Top critical review
YA Steampunk - OK. May fall short for some
on May 25, 2016
I really hoped to love this book, and while there is some really interesting ground-work here, I just did not love it. The text lapses into passive voice quite often, especially for an adventure story. The author seems all together fond of the word "and" instead of using commas (Kindle locations 220, 414, 461, 521, and so on). The world-building, where it exists, was fairly good for a first-in-series, but could have been a bit better. Once the reader gets past the first few chapters, the story moves along at a fairly decent speed, despite the sometimes passive voice. Some of the bigger plot developments felt like coincidence and well-timed (and lucky) encounters with helpful outsiders, instead of cleverly plotted action by the kids.
There are a few plot points I found unclear. At location 100, Kit says he's 13. Location 270 reveals Zander is 14. However, the passage goes into say Zander is 18 months older. So does this "alterverse" Earth have a longer year than our own 12 months? Also, I didn't quite "get" the correlation between Alex's age and when the Muller Machines crashed and everyone realized machine-known world information was incorrect. Location 100 says Alex was 10, but location 392 references 8.
I did like main characters, "The Expeditioners" (and Sukey). M.K. does a bit of swearing, seemingly to make her seem "tough". I'm far from being conservative, but I can't help thinking there could have been far better ways to convey "toughness" in a middle-grade book than swearing. Especially since M.K. is a talented mechanic, the swearing seems a sad shadow for a strong, young female protagonist. More conservative parents probably won't approve, thus cutting down this series' potential audience. I liked hope each of the four kids has a special interest or talent that helps the group along. I also like the balance of the group, (two boys, two girls) once Sukey joins the group. Although, I hope the balance doesn't mean there is going to be an eventual (overdone) "love triangle" issue, pitching Kit and Zander against each other for Sukey's affection, in future installments. Sukey is my favorite character thus far, and I think the more positive female role model.
Overall, I enjoyed this book enough to move onto book two, but I bought both on the same day (at discounted "Daily Deal" price). It was a fun, if not entirely light read, and filled a few days' reading time. If I had paid full retail for the first, or neglected to get the second on sale, I'm not so sure I'd continue. Maybe I just "over-think" some things as a young-at-heart reader.