The Mechanikals – a major review

The Mechanikals coverI was truly thrilled by this great review of my YA novel, The Mechanikals on Amazing Stories. I used to read the paperback version of Amazing Stories as a teenager, jumped at the chance to blog for the new version, which is a website. 

Now, don’t misunderstand, the bossman, Steve Davidson would be opposed to any form of sycophancy. The deal was the reader could read and decide not to read if whoever it was didn’t enjoy the first few pages.

The review duly appeared and I was, as some standup comedian once said, incandescent.

The Mechanikals on Kindle – some customer reviews

The Mechanikals coverMy YA steampunk superheroes novel, The Mechanikals, came out recently for Kindle. Some excellent customer reviews have come in so far, so thanks to those who’ve taken the time to give feedback. Incidentally, some readers picked up errors, but these have now been fixed.

4/5 stars from Ms. J.M. Pryke: “An excellent book, enjoyable, fast moving, very vivid situation. Well-developed characters who are caught up in a kind of parallel universe. The hero goes through a great turmoil of emotions linked to his experiences. I’d recommend anyone to read it. I only gave it 4 stars as it was an unusual genre for me to read but for science fiction readers …Go for it!”

5/5 stars from Andy Kitchener: “Very clever and enjoyable read, loved the approach, reminded me of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and reading H.G. Wells, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books I loved from the past. Great read thanks.”

5/5 stars from Capot: “This is basically a story of good vs evil and the discovery by a poor orphan boy of his special powers and those of his friends. There is a good twist in the plot towards the end of the book that most will not see coming. The plot and characters were well thought out and the ending would seem to lead to a follow on book. I’d recommend this book to readers of all ages.”

Free review copies are available on request – just use the comment box below.

Review: “Isis Unbound” by Allyson Bird

Isis Unbound coverWith a nod to Frankenstein, and Shelley’s poem, Prometheus Unbound, as well as references to pulp adventure stories, Isis Unbound by Allyson Bird is a hugely entertaining and staggeringly original first novel which combines steampunk with dark fantasy and horror. It’s easy to understand why it won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

Set in an alternate 19th century Britain, the tale unfolds in a Manceastre rules by a governor general related to a descendant of Anthony and Cleopatra. A new Cleopatra (a direct descendant of the original) makes an appearance, too – and the image of the queen on her royal barge in the city’s shipping canals is truly memorable.

But the tale really begins with Chief Embalmer Ptolemy Child’s two daughters, Ella and Loli, aged eighteen and ten, who are being instructed in the secrets of the mummification process when the dead begin to rise and roam the streets as zombies. The cause is infighting between the Egyptian Gods, who are busy trying to kill each other and Isis, the goddess who takes the dead to the other world, has been murdered by her sister, Nepythys.

The undead are not, however, your typical brain-eaters of current popular fiction. Instead they are creatures of pathos. We feel deeply sorry for these people, who are neither dead nor alive, yet long to be fully in one state or the other. The true villain of the novel  is the Governor, with his horrific political machinations, tortures and murders. The Gods themselves are not much better, though their motivations are somewhat different from the governor’s, and politics – albeit celestial politics – play a role in their shenanigans, too.

There are no heroes here, but complex and flawed human beings, such as Ella herself, an opium addict, and often rather selfish.

In the fantasy genre in general, I find many novels far longer than they need to be. With this one, it’s the opposite – if anything, Isis Unbound is on the short side. In other words, I wanted more! The reason I say this is that there is so much going on. Isis Unbound is fine example of world-building on a compressed scale. Indeed, had the author written one volume just from Ella’s point of view, another from the point of view of the Gods, and a third from the evil governor’s, it could have worked as a trilogy. Which touches on a small aspect of the novel that did not appeal so much – multiple character points of view in individual chapters, which can be confusing at times. I would rather have a single point of view, if not for the entire novel, at least chapter by chapter. Having said that, plenty of big name writers sometimes do the same thing, so it may just be my personal preference.

The other very minor carp was that I felt the prologue was unnecessary. Prologues are a trope of many fantasy novels, and often read like info-dumps. Personally, I would have rather seen these details folded into the story rather than loaded at the front, although I also question whether the prologue was necessary in the first place. It’s such a fantastic story as it is that being dropped straight into the action would have done the job perfectly well, sans prologue.

