her father, and Claude to his estate for a shooting party. Desiree is delighted, for she had enjoyed speaking to Tyndall about her work and wants to see the countryside that inspired her design for the clockwork faeries. Although he feels that Tyndall might have ulterior motives for the invitation, for the man seems entranced by Desiree, Claude agrees to the journey. There, isolated from English society in a castle overlooking the Irish seaside, they are able to look at each other, and their own desire to pursue the marriage, clearly.

I enjoyed Clockwork Faeries a great deal.  Cat Rambo weaves a wonderful tale with settings and characters that I enjoyed.  The steampunk elements are essential to the story and the “touch” of magic in the Irish castle by the sea is not overdone; it adds a sparkle to a story and helps push Claude and Desiree toward a resolution that they may not have otherwise reached.

This is a “recommended read” for anyone who enjoys Neo-Victorian Era Steampunk and Fantasy.

 

Introducing Sante Mazzei of Sìon, The first Italian Steampunk graphic novel

banner-sponsorizzazioneI’m as big a fan of Victorian England as the next person but one thing I’ve been really looking forward to since I started this blog is the chance to explore steampunk in different regions in the world. I’ve already delved into Japan with my Steampunk in Animation series and now it’s time for us to start exploring Italy with Sìon, the first steampunk graphic novel set in Naples, Italy. Sìon is currently funding on Indiegogo and has almost a month left to go. Sante Mazzei, one of the writers involved in Sìon, has taken the time to tell me all about the creative process that brought this masterpiece together. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about this magnificent graphic novel as much as I have!

Can you tell us a bit about Sion

Sìon is a graphic novel set in a version of Naples that started to take advantage of the Vesuvius volcano as a source of geothermal energy. The use of electricity has changed the citizen’s way of life introducing new ways to entertain, travel, communicate and even kill. Our main character, named Sìon, is a physically mute Jewish man, taken from his community, who begins to investigate on several terrifying creatures spotted in the underground of Naples
What part of the story came to you first?
The setting was one of  the main things we worked on. We added electricity to a particular historical context and calculated every possible outcome.  We imagined a huge “Corona” around the Vesuvius volcano, in order to harness its energetic potential. The plot, in order to work, would have needed a setting as extraordinary and believable as possible.
Why did you choose to crowdfund this project? 
Crowdfunding gives authors the chance to express as best as possible their potential. We decided to have full control over our story, without censorship or cuts, and the materials and packaging that our graphic novel will be made with. We will use a never before seen kind of paper for a comic book, the Dolce Vita, allowing the details and lighting of the electrically lit setting to shine through the page. All this is made possible by working with industry experts like the international-level typography: FonteGrafica as well as Favini, a world leader in supports for innovative graphics. We believe that crowdfunding is the best way to give life to an idea, thanks to the participation of all fans. In this case, the birth of the comic book is not only an achievement for the authors but for all those that have supported the project.
You’re also working on a limited edition Sion board game. What convinced you to take on this ambitious project? 
The board game represents the possibility for the reader to enter the world of Sìon and take part in his investigations. We love role playing games and board games with strong and convincing settings. We saw in our comic book a perfect setting for a role playing board game, that will allow you to “live” Naples as we imagined it, hunt during the night, conduct research in our refuges, while a deus ex machina moves the creatures and the fate of the city. We love the ideas that we developed regarding the game and we can’t wait to know what our supporters think of them!
Are you planning to create more graphic novels in the world of Sion
Our graphic novel will be a self concluding story. The investigations of Sìon will come to an end. But the universe we created is huge and we would love to explore other aspects of the story and allow the reader to discover all of its details. When structuring a multi-faceted setting as ours, having to tell only one aspects of it turns out to be too superficial for the readers. So yes, we will confront other aspects of the city and of the universe that we created.
Sion_3What drew you into steampunk in the first place? 
We ourselves are readers of comic books, as well as lovers of games, movies, music and all other art forms. Steampunk has found a way to live within all of these, with masterful stories and atmospheres of great beauty. Lately it has grown a lot as a genre and we will give our contribution deviating from the ground that other authors have already laid.
What do you think is the most interesting part of the steampunk genre/culture?
We feel it is the introduction of a technology so distant from the historical period presented. It allows us to calculate social, political and economical implications of a society. The screenwriter of Sìon is an Archeologist who is currently involved in anthropology. He has always been fascinated by the social transformations that followed discoveries and scientific applications. For this reason Sìon has been envisioned from the beginning as a steampunk work.
Sion is live on Indiegogo right now. How are you working to keep momentum going throughout your entire campaign? 
We are hard at work in consistently publishing new content and details on the perks that make up our campaign. Pictures are grafico-percentuali-immagine-2worth more than a thousand words and it is for this reason that we prioritize illustrations and characters, as well as their descriptions. We hope that you will love our project as much as we do

