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Monday, June 09, 2014

Book Review: Moonlight, Murder, and Machinery by John Paul Catton

This book is a alternate history/steampunk novel from the author of Voice Of The Sword. Here is the official synopsis from Goodreads: "Mary Godwin has a recurring dream of a young man and falls in love with him. She eventually meets him in real life. It sounds perfect - but the young man is one of His Majesty's Geomancers, and in the dream, she sees him shot dead in the line of duty... This is the year 1814 in the nation of Nova Albion, a land governed by Druidic law, powered by telluric energy from the national grid of standing stones, and under constant threat from the forces of the Thermidorian Convention across the Channel. Master Shelley is the youngest recruit to HMG, King James IV's counter-intelligence unit, and now the object of Mary's affections. He wants her to stay out of danger, but she wants him to stay alive - as he faces enemies of the Crown such as the highwayman Billy Barebones, the grotesque experiments of Dr. Andrew Ravenhill, and the shadowy agents of the Dodecahedron. Can Mary stop the events foretold in her nightmare from happening? Moonlight, Murder & Machinery is a Gothic re-imagining of the Frankenstein story, set in a Steampunk Regency England - where Steam has been outlawed 

I enjoyed this book for the world building and mystery. Nova Albion and the world it inhabits was well thought out and detailed. With out getting too technical or overly descriptive, Catton was able to explain how things worked. This was somewhat surprising to me. In an old world that is married to today’s technology, I thought the explanations would be boring or silly. But they made sense and seemed plausible. The environs of London and York were vivid. As an American, I wish I had known more landmarks, it would have been interesting to see how Catton’s London compared to real London.

 The characters were unique and well-rounded (I loved that Americans were called Colonials), and the monsters were creepy, as they should be. If I had one problem, it would be the romance between Shelley and Mary. I had no problem with Mary and Shelley themselves, but it seemed their blooming romance was very platonic. This may be because the two spend very little time together on the same page. After Mary identifies Shelley from her nightmares, she becomes quite concerned for his safety. She seems to fall in love with him, but when they are together, they act very proper. Shelley seems concerned for Mary when she gets in trouble, but it feels like military concern for a citizen, not a possible romantic partner. The dual story lines: Mary trying to understand her dreams, and Shelley’s investigations of the mysterious occurrences, don’t overlap until near the end. I’d like to have seen more time with the two together.

I’d like to see a sequel to this book, as there is a continuing war with the Thermidorians in France and enough solid world building to be engaging. This was an enjoyable read for an alternate history take on Frankenstein.

Click to purchase it on Amazon.

Check out other works by John Paul Catton.

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