Reviewed by Toni…
I love it when I ask for something and I get it.
I asked for a great, unique steampunk and what shines upon my possession? Gilded Hearts by Christine D’Abo. I devoured this book awhile ago. Instead of writing about it, I’ve been letting reality dictate my life until I could write about it with a more centered focus instead of spewing random words.
See it involves googles….and Victorian England…
Zombies are usually involved…
…Steam! Right…and corsets…
I have no great definitive way of explaining Steampunk. This alternate universe of steam-powered Victorian England has spawned a massive creative outlet such that there is no one definition. There are core elements (goggles, England, steam) but these are not required. My map and ideas of steampunk are constantly being changed and stretched. The lack of focus for this genre is what I love about. Throw artists scraps of an idea and wonderful (and awful) things can be borne from it.
Steampunk has unfortunately also become a “hot keyword” in the industry. Whether it’s literature, fashion, entertainment, the word “steampunk” is injected as a sales pitch more than being true to what it actually is.
Steampunk is a rebellion of many sorts. Just because there’s a female character wearing a corset but the story continues pretty much in a YA manner does not make it steampunk.
No matter what it contains, the power of steampunk lies in the world building. If the world is bland, not believable, faulty or absent, then it fails completely as a steampunk novel. The genre demands the author create the steampunk world. Too often, the easiest way is to mimic an other artists version of steampunk.
Interestingly, this is what I found similar to regency romance books (ahh my guilty pleasures). After reading book after book in the same genre, the neighborhood tends to bleed into one. Authors borrow elements from other authors and so on. Both regency romance and steampunk are set in an alternate history. The main difference is that regency romance’s strength is founded upon having the same type of neighborhoods. The romances that spring in these stories are seen as different when they go against the norm. In steampunk, it’s the reverse.It’s Victorian people going about their daily routines in an unconventional (to readers) neighborhood. The romances in steampunk have to really stand out.
You can probably already guess at this point why I loved Gilded Hearts. This world was spectacular. I could smell the brass and steam emanating from the machines. D’Abo gave a great depiction of a gritty London filled with contraptions.
Yet that’s not what made my eyebrows fly up.
The Archivists are the “villains” of the story (although I’m suspecting that they’re a more complicated lot than that). I was more fascinated with this group than the romance between our main characters. The Archivists train a very long time honing their mental skills. These skills are used to absorb the memories from a dead body into a crystal. How wickedly awesome is that?
With each “extraction”, they lose a portion of their eye color until the pupil is left. Dubbing the nickname “zombies” (gaaah, I see what you did there). All the memories extracted are stored in a massive chamber. They have the memory of every dead person including politicians and important figures. The Archivists have a lot of sway in the political scheme of things.
Oh right, romance. It’s between Sam and Piper. Both grew up in the Archivist institution. Sam ran away. They both reunite many years later. Love is rekindled. Their romance is boring to me. Even though the relationship between the main characters was bland, it gave me the chance to fully absorb the characters and world around them. It’s just so spectacular! (I already said that…but it’s true!). The contraptions are amazing. The side characters are intriguing. The main Archivist who trained Piper reminded me of Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Here’s the fun conflict I had with the story: the sex is fantastic. It’s carnal, it’s dirty, it can make you pant. Sam and Piper have a couple of surprisingly great sex scenes, making up for their otherwise non-interesting relationship.Except something bad always happens afterward. The prostitute is killed. The killer comes in. The memory of it is wiped.
From one of the memories extracted from a prostitute, they realize that there is a killer on the loose. A killer named Jack. The story progresses as they solve the mystery of the killer. Although the more deeper they investigate, the more dangerous their lives becomes.
I really want to rant about what happens to Jack. But I refuse to spoil it. All I can say is: What a cop-out. Or I hope it was a fake cop-out and there’s more to behold in the second installment of the series.
As a final note, every time Piper extracted memories I kept hearing “Where is my mind?” sung by Yoav and Emily Browning of the Sucker Punch soundtrack. (I LOVE Sucker Punch. Unabashedly. Which highlights levels of world building on a caffeine binge. My favorite mind candy.)
Primary Book Format: e-format and paperback
Publisher/Imprint: Forever Yours
Blush Quotient: Red with tinges of nerves
Smart Girls Rating: 4 stars
Order it here: Amazon
Find out more info about the author and series here.
(Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher to enjoy and review.)