Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review: Corsets & Clockwork edited by Trisha Telep

Released on: April 26, 2011
Published by: Running Press Kids

This is not a full-blown review since this an anthology.  My remarks will instead center on my favorites of the selected stories.

Corsets & Clockwork, 13 Steampunk Romances edited by Trisha Telep

Dark, urban fantasies come to life in the newest collection of Steampunk stories, Corsets & Clockwork. Young heroes and heroines battle evils with the help of supernatural or super-technological powers, each individual story perfectly balancing historical and fantastical elements. Throw in epic romances that transcend time, and this trendy, engrossing anthology is sure to become another hit for the fast-growing Steampunk genre!

This collection features some of the hottest writers in the teen genre, including: Ann Aguirre, Jaclyn Dolamore, Tessa Gratton, Frewin Jones, Caitlin Kittredge, Adrienne Kress, Lesley Livingston, Dru Pagliassotti, Dia Reeves, Michael Scott, Maria V. Snyder, Tiffany Trent, and Kiersten White.

Here's the list of stories featured in this collection:

1. "Rude Mechanicals" by Lesley Livingston
2. "The Cannibal Fiend of Rotherhithe" by Frewin Jones
3. "Wild Magic" by Ann Aguirre
4. "Deadwood" by Michael Scott
5. "Code of Blood" by Dru Pagliassotti
6. "The Clockwork Corset" by Adrienne Kress
7. "The Airship Gemini" by Jaclyn Dolamore
8. "Under Amber Skies" by Maria V. Snyder
9. "King of the Greenlight City" by Tessa Graton
10. "The Emperor's Man" by Tiffany Trent
11. "Chickie Hill's Badass Ride" by Dia Reeves
12. "The Vast Machinery of Dreams" by Caitlin Kittredge
13. "Tick, Tick, Boom" by Kiersten White

Of all these stories, the ones I found most compelling were "Wild Magic" by Aguirre, "The Clockwork Corset" by Kress, and "Tick, Tick, Boom" by White.

Even though "Wild Magic" features a sheltered Victorian girl born with power and to an upper-class in a society where magic is stamped out all costs and romance between the girl and a dangerous, beautiful boy with Wild fey magic, it was a compelling story.  That is to say, despite its unoriginal elements, I still liked Pearl Magnus, the protagonist, and her determination/rebellion.  Aguirre didn't add in too many details, a problem which I found in some of the other stories, and the first few conversations between Pearl and Pick, the love interest, were witty and well-written.  The idea of breaking into old archives filled with magic was also a nice twist.  However, one thing I didn't particularly like or find believable was the idea that the two characters fell in love.  Maybe it's just that I live now and not in a strict Victorian world but the characters flirt, have a very long period without such flirtation, kiss a couple of times, and then are in love and willing to make certain sacrifices... Really?  Romance is nice, but love doesn't have to be forced.  Nonetheless, if you picked up this anthology, I think this is one of the stories you should read.

The next story I'd suggest you read is "The Clockwork Corset" by Kress.  First off, love the names--Imogen and Rafe.  I loved that they had a past--that they grew up together and Imogen, chalk-full of spirit, used to jump at Rafe (that is, before her father ordered her not to do that) and make him promise not to grow up.  The story progressed and moved past their childhoods to when Rafe was an inventor and called off to war right as Imogen realized how much she would actually miss him.  That was a much more realistic type of love than many of the other stories portrayed.  I also enjoyed the twist at the end--which I won't ruin for you--and loved the focus of the story (i.e. appropriateness of the title), especially since some of these stories (including "Wild Magic") seemed to featured more fantasy elements than steampunk.

However, if you only had time to read one story, I'd suggest you read Kiersten White's "Tick, Tick, Boom."  I liked her protagonist Kitty more than I liked Evie from Paranormalcy.  Various elements from this story caught my eye--first that Kitty was the semi-proper Victorian lady in social gatherings but in secret made her own gadgets after being mentored by a man her father had imprisoned in their house because of his brilliant but threatening business-wise ideas.  Second, who doesn't love a Victorian woman breaking the standards of her time?  Kitty dresses up like a boy for her business dealings and handles herself pretty well.  Third, in those dealings, you can see just how smart Kitty is from the devices she manages to create.  Fourth, the scheming against her father is rather charming, especially since her father doesn't sound like the best of men.  And lastly... of course is the romance.  Kisses are stolen at night, appropriate for Kitty as a character since she is full of spirit and needs something full of passion.  The story was fun and fast-paced (without any additional boring details I found elsewhere) and kept my attention the whole way through unlike some of the other stories that are compiled in this anthology.

I have all three of Trisha Telep's anthologies.  I still like Kiss Me Deadly the most of all three, but I think Corsets & Clockwork now beats out The Eternal Kiss for second place.  If I were you, though, I'd rent this anthology from the library rather than buy it... but that could also be because I naturally like novels more than short stories.

If you decide to read this anthology, make sure to check out those three stories!

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