This is the complete steampunk fantasy novel - all four parts of the serial in one volume! Also includes bonus features not found in the episodes. Human life has value. The poor living in the gutter are as valuable as the rich living in a manor. The scoundrel is no less valuable than the saint. Because of this, every life a reaper takes must be redeemed. Raven has lived by this first tenet since she was trained by her father to become a reaper. But since his death, she's been spending years redeeming the lives she's taken. By her count, she's even, and it's time for that life to end. If she settles down and becomes a wife, she might just feel human again. But on the way to the life she thinks she wants, the baron of New Haven asks her to complete a task which she cannot ignore.... Just when Raven decides to give up on her life as an assassin, she's pulled right back in.
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The king’s youngest son has the uncanny ability to destroy mechanical horses with his mere presence. The king believes the boy is possessed, and if he can’t be cured, orders him killed. Raven Steele is the guilt-ridden outcast of a special society of assassins who must save not only the boy, but the kingdom from a much more insidious plot.
It is set in an alternate British reality where magic and automatons are as ubiquitous as ale. The Reapers, now outlawed by the king, are assassins whose code requires them to replace every life they take with a redeemed one. It is a heavy burden for the young Raven Steele, the only female Reaper, and one of the last of all Reapers still alive.
Chronicles of Steele is a blend of fantasy and steampunk science fiction. And for the most part it works quite well. The world is well laid out and believable within its own rules. Mechanical horses are faster and more reliable than living ones, airships (presumably dirigibles) transport people slowly but surely around the world. If you’re sick, you call a medical witch. It is just how this world works and it rings true for the listener.
The story and action move along at a steady pace. Though some listeners might feel a tedium from the constant inner complaining and self-recrimination of Raven from her past mistakes. It is important to the story, but just a little bit more often than needs repeating. Still, don’t let this small quirk keep you from a thoroughly entertaining novel. The plot does get a little carried away at the end, but that’s the point of fantasy.
The story is broken into four parts, which are all included here. They don’t differ enough to actually stand alone as books or novellas, so it is good the publisher didn’t separate them in the audiobook. The novel wraps up completely at its conclusion and doesn’t feel like an introduction to a sequel.
The story is read by Andrea Emmes who does an excellent job matching the mood and energy of the novel. She is good with characters and differentiates the voices well.
Because of the age of the female protagonist, Chronicles of Steele feels somewhat like a young adult fantasy novel, but crosses well enough into adult fiction that all listeners should enjoy it. Well worth a listen.
Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.
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Steampunk + Assassins = Entertaining Read
Set in a steampunked England, this story follows Raven Steele, Reaper, as she tries to find balance in her life. She is tasked by the eldest son (Solomon) of the Duke to see Darius (the youngest son) safely to the Wood Witch in the hopes she will be able to cure his strange malady. Raven soon finds herself caught up in in a tangled web of plans laid by various nefarious folks. She is not sure that she can keep young Darius alive… not sure at all.
The Reapers are a unique set of assassins and righters of wrongs. For every life they take, they must in turn save a life. Raven comes from a line of Reapers and was raised with the code. I liked this give and take aspect to the story. It allowed some of the characters to pass that final judgement but did not relieve them of their responsibility to turn around and save a life without having passed judgement upon it. In this case, young Darius needs Raven’s protection from his own father, but he also needs specialized medical attention for this mysterious condition. This gives Raven plenty to worry about. Plus Darius has a loyal dog, Nikki, who Raven must also keep safe.
Raven has this corset that I really want to get my hands on and have a similar one made. It has big magnets on the back, making it easy for her to store a crossbow or sword. It’s sexy and steampunky, so I can overlook the obvious drawbacks of having items accidentally knocked loose or even someone imply taking something when she’s distracted by fighting. She is a careful and deadly fighter, so I am sure she has weighed the pros and cons of this. I trust her judgement.
Most of the cast is male. Raven stars at the center of the story, but there are few females besides her. Later, we do meet the Wood Witch, and also an herbalist names Marietta. These two ladies affect the plot and play integral roles. I grew quite fond of Marietta – so practical and a little sharp tongued. There are a few more, but they had very minor roles. Meanwhile, Raven is surrounded by men for the bulk of the tale.
Captain Jack Grant has been tasked by the Duke to bring Darius back. He’s also a potential romantic interest. He can’t figure Raven out and she is stumped over him. They have to build trust first, especially since the Duke wants Darius dead. One of my little criticisms is that I was confused for most of the story about Jack Grant. Now, obviously I now know that he is a single person. But for much of the story he is referred to either as Grant or as Jack and only a very few times is he called Captain Jack Grant. So, for most of the story I thought we had two separate men working in the Duke’s guards and that both were potentially interested in Raven. It was confusing. And I fear that I did the same thing with the medical doctor, Colton…. who I think might be Gregory Colton? Or are they two separate people? Sigh…. Obviously, if their last names were obvious surnames like Coltonson or Grantson, then I think I would be able to keep them straight with ease during this action-packed, fast paced story.
The steampunk aspects are nicely built into the story. The author doesn’t dwell on the mechanics and instead makes the mechanized items (like steampunk horses) tools for the characters. I like that not every bit of technology works all the time as planned and that not everyone likes the technology. Later in the story, we get an additional plot line that involves mechanized servants. This, along with keeping Darius safe, gives Raven plenty to keep her busy. Story was definitely entertaining!
I received a copy of this audiobook from the narrator at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
Narration: Andrea Emmes did a great job with voices and accents. Her little kid voice for Darius was perfect. I especially liked her accent and attitude for Marietta. All her character voices were distinct and she did a variety of regional accents too.