Steampunk in Animation Pt. 3: Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing

Shorewood Blu-ray OcardLast week I reviewed Last Exile, a fun steampunk anime with many dark secrets at its core. Today I’d like to introduce you to Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing, another steampunk anime series which came out several years after the original Last Exile.

Here’s what the product page has to say about Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing:

Soaring adventure and high-flying heroism fill the skies in Last Exile – Fam – The Silver Wing, a thrilling new chapter in the Last Exile saga!

Years ago, humanity abandoned the ruined Blue World. Generations later, with the planet again capable of sustaining life, mankind returned. In the skies above the reborn world, rebellious young Fam and her best friend Giselle make their living as Sky Pirates. Atop sleek Vespa Vanships, the girls dart fearlessly through the clouds, capturing and selling airborne battleships for profit. It’s a life of care-free swashbuckling – until the Ades Federation attacks. The only nation to remain on Blue World during humanity’s exile, The Ades Federation wages war against those who returned only after the planet’s darkest days had passed. When Fam and Giselle rescue a princess from the clutches of the rampaging Ades armada, they join the young royal’s battle to save her Kingdom from destruction – and undertake the impossible mission of uniting humanity in peace.

The story of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing is strong enough to stand on its own but is definitely more fun to watch if you’ve already enjoyed the original Last Exile. In many ways the second story mirrors the first. There are many references to the first anime but all of them make sense within the story of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing. We even get to see several characters from the original Last Exile, including a brief appearance from the main characters themselves at the end.

One thing about the original Last Exile that really stood out was the sheer variety of airships and the different ways they were used. I was particularly intrigued by their use of sonar to track other airships.

In Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing there’s an even larger variety of airships and the main characters are actually sky pirates who spend their days hunting “skyfish”. The way these sky pirates work is awesome to watch in action. They are full of cool tricks which they use to minimize damage done to the “skyfish” they catch.

With only 23 episodes, Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing is even shorter than the original but it manages to tell a well rounded story in that short amount of time. The story of this anime isn’t as dark as the story of the original Last Exile but it’s definitely a story that will make you think about human nature and the nature of war. The characters are lots of fun, especially when you get to re-meet the crew from the original Last Exile, and the world of this story is an especially beautiful one.

Purchase Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing here!

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Review PhotoRelease: September 29, 2015
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: The Cinder Spires
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy | Adventure | Humor
Edition: Kindle and Audio
Pages: 640
Publisher: ROC
Buy it here: AMAZON

Blurb

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.
Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.
And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

Review

I am a fan of Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files, so I admit to being excited by the fact that he had plans for a new series set in a steampunk world. These last two months have been a busy time for me professionally, so I purchased both the Kindle and the Audible editions of the novel hoping to save a bit of time with the Whispersync function. (When I review a book I generally read it two times and take notes. This is a bit longer time commitment than simply reading a novel for pleasure.) Unfortunately I have Apple products (iMac and iPad) and Whispersync does not work with them. The iMac and iPad Audible versions did not sync with each other either. Ah well—the best laid plans of mice and men! I am glad, though, that I purchased both: Euan Morton narrates the Audible version and he is such a versatile actor it is almost impossible to believe one person is voicing each character. This is a book I will listen to again.

Spoilers Ahead

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a wonderful addition to the steampunk genre. It is not set in Victorian England or the American West, although these time periods do serve as touchstones of inspiration. It is set in its own world and it incorporates unique aesthetic touches.

