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The Earl of Brass (The Ingenious Mechanical Devices Book 1) Kindle Edition
|Length: 300 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
I found the main setting--an alternative-history steam-powered Victorian England--a little underdeveloped. Some key fictional creations, like the "steamers" characters ride from time to time, are never really described, which left me having to imagine my own steampunk world with a few cues instead of effortlessly entering the author's world. I also found the main characters' actions, language, and attitudes so modern as to be jarring until I decided to take the disjoint as part of the "alternative" in this alternative history. That said, the worldbuilding in the aforementioned intriguing departure--no spoilers--is rich and imaginative, with lush and enticing descriptions of both the society and the setting.
The underlying themes of equality, tolerance, and self-determination are successfully integrated into the action of the story; many of the key decisions, turning points, and conflicts naturally arise from the story's themes. Unfortunately, the characters also have a tendency to state their positions in extended internal or external monologues. Most of the main antagonists are caricatures of bluff imperialistic bigots, against the protagonists' almost implausibly liberated idealism. The overall effect is heavy-handed, with the story sometimes struggling to hold its own against the statement of the author's message. That and a pattern of conflicts being defused where they could have been escalated kept this book from a 4-star rating in my estimation.
That said, the story has good bones. At its core, what kept me reading was the gradually deepening relationship between the two main characters. Given the thematic urges of the story, mutual respect is a given, but there is also an incredibly refreshing kindness at the heart of their relationship. The growing tenderness, understanding, and easy head-on-shoulder intimacy has a remarkable sweetness--and an impressively gradual but steady development--that goes a long way toward covering the weak points.
I also enjoyed the parts of the world that were more fully developed. Jorgensen shows the early signs of a brilliantly original worldbuilder. The mechanized prosthesis and especially the setting and tools and social structures in the intriguing departure show the scope and depth of the author's skills. For all their novelty, her creations are internally consistent and beautifully presented. It's clear the underdeveloped parts of the world were not due to a lack of skill.
Overall this book gave me the impression of an early effort by a promising author. While this book has some rough spots, Jorgensen is an author who is ready to grapple with big ideas and clearly capable of rich writing and sensitive characterization. I've already bought the next book in the series, and I expect that within a few novels Kara Jorgensen will be making a formidable contribution.
I thought this was a good first novel, not flawless, but good just the same. Unlike some first novels I've read the characters aren't one dimensional. The main characters are very likable, but not perfect. They feel real. Even a lot of the smaller characters get more than one side, and the novel is all the better for it.
The world building works well for me. The author blends the steampunk elements quite naturally with the historical, creating a world that is believable. Even the fantasy element mixes well in with the rest. All of this comes together in a interesting mood which is consistent all the way through.
It is not very fast moving, so for those that are looking for cliffhanger suspense it may not work, but I felt the story was compelling enough to pull me all the way through. It is more romance, than adventure and suspense, but essentially it is just a good story.
In the beginning I noticed that there was a bit of excess words, words that could have been deleted without any damage to the narrative. This would have made the story tighter and stronger. As I read further into the story I more or less stopped noticing this. I only came across two such instances in the latter part of the story. Maybe it was the same all the way through and I just got so into the story that I stopped seeing it or it was mostly in the beginning. Either way it wasn't a big problem, and didn't stop me from enjoying this novel.
What it comes down to is that I liked it a lot, and the sequel is going on my to be read list.
You see, Eilian isn't interested in politics, hunting, smoking, or any of the things that come with his impending title. He uses his wealth and privilege to travel the Empire, and while returning home from a foray to the far East is the victim of a dirigible crash that costs him his right arm. The medical arts of the period, 1890, barely save him, and his wealth allows him to purchase a prosthetic arm that doesn't do much besides fill his sleeve. It is made by the firm of Fenice Brothers, actually by Hadley's brother George, and delivered by her to the estate. Angry at Eilian for something he had nothing to do with, she expresses her displeasure in no uncertain terms, and they don't hit it off well. She later makes a much more articulated and controllable arm, and they become friends, going on a grand adventure at an archeological dig in the Palestine region, and running afoul of any number of unsavory characters and some other spectacular situations and discoveries that I have no intention of spoiling here.
One thing that is immediately apparent is that this book is very much written by a woman, and that is by no means a criticism. Yes, there is a will-they-or-won't-they romance running like a golden thread throughout the narrative, but the very worst thing you can say about that it that it detracts nothing from a huge, sprawling intercontinental tale. The intrigue, exotic cultures, lost civilizations, and larger-than-life villains are worthy of H. Rider Haggard, and unless you're even more jaded than I am, it will add an extra plot line to the tale that will put you through a wringer of emotions.
Like any author, Ms. Jorgensen's world view leaks onto the page, and she isn't subtle about allowing it its space. She has some comments to make about the situation of women and minorities at the end of the 19th century that speak to us today. When her heroine laments that she can only hope that these oppressive and myopic practices will have been abolished by a hundred years in the future, you can't help but feel her pain that so little has actually changed.
So now I need to give a quantitative rating on a one-to-five scale, which is asking a lot of one guy with an opinion, but it's the current standard, so I'll take a run at it.
Four solid stars. Why not perfect? Well, perfection is rarely attained. This is not a plot that I'm seeing for the first time that is blowing me out of my socks. It is a well-crafted adventure with an engaging romance between social inequals that I promise any reader of adventures or romance will deliver the goods and leave you asking for more. There are a couple of minor issues with tense and I recall one extra word left in, I assume, from a rewrite, and these are, sadly, less than perfect, but they in no way detract from an excellently crafted story that tugs at your heartstrings while taking you for a ride you won't soon forget. So pick up a copy and introduce yourself to Kara Jorgensen. She'll broaden your reading horizons in the most enjoyable ways imaginable.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Um, everything? I can start with the characters. Jorgensen does a great job by establishing each character as a fully-fleshed out character that, to me,...Read more
I will start by saying that this was my first venture into the steampunk genre, so I really...Read more
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