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Corsets and Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances Paperback – Bargain Price, April 26, 2011
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Layla Schaeffer, Duxbury Free Library YALSA Teen Reader
"As soon as you open the book, you are swept into these places that are so different, yet have parallels in the real world…it seems that all of these places could replace their counterparts in the real world… There were only 13 stories. I need more! Rated: Hard to imagine a better book."
“…authors such as Caitlin Kittredge, Dia Reeves, Kiersten White, and Adrienne Kress write the steamier side of steampunk, where “technomagical and natural desires collide.” This naturally means lots of flirting and first kisses (with gorgeous automatons or gentlemen criminals, aboard airships, or after narrowly escaping mad inventors); it also entails deeper ethical concerns about technology, progress, and humanity’s impact on nature.”
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Either way, I was glad I decided to pick up C&C after my brief dip of interest because there definitely were some hidden gems. Some of the stories that I really enjoyed are:
"The Airship Gemini"
"Under Amber Skies"
But my top two favorites were definitely "The Clockwork Corset" and "Tick, Tick, Boom."
First of all, you know I'm sucker for strong FMC who have the tendency to get in trouble, which is exactly what Imogen offered in "The Clockwork Corset". In a way, this story reminded me of a steampunk retelling of "Mulan" if you replaced Mulan's father with a certain love interest of Imogen. Also, the fact that Imogen had common sense (oh my goodness you will not believe how little common sense some FMCs . . . or even MMCs . . . can have in steampunk/Victorian era stories) really upped my approval factor. And also, the bitter sweet ending was quite satisfying--just the right combination of tragedy, love, and a little mechanical engineering magic.
Perhaps the plot (or should I say "character"?) twist in "Tick, Tick, Boom" was its highlight. Just when I thought I had all the characters figured out BAM a secondary character I thought to be shallow (spoiler alert!) turns out to be another secondary character I thought was pretty awesome. (So yes, there was a Jekyll and Hyde thing going on.) Also, a protagonist who is a kick ass engineer and also happens to plotting against the demise of her father's business empire? Sign me up!
Granted, as there were the highs of C&C, there were also the lows. I know I could've skipped over the less than engaging stories, but then I wouldn't have the satisfaction of saying "I read this whole book!" (I know, I know. Shallow of me, but it's the little things in life, no?) I can definitely think of one story that just seemed to drag on forever. BUT, in the end, I'm glad that I read C&C. It's hard to infuse the same amount of depth in a short story compared to a novel, and so I thought the authors did an excellent job overall with creating relatable characters. (Though it would've been fun to read some stories from a MMC's POV, as each story had a FMC!)
Cheers and happy readings!
The problem is that every two years or so I forget this and go and pick up a new anthology of short stories, like this one, Corsets and Clockwork. Oh, well...
All of the stories are steampunk, and have some elements of romance as well, which causes a massive outbreak of instalove! throughout the collection. Many take place in some sort of England, although others feature the Wild West, pre-WWII Germany, and fantasy environments. At least 10 of the stories mentioned corsets. Many of them had clockwork as well. In fact, there was even one story called "The Clockwork Corset."
If you've survived being whapped in the face with all the blatant steampunk-ness, we'll move on to the stories themselves. I tried to read all of them, I really did. However, old instincts and library due dates took over, so a few I either put down or skimmed. As for the ones I did read...
Code of Blood by Dru Pagliassotti - I read this author's Clockwork Heart earlier this year and really enjoyed it, and her short story here does not disappoint. In an alternate 19th century Venice, a nobleman's granddaughter has to save the city from French invaders. Pagliassotti's worldbuilding is well-done in a short span of time, with elementals, steamboats and a blood sacrifice.
The Airship Gemini by Jaclyn Dolamore - I can't remember having read a story with a Siamese twin as a protagonist before. Airships are always good, too (see the Airborn Trilogy by Kenneth Oppel - one of my all-time favorites). I really like Dolamore's novel Magic Under Glass and this story is intriguing. However, I feel it really could have been a full novel instead of a story especially since the ending is a bit of a deux ex machina.
Under Amber Skies by Maria V. Snyder - I swear that it's a coincidence that my three favorite stories were by authors that I had already read things by! I honestly wouldn't have recognized this story as being by Snyder, but come to think of it, Poison Study was very dark and so was this story. Set on the cusp of World War II, Nazis are looking for Zosia's father, an Polish inventor who disappeared months ago. Quite good, with a killer twist!
The one to avoid:
Cannibal Fiend of Rotherhithe by Frewin Jones - I knew Jones for the uber-frothy Faerie Path series (I mean, look at the covers!). I think he was trying to break away from that formula, because his story here is nothing like the faerie books. There is implied rape. There is main character who is a cannibalistic half-mermaid. There is general weirdness. Skip this one.
The rest of the stories were pretty mediocre. Some were entertaining (Tick Tick Boom by Kiersten White) and some were just confusing as all get-out (The Vast Machinery of Dreams by Caitlin Kittredge). The three favorites listed above were worth the read, but I would not recommend going out of your way to read this anthology.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Cover & Title: As mentioned before, the title is...fitting. The cover is pretty, though they could have done something more imaginative than Generic Female Face Close-Up.
Where I got the book: Local library
Read more reviews by clicking on my username and visiting my blog, Back to the Bookshelf.
Most recent customer reviews
For me it has to be more than merely an occasional blast of steam, some clockwork contraptions, dirigibles, and women in corsets.The Iron ThornRead more