April 1, 2020

Book Review: Hearts of Smoke and Steam

I had a very difficult time putting down Hearts of Smoke and Steam, Book 2 in the Society of Steam and sequel to The Falling Machine.  The Paragons were not in such a great state at the end of The Falling Machine, and Lord Eschaton and his Children were making strides. Tom, The Automaton, was undone, and Sarah Stanton had had a falling out with her father, the Paragon known as The Industrialist.

The beginning of this book finds Sarah living on her own without the comforts she’d known her whole life; the greatly diminished Paragons are interviewing to expand their ranks; the Children of Eschaton are also growing in force; and our story is just waiting to unfold.

There is a struggle between good and evil in the beings of fortified steam (The Paragons) and fortified smoke (Lord Eschaton).  The Paragon team takes a whipping,  but does regain a valuable ally.  The Children of Eschaton don’t win the day, but they cause some serious mayhem.  The clockwork heart of Tom the Automaton is at the heart of the struggle.  Sarah has it; Lord Eschaton wants it.

In the early chapters, Sarah meets a Paragon enthusiast in an incident on a ferry. Emilio Armando helps Sarah in a epic battle against the Child of Eschaton known as Bomb Lance. The excitement of that battle, which starts on the ferry, has Sarah and Emilio traveling up anchor lines to the great blimp from where the attack is housed, and ends with the two crash landing the remains of the vehicle into the junkyard owned and inhabited by Emilio and his sister Viola, is a tenor carried throughout the book.

The cliffhanger ending and the mysterious protagonist known as Anubis call the reader to the next installment of the The Society of Steam as surely as a dinner bell calls family to meals.  One must respond, salivating en route. This is a great read.  Because the reader is now fully comfortable with the steampunk heroes and villains, I believe it’s an even better read than the first.

I applaud Andrew P. Mayer and his creation of superheroes and supervillains whose abilities are the result of science and mechanics. It makes them more plausible, in my mind, and even more possible.  As in real life, it is the nature and experiences of the people using the applications that decides if they’re steampunk alter egos will work for good or evil.  Also, as in real life, evil can be turned to a better way of living, and good can be made to step over the line to the dark side.