The world-building in this series is incredibly detailed, yet is not intrusive to the narrative. It takes a deft touch for a writer to include so much information without it bogging down the story, but Butcher is able to achieve this. I believe that Butcher succeeds because of his experience as a writer—because of his years of honing his craft. If you are interested in a “behind-the-scenes” type view of writing, visit Jim Butcher’s Live Journal. It contains detailed, step-by-step posts on how to write a novel.

The steampunk elements are essential to the story. Airships, spire cities at war, and almost magical seeming gauntlets that shoot out beams of light are part-and-parcel of life for the characters. The society is structured and multi-leveled.

One interesting aspect of the society is the (mostly) mandatory military service for the children of the wealthier/aristocratic houses. Families who have only one child do not have to send their heir into service, but most of them do so despite the danger. It is a particular badge of honor to serve. The tradition in the novel reminds me of the real-life service that Great Britain’s royal family has partaken in over the last few generations. Prince Harry, the second child of Prince Charles, even served in active duty in Afghanistan.

Although there is a heavy focus on aristocratic members of society in the first novel of the series, the characters run the gamut of society: Bridget, scion of a once-prominent noble house on the verge of ruin and her talking cat, Rowl, Highborn Gwendolyn Lancaster, her “warrior born” cousin, Benedict; the disgraced Captain Grimm; and master etherealist Ferus and his assistant, Folly, are a motley group of grizzled veterans and novices that are sent off to stop the mysterious force behind a very coordinated and deadly series of attacks on Spire Albion by its rival, Spire Aurora.

The chapters are narrated by different points of view. The character location is presented in a sub-heading at the start of each chapter and the voice of each is unique. It is not difficult to determine who is speaking simply by the diction each one uses. This is particularly effective with Euan Morton’s narration in the Audible book where he does an excellent job portraying the diversity of each character’s manner of speech.

The battle scenes, both on the ground and between the airships, are thrilling. It has elements of the swashbuckling adventures of C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brien and just a touch of Joss Whedon’s Firefly:

“Evasive action!” Grimm ordered. The distant screaming roars of the Itasca’s guns continued, and he heard the hungry hissing of blasts streaking through the mists around them, making them glow with hellish light. They had been lucky to survive a single glancing hit. Thirty guns raked the mist, and Grimm knew the enemy ship would be rolling onto her starboard side, giving the
gunners a chance to track their approximate line of descent. If the same gunner or one of his fellows got lucky again, Predator would not be returning home to Spire Albion.

Jim ButcherThe action rarely stops in this novel and the world is a steampunk-themed playground waiting for Butcher to explore in future novels. What lies on the surface of the world? What created the mists? And what game is Albion, ruler of Spire Albion, playing? Readers will have to wait for those answers as the series develops.

 

Call for Guest Posts

SteamCavBANNER2Up until now the Steampunk Cavaliers has been a closed group blog because we wanted to establish our style so writers had something to base their own posts on. We haven’t been open for a particularly long time but I think the posts we have so far are a great display of what we want The Steampunk Cavaliers to be. So today I’d like to welcome writers of all types to submit guest posts, abiding by the following rules:

  • All guest posts must in some way relate to steampunk(how they relate can be really vague but it must be a real connection)
  • Guest posts should contain no swearing/an absolute minimum
  • Posts must be at least 450 words
  • You must have permission to use all images associated with your post
  • Send all posts to steamcav@gmail.com

You do not need to be an established blogger or steampunk writer/artist to submit a guest post. All you need is an idea! The first guest posts will start to appear in May. You will receive a byline with a link back to your own site and many virtual hugs and cookies for sending us awesome ideas. We’re especially interested in non-review content as we have a lot of reviews coming up over the next few months.

Raising Steam

Raising Steam

Raising SteamAuthor: Terry Pratchett
Release: October 28, 2014
Series: Discworld
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy | Humor
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 365
Publisher: Doubleday
Buy it here: AMAZON

Blurb

Change is afoot in Ankh-Morpork – Discworld’s first steam engine has arrived, and once again Moist von Lipwig finds himself with a new and challenging job.
To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork – a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it’s soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work – as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital . . . but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse . . .

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi’ t’flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all going off the rails . . .

Review

I purchased this novel in 2014 but did not read it until last month. This was not because I did not have the time—I always make time in my schedule for Sir Terry Pratchett and Discworld novels—but because I knew I would love it. I know this sounds strange so let me explain . . .

