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Comment: Ex-Library Book - will contain Library Markings. Book has a small amount of wear visible on the binding, cover, pages. Selection as wide as the Mississippi.
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The Engine's Child Paperback – November 25, 2008

3.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this murky, unpleasant novel, set on a world almost entirely covered with water, Moth, a preternaturally gifted young woman, defies her priestly vows for love. She quickly finds herself pregnant by her clandestine lover and the pawn of political and religious machinations on all sides. Secret societies battle, one obsessed with returning to a possibly mythical perfect world and the other driven to build the titular engine, a piece of magical technology intended to harness the spirit of the planet and drive ships out to sea in search of new land. Pretentious fantasy vocabularies and didactic cardboard characters weigh down the narrative. Worst of all, bratty, unlikable Moth is not so much an unreliable narrator as a straightup liar, claiming ignorance of crucial facts only to later reveal that she knew all along. Readers struggling to know what to believe will quickly realize they have no reason to care. (Nov.)
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Review

"With its rich prose and vivid imagery, Engine's Child is a great fusion of literary fantasy and immersive adventure." — Hal Duncan

This richly complex tale from the author of The Burning Girl deftly encapsulates an entire culture's frictions and fractures in the loyalties of one young woman. Moth seeks to climb out of the Tidal slums where she'd been abandoned without betraying her Tidal friends, her secret mother, her lover, or her bond with the invisible powers of her world. Beneath the surface of a seemingly stable, if compressed, island civilization, connections and tensions link the Society of Doors, an outlaw organization looking to return to the heaven of the past; Lady Vashmarna's scientific idealists seeking to expand limited resources; a ruler clinging to the failing status quo, and the Tidal have-nots coping with an explosive brew of fear, faith, and rumor. Sharp-edged personalities and complicated personal relationship among the characters prevent Phillips's tale from degenerating into allegory. Her lush prose and dark fantasy cityscape will appeal to fans of China Mieville's Perdido Street Station and Sarah Monette's Melusine, but her manipulative, scarred, sexual, unapologetic antiheroine recalls Elizabeth Bear or Melissa Scott. For fantasy collections where those authors circulate. –Library Journal, Meredith Schwartz, New York

“ Open up the new novel by Holly Phillips, 'The Engine's Child', and your reading experience will sweep away any notion of genre or concept.Reading Phillips' novel provides layers of pleasure; the immediacy of her prose and the joy of unpacking her world, the involving skeins of plot and peril and unfolding understanding of her conceptual framework. 'The Engine's Child' suggests that we’ve stepped past the boundaries of genre and into literature that knows no boundaries. Phillips writes with a purity of conviction that replaces the reader's world with her creation. And she tells one hell of a good story in the process. It's not all shadings and subtlety. Blood is spilled as the best-laid plans crash up against the novel's carefully crafted reality.”
- The Agony Column


“Phillips writes dark fantasy mostly with the aura of heroic fantasy, aiming to awe far more than to frighten–and succeeding, awesomely.”
–Booklist (starred review), on Holly Phillips’s In the Palace of Repose
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey (November 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345499654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345499653
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,524,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
On the island of the rasnan, select groups begin to harness the forbidden power of the mundab, the endless inhospitable sea that surrounds the vulnerable island. Steampunk tends to be 80% aesthetic and 20% -punk, all the romanticization with little of the technology- and change-kindled anxieties. The Engine's Child isn't steampunk, but it's a fascinating counterpoint. It has similar themes, its own strong aesthetic--not Victorian, but seaside: ivory towers towering over endless waters, suffused with monsoon rains and flickering candles, a caste- and religion-bound society--but it makes anxiety its central focus. The mundab is simultaneously the outside world, the magical and technological powers that the society's ancestors fled, and the possibility of change. Phillips awakens it like a golem. She's the perfect author to meld theme and woldbuilding into a living, half-corporeal, monstrous machine.

But this is a prickly book. Both protagonists are unreliable and unkind, and Phillips has an intentionally stilted voice. She plays precise sensory description against conflicted and secretive emotions (set within a number of invented terms and honorifics), and the plot can get buried under that: it's not complex, just difficult to tease out, and as such somewhat underwhelming. This is an easy book to admire and a difficult book to love. As such I can't particularly recommend it, but I wish more writers would do what Phillips does here.
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Format: Paperback
In the seething slum of the tidal, where the poor fight for their bare sustenance from tide to tide, only the brightest and most talented find acceptance on higher ground. Moth has left the tidal's submerged streets and threat-filled days behind her to become a temple novice, but she retains her tidal skills. All her wit, deception and hunger for life are needed to survive the intrigues of the powerful and to protect her forbidden lover. As dissent rocks the tidal and the high cities, Moth's ability to call on this planet's unknown lifeforce may gain humans a better toehold on their harsh world of refuge.

Memorable characters, vividly realized settings, gorgeous prose and fine storytelling make The Engine's Child a compelling read. This book demands a reader's full attention but repays the effort with a rich immersive experience in another world's torments and delights.

It's a rare pleasure to encounter a writer of such vision, intelligence and style. Holly Phillips has carved out her own niche among dark fantasy writers, and I'm looking forward to her next book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The idea of the story has a lot of potential: humanity restricted to a small island in a sea with no known end, struggle between the religious and scientific castes. another struggle between the wealthy and the disenfranchised, another between the city and country dwellers, and another between the forces of "what is" versus those of "what might be". There are endless allegorical and storytelling themes to follow here. I think the problem is that she didn't restrict herself to exploring just a few; rather, she tried to mix them all into the storyline. And the heroine, who should have tied all these facets together, was impossible for me to relate to. I never really understood what she was all about, nor what her "powers" were, nor why things were developing the way they did. I kept thinking it would all come together, but it didn't. Despite the tone of my coments, Phillips isn't a bad writer. There were a lot of beautifully done sections in the book, and some very thought-provoking ideas. I just think that if she focuses her attention, with a "narrow but deep" approach versus a "wide and shallow" one, she can (will) create some VERY good books.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love both of Phillips' short story collections and had high expectations for this highly acclaimed novel. However, I found it slow and difficult to get into. Overall, I was dissapointed.
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