Taya soars over Ondinium on metal wings. She is an icarus - a courier privileged to travel freely across the city’s sectors and mingle indiscriminately among its castes. But even she can’t outfly the web of terrorism, loyalty, murder, and intrigue that snares her after a daring mid-air rescue. Taya finds herself entangled with the Forlore brothers, scions of an upperclass family: handsome, brilliant Alister, who sits on the governing council and writes programs for the Great Engine; and awkward, sharp-tongued Cristof, who has exiled himself from his caste and repairs clocks in Ondinium’s lowest sector. Both hide dangerous secrets, in this city that beats to the ticking of a clockwork heart.
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Steampunk detecive romance
I have a few nits to pick with this one, so I want to say first that I did like it, and likely will read the second book in the series.
I found the main character likeable and appreciated that she wasn't a whimp. I particularly found the idea of winged messengers very interesting and pretty unique. I was also pleased that although it appeared there may be a danger of a love triangle, one never really occurred. Overall I give this book a solid "I liked it".
I just think with some minor adjustments this story could have been so much better.
Genre: I see this book being promoted as "Steampunk", and many seem to consider it such. I do not. There are elements that would be at home in a Steampunk novel, but I would categorize this book as Sci Fi. In fact I think it would best fall into YA Sci Fi.
This story takes place in a fictional universe, in a fictional society. The setting is not Victorian, nor Victorian-like.
I say this not to debate what "Steampunk" is or what it isn't. I know there are various opinions on the matter, and the line can get blurry. I simply want to point it out for anyone who would consider the term implying this story has elements it does not really have.
I also see this book in places promoted as, or considered to be a Romance novel. I think those looking for a Romance would be pretty disappointed in this one. There is a bit of a romantic element woven through the story, but it doesn't really drive the story and isn't really a core plot point. Personally I liked this handling much better, but I know others prefer more romance in their Romances.
Although the main characters are not teens, there is often a very young feel to thoughts, actions and dialog. It's definitely appropriate for a YA audience, and I think those who don't enjoy YA might not like this one as much as those of us who do.
I've also seen a few people call this Fantasy, which completely boggles my mind. I don't see any elements of a Fantasy story here.
World Building: Here I think the story had some issues. I wish there had been a bit more description regarding the place and more shown regarding the society. Particularly since this is a place of the author's invention. There is some, but it's fairly sparse, and is typically there only when needed for the plot. I had trouble picturing the scene, and being able to feel I was right there. I think it could have used more atmosphere, sounds, sights, smells, description.
For example, characters take a "hack" to travel in the city a few times. There is mention of the driver. There is no mention of a horse or horses in the entire book. I wanted to be able to picture this scene in my mind. Was this hack horse driven? I don't know. It's possible in this place it was machine driven. I got no snorting of the horse, stamping of hooves, or petting of a velvet nose. But also nothing to imply it was machine driven either. This kind of thing bothered me, and I don't think would have taken too much to improve.
I could give a few other examples, but I think that gives an idea of what I mean.
Characters: I found the main character very likeable. She's not perfect and felt reasonably real. She isn't a whimp, but she cares about people. The main issue I had here was with dialog. It seemed clear to me that the author was going for some reluctant respect coupled with annoyance, but also some humor between the main character and the man I thought would turn out to be her love interest (I won't tell you if I was right on that, or not :D) But it fell short a bit. At times there was more anger than I thought made sense, at other times anger switched to humor too quickly to seem realistic. I happened to be listening to the audio version and I will say that I believe only part of my issue with dialog was due to the writing. I think the narrator also could have done a better job interpreting emotion a bit differently. I've seen witty banter and sarcastic humor done better, and I admit I'm a bit spoiled.
I did very much like the fact that the romantic element was allowed to grow out of not simply attraction, but friendship as well. There's no real insta-love here. And the love interest isn't gorgeous, but is a decent man. How wonderfully refreshing!
Overall I liked the main characters, and I cared about them reasonably enough. I think this is a good and entertaining story by an author who is one to watch.