I have been a fan of Terry Pratchett’s work ever since college. I majored in English and was reading massive amounts of Victorian era novels, Elizabethan era plays, literary criticism of said works, and writing papers about all of it. Although I enjoyed it, I liked to take a break from reading “schoolwork” and read science fiction and fantasy. (Only people who love books truly understand reading something “fun” to take a break from other reading.) It was during this time that I first encountered Good Omens, by a friend who decided that I “needed” to read it. (She was right.)

After that I read everything by Pratchett (and his co-author for Good Omens, Neil Gaiman) that I could find. Discworld is still my favorite out of Pratchett’s series, and up until Raising Steam I read them as soon as I purchased them. But I held back . . . even though it’s the story of how the railway comes to the Discworld, a fictional world that evolved over 41 books from a rural, agrarian sword-and-sorcery type world with Elizabethan era influences to a pre-industrial Victorian era setting which was missing only the advent of the ingenious mechanical devices to make it a steampunk playground.

I held back from reading it . . . because it would probably be the last chapter of the story. In 2007, just years before he was granted a knighthood for services to literature, Terry Pratchett announced he had been diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Despite this he continued to write. Raising Steam is the last adult novel set in the Discworld universe. In 2015, The Shepherd’s Crown, the last volume in his Young Adult Discworld series, was published posthumously: It was not complete at the time of his death. So Raising Steam is the last full work ever to be published in the series and, having read all of the novels except for The Shepherd’s Crown, it does seem to be in part a farewell to many of the characters of Discworld.

Spoiler’s Ahead

It is important to stress the fact that you do not need to have read any of the Discworld novels in order to enjoy Raising Steam. It is the only book in the series that can be considered steampunk, but if you enjoy a neo-Victorian fantasy setting of the grittier-sort, the books set in the town of Ankh-Morpork may peak your interest.

Pratchett focuses the narrative on two fronts—the creation and development of the railway in the Discworld’s major city-state, Ankh-Morpork, and the attack on inter-species progress by dissident dwarf groups.

The railway is developed first by Dick Simnel, the son of Ned Simnel who was featured in a previous Discworld novel, Reaper Man. Ned had created the Disc’s first steam-powered combine harvester, but died in an explosion. Dick was determined to learn from his father’s mistakes and worked with steam-powered machines until he created Iron Girder, the Disc’s first steam locomotive:

“You learn by your mistakes, if you’re lucky, and I tried to make mistakes just to see ‘ow that could be done, and although this is not the time to say it, you ‘ave to be clever and you ‘ave to be ‘umble in the face of such power. You have to think of every little detail. You have to make notes and educate yourself and then, only then, steam becomes your friend.”

Lord Vetinari, ruler of Ankh-Morpork, has the opportunity to stop the advent of the railway. He explains this to Moist Von Lipwig, the reformed conman who Vetinari employs to run such notable city institutions as the Post Office, Royal Mint, and Royal Bank:

“Some might say that it would have been easy for me to prevent this happening. A stiletto sliding quietly here, a potion dropped into a wineglass there, many problems solved at one stroke. Diplomacy, as it were, on the sharp end, regrettably unfortunate, of course, but not subject to argument.”

But Vetinari refuses to do so. He has worked over the course of the series to make Ankh-Morpork into a strangely benevolent dictatorship—one that encourages diversity and new technology that is beneficial to society.

“Mister Lipwig, I feel the pressure of the future and in this turning world must either kill it or become its master. I have a nose for these things, just as I had for you, Mister Lipwig. And so I intend to be like the people of Fourecks and surf the future. Giving it a little tweak here and there has always worked for me and my instincts are telling me that this wretched rail way, which appears to be a problem, might just prove to be a remarkable solution.”

The game is afoot after the railway receives Ventinari’s support. Simnel joins forces with a wealthy and influential member of Ankh-Morpork society, Mr. Harry King, and Moist finds himself not only negotiating for land rights for the railway but also working to develop the entire enterprise: Food, hotels, shopping centers, platforms—all of these aspects must be considered, and they are given the Discworld twist. Some of the dishes that are prepared for railway travelers, like Primal Soup, even sound quite tasty by our standards, and some, like Rat-Onna-Stick, do not (even if the rat is battered and fried).

