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The Mechanical Theater: A Chroniker City Novella Kindle Edition
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So don't go in expecting all the over the top elements that steampunk often denotes. What we're looking at here is a small and sweet tale about a young man struggling to look after his family and to follow a dream he has.
I'll call the setting Victorianish just to give you a rough idea of how life is for the poorer people in this world. Things are perpetually teetering on the edge of disaster. Work is hard, manual labor. Lots of it.
And yet Solomon Wade maintains a remarkably positive attitude towards life even as he takes on more work and more responsibility to help out his family. His part time position as a the theater's custodian gives him hope for the future. Until he has to give that up too.
His friendship with Miss Appleton is the sweet element of the tale. A very gentle and courteous romance. And if she is technically the damsel in distress of the tale she is not a doormat or one dimensional.
There's no big crisis here, not large scale drama. It's a character based piece that plays it's emotional beats very well making you care about how it is all going to work out.
I found it a welcome change of pace from some of the other stuff I've been reading recently and at novella length it knows not to outstay it's welcome. The story is told without dragging it into the realms of false melodrama.
I can't label it a must read because it's a novella set in a larger work. But it's certainly a rewarding read.
That last sentence doesn't make it sound very engaging, but trust me, this is a very well written and enjoyable book.
Le Theatre Mechanique does not continue the story that was left unresolved at the end of The Clockwork Giant, but instead follows Petra's adopted brother Solomon Wade in his pursuit of a career in acting. The situation is complicated by a sick child in the household which cannot afford the medicine and treatment she needs to have a good chance of survival, plus the situation of a young actress at the theater, who is being dominated and exploited by an actor who is also the son of the theater's owner. The characters are all well developed. Solomon's theatrical ambitions and his deep uncertainty and insecurity about them are sides of him that didn't emerge in the earlier book. The reflections on the harsh cruelty and elitism of Victorian society are well played also: subtle and biting both.
It's a good enough story, but lacks the tension-building that makes for a truly great story. Still, it held my attention all the way through, and I cared very much about what happened to Solomon, the little girl, and the actress.
The main reason I found Le Theatre Mechanique a bit disappointing is that the copy-editing seemed unfinished. A good example is the description of the young actress' smile. Her smile "showed the gap between her teeth" every time she smiled. This was a good phrase to use once, or maybe twice. But it should have been edited out of all of her subsequent smiles, or at least most of them. I knew by that time that she had a gap between her teeth. I didn't need a reminder, and that was quite distracting. There were a few comparable errors of style and wording scattered through the book, all of them fixable with a round of editing. This is entirely correctable, and hopefully it will be rectified in future editions.
I can still recommend the book, although not as highly as I can the first in the series.