After all of the descriptions of Emily's 'red ropey hair' in the first book, the model on the cover doesn't really jive with the image of her in my mind. Ah, well. Anyway.
It could be argued that I was hard on the first two books in Kady Cross' Steampunk Chronicles. So in the interest of being all fair-minded and whatnot, I will say that they do have some attractive qualities:
- They're fast-paced and often quite exciting.
- While the characters haven't moved beyond their basic trope-types (see my column about the first one for more on that), they are mostly quite likable and enjoyable to be around. (I could do without Finley and Griffin, but I suspect that that's more due to a personality conflict on my part than on anything objective.)
- Cross' use of similes are generally entertainingly in keeping with the world and the genre: A sound like breaking ice followed as pressure from the outside pushed against the glass, demanding to get inside like a rowdy drunkard at a tavern door. (That one's a bit long for my tastes, but you get the drift.)
- There are rapid and regular switches in perspective, which speak to some amount of confidence in the reader's ability to keep up.
- Automatons are always cool, and there's a thread about What It Means To Be Human that will appeal to anyone who's spent far too much time combing through Data fanfic. (I ADMIT NOTHING.)
Fans of the first two books are likely to like this third installment which, as you've probably gathered by the cover art and the title, focuses mostly on Emily, the Girl Genius Who Can Control Automatons With Her Mind. She gets kidnapped by a Bad Robot (<--heh) who wants her to use her Mechanical Prowess to move the Machinist's brain out of his mostly-dead body and into a fancy new automaton-human hybrid.
It's an undertaking that, not-so-surprisingly, she has issues with beyond the whole abduction thing: bringing the Machinist back would be bad enough, but worse for soft-hearted Emily is the fact that the automaton-human hybrid is a sentient being whose mind, personality, and soul will be destroyed when her body is co-opted by the Machinist. (All of which also serves to allow Emily to come to terms with the sexual assault she survived back in Ireland.)
Yet again, for me, the major issue—beyond the lack of character development—is the repetitive language. Emily continues to 'wee' this and 'wee' that, which is grating, but once again, it was the eyebrows that killed me. I read The Girl with the Iron Touch in review copy form, so I double-checked the following quotes against the Google Books preview and the Amazon preview, and it looks to me that they all made it into the finished copy:
Jack arched a brow at her bad manners. (p. 37)
Mr. Isley arched a brow but wisely remained silent. (p. 51)
She arched a brow, and didn't care that he saw it. (p. 149)
Jack raised a brow at Sam. (p. 157)
Jack raised one brow ever so slightly as his gaze locked with hers. (p. 161)
Emily's heart skipped a beat even as her brow gave a dubious lift. (p. 170)
She arched a brow. (p. 180)
Emily arched a brow. (p. 206)
He arched a brow. (p. 247)
She arched a brow. (p. 256)
Finley arched a brow. (p. 299)
He arched a brow. (p. 321)
Now she was the one whose brow rose. (p. 321)
Griffin swore—the kind of language that made Finley arch a brow. (p. 326)
And, of course, keep in mind that I didn't count any of the 'lowering' or 'pulling together' or 'shooting up'. All in all, these characters expend more energy waggling their eyebrows around than you or I would while working out to a Jillian Michaels DVD.
So, there you have it: if that sort of thing drives you bananas, I'd say give the series a miss and wait for the (hopefully inevitable) CW show.
Book source: Review copy via Netgalley.