4/5 Stars, Fast-Paced, Alternate History with a Steam Punk Vibe
Disclaimer: I was given a free ARC (advanced readers copy) of this book pre-release in exchange for an honest review.
It seemed to me from the first chapter of this book that its target audience is MG/YA and I have reviewed it as such – although, to be honest, it has been a long time since I was either of those!
Without giving the story away I will paint you a picture (but with words obviously, I meant in your mind! ‘Shakes head ruefully’).
Our story is set a few years after the Great War, the war to end all wars, which was clearly mis-labelled since the 1st World War was neither of those things. It begins in New York with our 17-year-old protagonist Raymond Calvert an avid studier of all things electromagnetic in the hopes it will give him some clue into his father’s mysterious disappearance. You see, his father was a top-level scientist working on some sort of new technology and it is Raymond’s mission to find him. The blueprints and papers his father left behind are the only clues to follow.
Raymond soon finds himself caught up in a strange new world, a secret one of technology that exists right within the mundane everyday world of the masses. So begins a great adventure, where Raymond sees and experiences the wonders of electromagnetic technologies. Machines and automatons far in advance of anything the world is supposed to know but through it all, he never loses sight of his goal. Finding his father.
Although the story is set in an alternate history kind of way and with ‘electro-magnetism’ as its magic, it had a steampunk vibe to it. Great machines and dirigibles with outlandish weapons how could it not?
It all sounds very exciting and the story moves along at a breakneck speed that is dizzying at times. The action is frenetic and the technology is so advanced it feels like magic. Along the way, Raymond makes many new friends and enemies.
So, with my adult head on did I enjoy this story? Errmmm, not so much. I found it all rather too hyperactive and tumultuous for my taste, the technology wondrously outrageous and unbelievable. Things grated on me, the battle scenes played out as if everyone was miked up and they could all talk and hear each other, good guys and bad guys, even though massive automatons were clashing and bashing, or one character flying a plane and swooping down calling out and being heard clear as day by people on the ground.
There was a lot of contrivance in the story, some to create drama to add some kind of emotional depth that never really worked, others to affect miraculous rescues and heroic escapes that all felt a little artificial. Things happened that I found myself saying, no way! No way would that not be seen and known about. At one point a whole town is demolished and yet the world trundles on oblivious thanks to a ‘men in black’(esc) look into this light-type carry-on. That doesn’t work on infrastructure. I think for me that was one of my biggest bugbears.
However, this book was not written for me. I am not the demographic looked for, although that is not to say others of my ‘generation’ wouldn’t like a light-hearted escape. It is meant for a twelve-year-old me. At that age, I think I would have not asked so many questions just enjoyed the ride and on that front, whilst there is plenty of action and adventure, the book was not overtly graphic in its narrative. There is no swearing, no blood or gore. The viciousness and brutality of the fighting are peripheral at best.
I think if I am being brutally honest, adult me would probably not have finished this book if I was not doing an ARC review and I would rate it a 3/5, however, a 12-year-old me would have enjoyed it far more and rated it a 4/5.