Monday, November 14, 2011

"Hearts of Smoke and Steam" by Andrew Mayer (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Andrew Mayer Website
Order Hearts of Smoke and Steam HERE
Read FBC Review of The Falling Machine

INTRODUCTION: A steampunk adventure series set in the 1880's New York City with superheroes and super-villains that use "fortified steam" for their powers, The Society of Steam brings the same exuberant feel that we came to expect from this subgenre. The first novel, "The Falling Machine", was a fun ride which kept me turning the pages until the end though it had two related problems - it ended on a cliffhanger which usually would not bother me overmuch, but it also felt a little short as pages go.

I still enjoyed it quite a lot and was happy to recommend it, while luckily the second series novel Hearts of Smoke and Steam is now available to continue the adventure of Sarah Stanton aka The Adventuress , Nathaniel Winthrop aka The Turbine Man and their heartless enemies Lord Eschaton and his minions, whose dastardly plans are finally made clearer!

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: As it starts several weeks after the ending of The Falling Machine, while recounting the events in-between, Hearts of Smoke and Steam builds heavily on the first installment. The book introduces some new characters but the focus remains on Sarah, Nathaniel and several previously encountered villains so it's highly useful to read The Falling Machine first, while for the same reason I am recommending to stay away from its spoilerish blurb.

Hearts of Smoke and Steam has the same page turning qualities and all around fun that never descends into farce and it is really hard to put it down once you get into the flow of the action and start caring for the characters. The transition between the main thread that follows Sarah and her new quieter - to start with of course - life in the city and the story lines that continue from The Falling Machine and involve the remaining Paragons versus Lord Eschaton and his minions, is very smooth. And as expected things start converging soon, though not until mysterious Anubis and young Italian immigrant inventor and Paragon wannabe, Emilio, make their own splashy entrances.

The novel has a lot of emotional moments, action galore and quite a lot of character growth, while the world building is still top notch. As a slight negative, Hearts of Smoke and Steam ends on another sort of cliffhanger, but this time the book feels considerably more solid than the first installment - maybe the fact that we are now in the midst of the action rather than having to introduce stuff helps, but I also thought the book was longer as pages went too.

Not least, lots of important things happen while quite a few older mysteries remain and newer ones are introduced, so there is lots of promise for the next installment and to top it all, the novel has an awesome cover that attracts attention from a distance.

Overall, Hearts of Smoke and Steam (A+, highly recommended) fulfills the promise of The Falling Machine and more, while with its combination of action and superb characters, the series started growing quite a lot on me and I really want the next book asap!

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