Steampunk Canada

Tie up Your Dirigible and Visit for a Spell


Book Review Extravaganza !!

Posted by Lee A. Farruga on December 11, 2011 at 10:20 AM

I had the pleasure of reading not one, not two, but three books by author Rob St. Martin for this review extravaganza. The three are Princess Smith and the Clockwork Knight, Sunset Val and Sunet Val Flies Again.

Princess Smith and the Clockwork Knight begins in a fairly standard fairytale manner, young girl living with her father in a small village where he is friendly but distant from the people living there. They moved to the outskirts of town when she was very small and he became the village blacksmith. Her mother is dead, she doesn't remember her, and she has no recollection of life before the village. So far sounds like the beginning of your average princess in hiding story, but that's where the similarities end.

Our heroine, Britt, wears her father's old clothes, has a bowl cut (bad hairdoo) and is learning the ropes to be a blacksmith. Not only is she not your average young lass, as she gets older and becomes a young woman, her skill at clockwork repair becomes extraordinary. Around the same time she finds a giant steam driven suit of armour hidden away in their smithy. Of course, her story is bound to get more complicated, and it does. Mysteries begin to unravel and come to a head when she is spotted by a gentleman visiting the village.

This is where the story really takes off and gets interesting. While Britt is not only the heroine of this story, she is the hero, the mechanic and the warrior. She's fantastic!

The evening before writing this review, my 14 year old daughter asked to take the book with her babysitting. After she returned home and went to bed, I took it out of her bag to have in the morning to write this review. I found that in a 2 hour span she had read all but the last two chapters of the book! I do believe she likes it.

Next up is Sunset Val. Story of a teenage life gone horribly wrong. Actually that sounds like a normal day at school for most hormonally crazed teenagers, but Val's story is far better. Valerie Victoria Ventura's life starts out like that of your very average teenager. Teachers don't understand her, school is blah, home is crazy, her best friend is far more outstanding then she'll ever be, and she even has to share her room with her annoying little sister. Her only love is fencing lessons.

It's while waiting for her older brother, who is late to pick her up from her lesson, that her life is changed forever. Let's just say it comes as quite a surprise to her, waking up in the lab of a mad scientist, and while she initially freaks out (wouldn't you), she quickly sucks it up and starts to take it in stride. Unfortunately that's when the airship pirates attack.

Val's life after that is truly hellish and I really appreciate the author not dumbing it down or sugar coating her experience. It makes it much more enjoyable as she learns to cope, learns to survive, learns to adapt and finally learns how to overthrow airship pirates to become one herself. It's fantastic!

I have not even begun to describe the world he was created. Val goes from our Earth to the alternate world of Aryth. Everything is just slightly different. He has created a world almost like ours, but turned on its head. Science is the only religion and women are still seen as chattel. There are advanced automatons but no indoor plumbing....what kind of crazy is that?

And talking about crazy, the cast of characters that have come out of Rob St. Martin's mind is unbelievable, and yet he makes it work. He has used his alternate steampunk world to include vampyri with mad swordfighting skills, a patchwork girl who is good fixing up the injured after all her practice sewing herself up, an animan (read animal/human mix) who studied engineering and is amazing with any mechanical device, an automaidon (read automaton maid), and even a human girl who has been“improved” and is out for revenge. They become her crew, and the bloody aftermath once they get organized is not for the weak of heart, but what a ride! …..and did I mention they're all women.

Which leads me to the final book, Sunset Val Rides Again. Our young hero is back with most of her crew from the first book. She and her crew are now full fledged pirates and she is the youngest captain in Aryth's history. Her crew is expanded in this tale to include a new doctor won in a poker game, a smart talking aeriologist pixie covered in tattoos and who's aviator cap is made of  “genuine rat leather”, a great hulking viking named Inga who runs the gun deck and others she hires to run a tight ship.

The stakes are much higher in this tale and the adventures more wild. The number of enemies out to kill Val just keeps growing and her fight is worth every attempt on her life.  I found this book to be much more fun than the first, as many of the more nasty issues of this world had been addressed in the earlier story. By the end I was wanting more and I was a little sad to say farewell to Val and her crew. Needless to say, I cannot wait for the next of Val's adventures.

Rob St. Martin has a common theme in all three books - strong young women. Another element I found in all three was that his fantasy is laced with lots of realism. I found I could understand what they were going through and what was happening in their world, although very unlike ours, and I could get invested in the story and the characters.

Rob's St. Martin's stories and young women are very reminiscent of the stories and strong young women created by Hayao Miyazaki. Let's just say we own all of Miyazaki's movies and I expect we'll own all of this author's books too.

To purchase these great books go to Weird & Wondrous Books !


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