Monday, 9 February 2015

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter - Rod Duncan

I have been a pretty huge fan of Steampunk for a few years now, although I cannot remember how I originally found out about it. I guess maybe I can’t say pretty huge... since I have never actually gone to a convention or dressed up or anything, but I enjoy it quite a bit and get a little bit giddy whenever I see a new movie, or now, a book series. I didn’t even think that Steampunk Literature existed until my book club buddy mentioned it (which is really dumb… of course there are books about steampunk… there are books about everything!) Anyway, poor Nicole; as soon as she mentioned it, I took off with it, stole all of her thunder and have been happily collecting Steampunk books ever since. A call for recommendations here, if anyone knows any great Steampunk books, let me know. I cannot get enough.

I guess I should put a bit of an explanation here, for people who may not know what Steampunk is. Basically (and this is really basic, so no one be offended) its 19th century Victorian era re-imagined with steam powered technology. It could also be the American Wild West, set in the future, post-apocalyptic, etc… There are a lot of incarnations. Think people dressed in Victorian garb, with aviator goggles and guns and funky steam powered gadgets and flying airships and homunculus’ and time machines and you get the picture. (For a more coherent, defined description, click here)

As I was saying, I am pretty into the Steampunk books now. My first attempt was the first book in the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann, The Affinity Bridge; and I loved it; and then devoured the entire series and all the add-ons. Ever since then I have been looking for anything I can get my hands on; KW Jeter, Tim Powers, China Mieville, which has led me so many different genres and variations – urban fantasy, cyberpunk, new weird, magical realism, Gaslamp fantasy. This is one of the things that I love most about genre fiction – there are so many different genres out there, they all overlap in different ways and different places,  and it’s so easy to find more, more, more! One of the other things that has fascinated me is how much of our literary history has been a pre-cursor for steampunk (and the other similar genres). Anything by HG Wells, Jules Verne, Author Conon-Doyle, they’re all forefathers of steampunk. It’s also HUGELY prevalent in our modern culture and you probably haven’t even noticed – the modern Sherlock movies, the Hellboy movies, World of Warcraft, The Disney movies Treasure Island and Atlantis, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Rush has a steampunk album, The Wild Wild West (yes, the Will Smith movie), Warehouse 13, a couple of the Final Fantasy games, Doctor Who. Steampunk is there, everywhere you look!

I guess at some point I should probably get to the reason for this particular burst of Steampunk love – The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan. I came across this book on Good Reads when I had done a general search of steampunk books. I was actually really happy to find it; since most of the books I found were young adult or new adult (which are not really my thing). This is what I read “Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life—as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus. But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…” Does that not sound like a great read? It has everything I love in a good story; cross dressing, private eyes, arcane machines, alchemy, circus’… and the Patent Office as the big bad guy? Brilliant! So I picked it up, and let me tell you, I am certainly glad that I did. The synopsis is very accurate (side note: who writes synopses? Does the author do it, or are there professional synopsis writers out there? I am terrible at it, so I would love to know). Elizabeth is indeed living as herself and her twin brother, and not just to do his PI work either; she’s been acting as both of them since she was a child.

Elizabeth / Edwin has been hired by a wealthy aristocrat to track down her brother (the aristocrats brother) which has turned out to be a little more complicated and dangerous than expected. Elizabeth is being pursued by the evil agents of the patent office and after getting a lead, ends up joining a travelling circus of arcane wonders.

So far I am really enjoying this story. Duncan has really captured the Gaslamp lit, steam machine, foggy London atmosphere. The story is set in an alternative London where England and Whales have separated from the rest of the UK and Duncan is doing a great job of explaining it as the story goes along, rather than just providing an info dump at the beginning. It means that I was a little confused at the beginning, but I am figuring things out as I go along and I definitely prefer that to the usual info dump. There are a couple of plot holes, but only one that is bothering me at all – Elizabeth joins the circus (which was done in a weird way that I didn’t totally love) but then is barred from going to see the circus acts. She tricks her way in, and it seems like a big deal… but I can’t help thinking that all she needed to do was go see the circus before she joined… This is one of the problems with the midpoint review; maybe there is a reason for it happening this way and I just haven’t gotten to that part yet. But it’s all good, I am still super enjoying this book, I can’t wait to finish it and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

One of my absolute favourite teas is David's Glitter & Gold. It is a vanilla and cinnamon black tea with little gold shimmer balls and sugar crystals. The gold sugar balls dissolve and shimmer as you drink - oddly making this tea incredibly appropriate for the Bullet Catchers Daughter, since alchemy is all about creating gold, isn't it?

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