But progress is not embraced by everyone, as Vetinari mentioned. Clacks-towers, which are Discworld’s answer to telegraph lines, are the first target of the dissident dwarves until they perceive the threat that the railway offers to their plan of overthrowing the Low King (the title for the ruler of the Dwarves.) The clacks-towers can only send messages; the railway has the ability to connect people everywhere. Some of the dwarves are up in arms against the modernization of the society, and people are being injured, and killed, in the battles.

It is interesting to note that Vetinari, who is a tyrant by his own words, believes that everyone is equal. There is no slavery in Ankh-Morpork; everyone—human, dwarf, troll, vampire, golem, goblin, and other assorted races—only answered to the law.

In Ankh-Morpork you can be whoever you want to be and sometimes people laugh and sometimes they clap, and mostly and beautifully, they don’t really care.

But this is not true of the entire Disc—and this is where the railway is headed. It is up to our heroes to make certain that the enterprise of steam is not derailed.

Raising Steam is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of the Discworld series, and I think it is a must-read for anyone who loves steampunk as well. It is a wonderful story full of twists and turns, humor, adventure, magic, neo-Victorian imagery, and, of course, the steam technology fans of the genre love so well. I will let Terry Pratchett have the last word with a short description of the main steam locomotive in the story, Iron Girder, and the beauty of her departure as the railway heads out across the Disc and into whatever the future has in store:

And the driver made his magic and the firebox opened and spilled dancing red shadows all around the footplate. And then came the rattle and jerk as Iron Girder took the strain and breathed steam for one more turn around the track as the goblins whooped and cackled and scrambled up her sides. And then came the first chuff and the second chuff and then the chuff bucket overflowed as Iron Girder escaped the pull of friction and gravity and flew along the rails.

Steampunk Animation Pt. 1

English DVD edition of one of my favorite steampunk movies, Howl's Moving Castle I may be obsessed with books but when it comes to steampunk I’m all about the visual media, especially when it’s animated. Almost all my favorite examples of steampunk are some kind of animation, whether it’s a series, a movie or a video game. There’s just something magical about the way animation brings steampunk worlds to life. I mean, airships are cool, but they’re way cooler when they’re animated. Or at least I think they are.

Most of the steampunk animation I’ve watched has been Japanese animation or anime. American animation is almost exclusively for children and tends to center around a relatively narrow handful of topics, but anime explores every genre. In fact, anime often goes to the extremes of every genre, including horror–both the gory and the psychological kind.

Some of the best known anime is steampunk. Howl’s Moving Castle is an anime movie based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones set in a wondrous steampunk setting. I’ve never read the book, but Howl’s Moving Castle was one of my first introductions to both anime and steampunk. Magic in the world of Howl’s Moving Castle can be either fun or dangerous and is both throughout the movie. Created by Studio Ghibli, one of the most well loved names in anime, the animation of Howl’s Moving Castle might be old but it still looks fantastic today.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky is another Studio Ghibli masterpiece with a fascinating steampunk city. It’s not quite as well known as some of the other Studio Ghibli movies but it is just as awesome. This movie is a great place to start if you’re really into the lighter side of steampunk. Also, airships.

Want a series to dig into? Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an incredibly popular steampunk series set in a country called Emestrius, which uses a combination of steam technology, gear technology and of course alchemy. There is also a longer Full Metal Alchemist series but the story line in Brotherhood is much closer to the original manga and(at least in my opinion) more interesting. If you love steampunk because of the opportunities it presents for political intrigue, Brotherhood is one series you’ll adore.

Seven Samurai is a lesser known example of steampunk anime which takes the classic film Seven Samurai, adds magic and robots(it makes more sense than you might imagine) and transforms it into an awesome anime. It’s also the only anime on this list where the main characters are all adults, or at least all adult-ish, which brings me to another interesting point about anime:

Anime is not afraid to throw children into harsh situations. In fact, a lot of anime created for adults around adult themes still feature protagonists who are in high school or even younger. In some ways this is really awesome. I think stories about/for young people in our culture could use a lot more diversity, and creepy children… Well they’re the best at being creepy. On the other hand, I’d love to find more anime that centers around actual adults.

