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Breath of Earth (Blood of Earth) Paperback – August 23, 2016
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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“Where Breath of Earth really shines is in its detail and relevance. Cato’s exhaustive research of the time and place gives the book texture and grit…[and] she embroiders it richly with gorgeous period setpieces, imaginative speculation and the charismatic Ingrid herself.” (NPR)
“The acclaimed Cato creates an alternate early 20th-century San Francisco of stunning detail. Drawing on the power struggles of the refugees and women’s work, this vivid reality will keep readers intrigued to the very end.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“Cato, author of the Clockwork Dagger books, begins a new steampunk fantasy series with supernatural creatures, action-packed adventure, mystery, humor, a touch of romance, and more to come.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Breath of Earthis that rare gem, a thought-provoking, imaginative adventure of the highest order, chock full of wonder as well as heart-wrenching what ifs. It’s reminiscent of Jules Verne at his best, with brilliant characters who linger in the mind and heart. Bravo!” (Julie E. Czerneda, author of The Clan Chronicles on BREATH OF EARTH)
“Beth Cato gives steampunk a magical, global twist in an action-packed adventure that keeps the pages turning in anticipation. And if you don’t fall in love with Ingrid Carmichael after reading this, you have no soul.” (Michael J. Martinez, author of MJ-12: Inception and The Daedalus Incident on BREATH OF EARTH)
“Cato cleverly brings her colorful Barbary Coast-era San Francisco to life, highlighting the neglected perspectives of the outsiders and the dispossessed who made up the majority of its populace.” (Publishers Weekly)
From the Back Cover
In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her own talent—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.
When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by Ingrid’s incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, San Francisco is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose the earth’s energy to masterminds determined to control it for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese forces fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her already considerable magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.
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This is a world where Japan came in on the side of the Union in the U.S. Civil War, and its geomancy-powered airships quickly put down the Confederacy. The South's slaves were freed (albeit with the same mixed results for Blacks as in our world). The United States then joined with Imperial Japan in a United Pacific-- a single nation, but with most of the power resting with the Japanese. China was invaded, and rapidly decimated, although not without high losses of American troops. Because of that, Chinese immigrants in the U.S. were victims of discrimination and racial violence.
And into this world Ms. Cato places her protagonist, Ingrid Carmichael. In her early 20s, Ingrid's life is far from perfect-- she a woman in a male-dominated culture, she of mixed race (even she doesn't know her parentage) in a culture that discriminates against anyone not Japanese or Anglo, and perhaps hardest, she is herself not only a geomancer but a particularly strong one, in a world that believes women can have no magic.
One of the most important roles of geomancers is their ability to still earthquakes, by taking the earth's power into themselves and transferring it to special stones-- the stones can then be used as power sources for everything from airships and automobiles to factories. Those who can do that are called Earth Wardens, and groups of these Wardens are sited near places of great seismic activity, both to siphon off power into the stones but also to protect the local inhabitants from damage and injury.
All of the geomancers of San Francisco worked out of the same official building. Thus it is particularly bad when that building is destroyed in a terrible explosion. Of all the occupants of the building, geomancers, students, and servants, only two survive-- Ingrid and the geomancer who took her and her mother in when her father died, Mr. Sakaguchi. To make matters worse, the two are rescued by a United Pacific Army captain who appears eager to arrest them.
Ingrid, along with a charming airship pilot and inventor named Cy, and Mr. Sakaguchi's Chinese house boy, Lee, find themselves on the run, and not merely from the Army-- there are myriad forces at work, and both interlocking and contradictory conspiracies abound.
Breath of the Earth is as enjoyable a read I've had since, well, since the last Cato novels I read, a couple of years ago. My sole complaint is that the second book isn't as yet on the streets (or whatever we say for ebooks); it will come out in August.
I didn’t really know what to expect form this book and author but she came highly recommended. I was not disappointed. This book grabbed me from the very first page. Actually before the first page, having a fondness for San Francisco (there is a map of pre 1906 earthquake San Francisco) and then add the history element, I was already liking it. Cato then takes off on what I would call an alternate historical fiction with a bit of Steampunk Fantasy.
It is the story of a strong Native American woman with “magical” powers that rival, or rather, are superior to the men surrounding her in an alternate San Francisco where magic is the norm, Japan is a leading global power, and the world is powered by the earth’s energy channeled into special crystals.
We get to see Ingrid grow in the realization of just how powerful she is as she makes new friends and enemies as a result.
The writing is engaging for its’ historical context (Cato did a ton of research for this book) and the way she weaves a brand new history in an alternate universe.
It spoke to all of my nerdy and geeky temperament.
I could not put this book down.