Title: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl
Author: David Barnett
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Source: I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review
Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire. Airships ply the skies and Queen Victoria presides over three-quarters of the known world—including the East Coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.
London might as well be a world away from Sandsend, a tiny village on the Yorkshire coast. Gideon Smith dreams of the adventure promised him by the lurid tales of Captain Lucian Trigger, the Hero of the Empire, told in Gideon’s favorite “penny dreadful.” When Gideon’s father is lost at sea in highly mysterious circumstances Gideon is convinced that supernatural forces are at work. Deciding only Captain Lucian Trigger himself can aid him, Gideon sets off for London. On the way he rescues the mysterious mechanical girl Maria from a tumbledown house of shadows and iniquities. Together they make for London, where Gideon finally meets Captain Trigger.
But Trigger is little more than an aging fraud, providing cover for the covert activities of his lover, Dr. John Reed, a privateer and sometime agent of the British Crown. Looking for heroes but finding only frauds and crooks, it falls to Gideon to step up to the plate and attempt to save the day...but can a humble fisherman really become the true Hero of the Empire?
David Barnett's Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is a fantastical steampunk fable set against an alternate historical backdrop: the ultimate Victoriana/steampunk mash-up!
Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is riotous steampunk adventure, complete with a dashing young hero, airship battles and clockwork creations.
Gideon Smith starts off slow. I'll admit, the first 10% or so, I was a bit bored. Initially, I found Gideon to be lazy, naive and very immature. He was 24, but he acted like a little boy. However, this is one case where I'm so happy I stuck with a book! Get past the 10% mark and that's where the fun really starts! Despite the slow start, Gideon Smith is full of adventures involving mythical creatures (a fun surprise), foreign locations and, naturally, dirigibles (it is steampunk, after all).
While I wasn't a huge fan of Gideon in the beginning, he definitely comes into his own throughout the course of the novel and I was really quite proud of him by the end. The supporting cast was great as well. My favourite was Rowena Fanshawe. She was so badass! She knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to go for it, which is great in a era where women were so often restrained by what was proper. She embodies one of the things I love about steampunk and that is the opportunity for authors to include more strong female characters than traditional historical fiction allows. I also really felt for Maria. She was having such an identity crisis throughout the book, I really just wanted to give her a big hug. I loved the appearance of Bram Stoker. I'm still not sure how I feel about Elizabeth Bathory. She seems like a bit of a loose cannon in more ways than one. Even icky Mr. Bent started to grow on me (yep, like a disease or a fungus).
What I really loved about Gideon Smith was that it didn't take itself too seriously. It was written in the vein of slightly cheesy adventure stories, but I felt it was conscious of being a bit cheesy and played around with the idea by including similar stories with it's world, in the form of Gideon's beloved Captain Trigger's heroic tales.
I'm glad I didn't read the full synopsis on this one before I read it, as I think it contains a few pieces of information I preferred finding out about as I read, rather than up-front. As well, my only other complaint on this one is one loose end that was lost somewhere along the way and left me wondering what was going on with it. I do really hope there will be a sequel, as the ending was definitely left open for one and I'd love to read more of Gideon's adventures.
Overall, once I got through the first few chapters, I really enjoyed Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. It includes all the things I love about steampunk combined with high adventure stories I often enjoy. I would actually love to see this one made into a graphic novel; I think it would work really well in that format. I'd definitely recommend this one to fans of steampunk, adventures and stories of regular people growing into heroes.
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