Of course, the Japanese aren’t the only ones who’ve created steampunk animation. Just last week a French animated film called April and the Extraordinary World was officially released in the US(I actually can’t wait to see this movie, check out the trailer to find out why). There have also been a handful of animated steampunk movies created by American studios such as Atlantis – The Lost Empire.

Over the next few months I plan to take a journey through the land of steampunk animation, reviewing animated steampunk series and movies I discover along the way. Most of it will be anime(I’m a bit of a fanatic) but I’m eager to explore steampunk animation from everywhere else in the world too. I hope you’ll enjoy discovering it with me!

Have you watched any awesome steampunk animation? Are you interested in discovering more? Let me know in the comments section below!

Book Review: The Earl and the Artificer

Review Photo
Conceptual Artwork by Chris Pavesic. Photo Credits: Dreamstime and Chris Pavesic.

Author: Kara Jorgensen
Release: January 30, 2016
Series: The Ingenious Mechanical Devices
Genre: Steampunk | Mystery
Edition: Kindle
Pages: 302
Publisher: Fox Collie Publishing
Buy it here: Amazon

 

Blurb

What mysteries lay buried beneath weeds and dust?

Following their wedding, Eilian and Hadley Sorrell journey to Brasshurst Hall, his family’s abandoned ancestral home. As Eilian struggles to reconcile his new roles as husband and earl, he finds the house and the surrounding town of Folkesbury are not as they first appear.

Behind a mask of good manners and gentle breeding lurks a darker side of Folkesbury. As the Sorrells struggle to fit in with the village’s genteel society, they find their new friends are at the mercy of Randall Nash, a man who collects secrets.

Soon, Eilian and Hadley become entangled in a web of murder, theft, and intrigue that they may never escape, with the manor at the heart of it all. Something long thought lost and buried within Brasshurst’s history has been found—something worth killing for.

Review

For my first post on the Steampunk Cavaliers I wanted to review an author whose work I know I enjoy. As with any genre, steampunk novels vary in quality and in style. Finding an author whose work you enjoy, whose story worlds you like to visit again and again, is something to be treasured and shared.

The first time I read one of Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices novels, The Winter Garden, my area was under a tornado warning. The TV was on in the background spouting alerts and I started reading on my iPad to keep my mind off the storm. The fact that it held my attention speaks volumes.

Jorgensen’s new novel, The Earl and the Artificer, is book three in her Ingenious Mechanical Devices series, but works just as well as a stand-alone novel. The novel continues the story of the two main characters, Eilian and Hadley, from Earl of Brass. The characters have married and moved on with their lives as the new Earl and Countess of Dorset, but their personalities remain on track. It is not too big of a spoiler to tell you that the first chapter opens with Hadley elbow-deep in steamer engine innards, covered in grease, trying to fix their burned-out vehicle:

Leaning into the front of the cab, she brought her face close to the boiler as the heat of the kettle stung her cheeks. The metal coils of the heating element had melted into a blackened cake that smelled of burnt hair. Using the sides of the hood for leverage, she pivoted back until her satin boots met the road’s white gravel. Staring down at her cream dress, already streaked with soot and grease, she sighed and wiped her hands across it before smoothing a lock of henna hair behind her ear.

Of course her new white dress becomes filthy and in this state she has to meet their new neighbors and their cousin, Randall Nash, who seems to judge her appearance rather harshly.

Both Eilian and Hadley are having a hard time adjusting to so many changes in their lives, and part of the novel revolves around the new dimensions in their relationship as husband and wife and, of course, setting up their household in a Gothic-style mansion reminiscent of the BBC’s Downton Abbey. Add to this a mixture of steampunk devices and somewhat magical-seeming elements that are not simply thrown-in for effect but are actually integral to the story.

There is a treasure at Brasshurst Hall hidden in the ruins, but to discover it Eilian and Hadley have to brave physical threats and overcome the emotional debris of his tragic family history.  Suspense builds as the story continues, as does the sense of impeding danger.  Without giving away too much, I will just say that the resolution will not be something most readers will expect, but it fits perfectly with the story world and the characters.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 12.42.15 AMI recommend The Earl and the Artificer for anyone who enjoys a Victorian-style steampunk novel filled with intriguing characters, mystery, suspense, and danger.