Book review: The Dream of the Butterfly: Part 1 – Rabbits on the Moon, by Richard Marazano, illustrated by Luo Yin

Marazano, Richard. The Dream of the Butterfly: Part 1 – Rabbits on the Moon. Illus. by Luo Yin. Lion Forge, 2017. $12.99. $12.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-941302-39-2. Ages 9-12. P8Q8

The adventure beings when Tutu is blown from her home by a great blizzard to a village of talking animals where being a girl is a crime. In the land of never-ending winter, the Emperor plans to hold her hostage until she finds the butterfly that he wants. Part of the graphic novel is serious, for example, Tutu’s horrible living conditions and the factory where she is forced to work. Yet humor imbues the story as huge rabbits sent to secretly follow her are completely obvious, and the emperor only appears in public as robots that keep self-destructing.

Verdict: Tutu has an entitled nature, easily offended because those around her refuse to follow her standards, yet the detailed steampunk setting in an Asian setting gives an interesting world filled with suspense and adventure. Young readers will identify with Tutu’s alienation and hope for the sequel.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

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Book review: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic, by Armand Baltazar

Baltazar, Armand. Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic. (Timeless series, book 1). Katherine Tegen, 2017. $19.99. 607p. ISBN 978-0-06-240236-3. Ages 10-14. P8Q6

Over 150 lavish full-page glossy illustrations enhance the narration for the first in the Timeless series, a steampunk adventure that begins in New Chicago after the Time Collision remade space and time when brilliant engineer and inventor Santiago Ribera is captured by the Aeturnum who plan to reverse the Time Collision. His 13-year-old son, along with three friends, is left to rescue Santiago and his associates. The plot-driven narrative covers the four young people as they join the pirates to achieve their ends.

Verdict: The oil paintings by the author and his friends are gorgeous, but the narration is sometimes awkward. In addition, Ajax, one of Diego’s friends, is stereotyped as the extremely strong and humble black man.

January/February 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear

Bear, Elizabeth. Karen Memory. Tor, 2015. 350 p. $25.99 ISBN 9780765375247 Ages 15-up. P7Q7

Bear Karen MemorySixteen year old Karen Memery lost her beloved father, her home, and her horse. Now, a “seamstress”, she works in Madame Damnable’s high class bordello, one of many whorehouses in the frontier town of Rapid City—which closely resembles Seattle’s Underground when it was still above ground. Nefarious deeds come to light when a young woman brings her badly wounded rescuer—a Chinese woman—to the bordello for sanctuary and doctoring. Hot on their heels is Madame Damnable’s rival who demands the return of the young woman whose contract he holds.

Unlike most speculative fiction—science fiction and fantasy both—Karen Memory speaks directly about women’s lack of economic opportunity in 19th century American frontier settlements. Unlike most steampunk tomes, inventions that make housekeeping, cooking, and sewing easier are featured. That these same inventions can be used in pursuit of the bad guys makes me deeply happy. Told in first person dialect, Karen Memery’s story is an engrossing cross-genre story with steampunk, spies, serial murders, Western lawmen, young lesbian love, political corruption, and a generous helping of humor. It will appeal to teen and adult steampunk and fantasy readers. Enthusiastically recommended for high school and public libraries. May 2015 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: The Watcher in the Shadows

Moriarty, Chris. The Watcher in the Shadows. Illus. Mark Edward Geyer. Harcourt, 2013. $16.99. 326p. 978-0-547-46632-3. Ages 12+: The magical boy from The Inquisitor’s Apprentice returns in another story about New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. Sacha is still hiding his background living in the tenements of the Lower East Side from wealthy friend Lily as they work with Inspector Wolf. But the new case, solving the Klezmer King’s murder, brings Sacha closer to his home with his spell-casting rabbi grandfather, seamstress sister at the Pentacle Shirtwaist Factor, and his mother who is willing to sabotage Sacha’s efforts to save his soul. When the evil J.P. Morgaunt sets Sacha’s dybbuk free, the 13-year-old has more than the murder to worry about. The plot is a combination of historical fiction and mobs with a layer of magic and steampunk. The characters are memorable, so real that the reader could actually know them, and the adventure fast-paced. P8Q9 March 2014 review by Nel Ward

Book review: Uncrashable Dakota

Marino, Andy. Uncrashable Dakota. Holt, 2013. $17.99. 309p. 978-0-8050-9630-9. Ages 12+: The Titanic disaster meets steampunk is this airship which flies because of the gas from beetles that are fed whiskey, a magic learned by its developer during the U.S. Civil War. Following its initial voyage, a blend of characters from a cult worshipping beetles to the jealous descendant of the man who actually discovered the beetles’ abilities. The adventure is filled with characters: the son of the deceased designer; his stepfather and mother; the stepfather’s son; an apprentice beetle-keeper; two steerage travelers; and far more. The parts of the book never come together, however, as flashbacks interfere with the action and the frenetic excitement to save the ship grows stale. The concentration of character motivations further detracts from a successful steampunk novel. Great idea but weak execution. The ending leaves the possibility of a sequel. P7Q5  March 2014 review by Nel Ward