Isis Unbound is by turns creepy, startling, and riveting. The mix of steampunk and fantasy and horror is unique, as far as I am aware. A truly wonderful novel, full of adventure and emotional depth, as well as terrific writing. I can’t wait to read what Allyson has in store for us next.

On a side note: I could easily imagine Isis Unbound as an HBO series, given the success of Game of Thrones at the moment.

Allyson Bird’s website is:

The Mechanikals, Book 1 Out Now

Mechanikals books cover

The first volume in my YA trilogy, The Mechanikals, is out now. Hope you will consider buying a copy, and sharing this information with your friends and contacts.

Here’s the blurb:

The first book in a thrilling new YA trilogy, The Mechanikals, Book 1: The Apprentice, is filled with battles undersea, in the air and, more frighteningly, in the hearts and minds of a group of superheroes the like of which you’ve never seen before. It’s the eve of the first World War, in an alternative England where steam power rules land, sea and sky. But even as if the spectre of war looms the country has a more immediate battle to fight on its own shores. Vampire mermen, armies of the undead, burning policemen, invisible airships, undersea weapons and supernatural threats…and an orphaned factory apprentice, Edwin Bryce, thrown into a conflict on an unimaginable scale.

Only one force can stand against the terror and devastation facing their countrymen, a group of heroes called The Mechanikals. And when young Edwin acquires his special powers he is enlisted into their ranks, to face the terrifying enemy. A thrilling adventure and a coming-of-age tale, The Mechanikals, Book 1: The Apprentice is the first book in a steampunk superheroes trilogy. Each book is standalone, although some storylines continue to their thrilling conclusion in the final volume.

Mechanikals Not Rude – Official!

Change of plan…this will now be the cover for the first volume in my YA steampunk series, The Mechanikals. The other image (last post) will be volume 2: Apprentice’s War. Of course, meantime I will be seeking a publisher or representation for the books, so the final art may change. Unless I go down the self publishing route. In any case, I gather the images are going to be appearing in an embroidery magazine in the USA, thanks to Jane Watson, who did the great steampunk stiching! I’ll post a link once the mag is out. Oh, and if anyone’s wondering about the title, it’s from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s “rude mechanicals”. Though there is nothing “rude” in the modern sense of the word in my books, though of course The Bard meant “rough and ready” or “earthy”, which might be more apposite for my trilogy’s heroes. Here’s a verse from the play, referring to Titania, queen of the fairies:

While she was in her dull and sleeping hour,
A crew of patches, rude mechanicals,
That work for bread upon Athenian stalls,
Were met together to rehearse a play
Intended for great Theseus’ nuptial day.Book jacket for The Mechanikals

Steampunk Embroidery

Possibly the world’s first embroidered book jacket. My talented friend, Jane Watson created this amazing embroidered image for the first book jacket idea for my forthcoming YA steampunk book, The Mechanikals. I will show you all some more of her designs later. She takes commissions, by the way, and recently did some incredible steampunk wedding favour bags. Comments on the image appreciated. Wedding favor bags are not just for weddings. Jane has over 70,000 designs to suit all themes and schemes for your wedding, anniversary, party, engagement or baby shower. A unique design can easily be made for you. She undertakes commissions. All she need is your idea and a little information about the design you want to have and she can make some mock ups and go from there. Steampunk wedding, or something more conventional….Jane can handle it. You’ll find her Facebook page here.The Mechanikals book jacket

My first steampunk YA book finally completed

Well, technically speaking, I’ve written the first draft of my YA novel, The Mechanikals. It’s my second attempt at YA, and my first to reach a conclusion. Again “conclusion” is a technical term, since I plan at least three in the series. Meanwhile Detective Inspector Tom Kendrick has been knocking loudly at my door, asking to gain admission to his third novel. Incidentally, I am pleased to say that Robin Sachs will also be narrating the second Kendrick book, Kali’s Kiss, out in September from Blackstone Audio. As to what will happen with The Mechanikals, well, who knows? Anyhow,  I am so happy to have finished it, even though I thoroughly enjoyed writing it.