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The Gaslight Dogs [Mass Market Paperback]

Karin Lowachee
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 359 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; 1 edition (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316021792
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316021791
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 10.6 x 16.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,485,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting. 17 Mar 2014
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Sjennonirk is the spirit walker of her tribe. For years now the Kabliw have been coming, her people have welcomed them albeit with a certain amount of caution, but the bring trade. Now however their ships have unloaded crates of guns. Sjennonirk is understandably wary. But before she can learn more about what they intend to do with these weapons she finds herself locked up and transported to Ciracusa, accused of murder.

In the city General Fawle takes an interest in her and her the fact that she is an ankago or spirit walker. He wants to use that ability to further his own ends.

This is a book that has been sitting my Mount TBR for a quite a while now. I first read about it on a blog and it sounded intriguing. I guess I was wary of starting it because it is the first book in a series and there is no sign of a book 2. But eventually I decided to go for it, because Lowachee is not a huge name her publisher’s may not look for a sequel, so why wait for something that might never happen. I know that might off some readers, but if no one ever took a chance on an unknown first book then the series would never ever get written.

But back to the book itself.

Lowachee has some great world building going on. Of course she is using the history of the United States and Canada and the conflict between the European settlers and the natives, so it is a world that is somewhat familiar. However it isn’t just a retelling but a reinterpretation. It isn’t set in our world, but one that echoes some of our history.

It is also a book that encourages you to take your time reading it, the style of writing was one that made me want to reread the odd sentence in order to make sure I understood what was being said.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Life stealing 19 Feb 2011
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The synopsis on the back of the book is as follows:
"At the edge of the known world, an ancient nomadic tribe faces a new enemy - an empire fueled [sic] by technology and war.
A young spiritwalker of the Aniw and a captain of the Ciracusan army both find themselves unexpectedly thrown together, the Aniw girl a prisoner taken from her people, and the soldier a reluctant student of a forbidden talent - one that may turn the tide of the war and will surely brand him an outcast." Blah blah... there's more but I can't be bothered to type it.

This appeared to come up labelled as "steampunk", but it certainly isn't... there are gas lamps in the streets and a vague mention of a train at one point.
It also isn't much of an adventure novel either, as the pace was awkward and plodding.
The characters didn't engage me at all, and for most of the latter half of the book I kept hoping that I would turn the page and find out they had all died in some horrible accident.
There was no love, no hope, no comedy. This was one long misery fest and I stuck it out to the pointless end. If you like the dull painful ache inside when finishing a book and realising that a piece of your life is gone that you will never get back, then this is the book for you.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be better 8 May 2010
By Lisa (Starmetal Oak Reviews) - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In this novel Lowachee creates a very unique world that takes inspiration from our colonial history and the conflicts between aboriginals and colonizers. She adds flare and magic to this familiar story and makes it her own.

I have a couple main issues with the book. Firstly, it felt like a very long introduction to a bigger story because there is not much in way of plot and the ending isn't satisfying. I felt like there wasn't much between the two main characters Sjenn and Jarrett; their relationship didn't progress at all. I think that Lowachee only touched the surface of what could have been; this is mirrored in the many times I felt scenes would start to get somewhere but then end abruptly. Sjenn and Jarrett will start talking, but then one will stop or leave. Jarrett and his father would push against each other but before any eruption of emotions, the scene would end.

I'm not sure what the message of this book is. I thought in the end Jarrett would come around, or that his father would get what he deserves, Sjenn would find comfort.

In the end, I did enjoy the book because of the good writing, a very intriguing premise, and good characters. If there is a series coming out of this I am sure the next installment will (hopefully) resolve some of these stories. I'm just disappointed that it wasn't included as one book so we wouldn't have to go on this journey without any resolution. I would recommend this for anyone who is looking for a more character-driven story, spirit-based magic, and a Northern setting.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original, emotionally gripping fantasy 16 Aug 2010
By Stefan - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Karin Lowachee, who has written three highly acclaimed SF novels, released her first fantasy novel, The Gaslight Dogs, in April 2010 -- and it's another good one. The novel has two memorable main characters, Sjennonirk (or Sjenn for short) and Jarrett, as well as several well-drawn side characters. Sjenn is the young spiritwalker of her Anwi (think: Inuit) tribe, who finds herself taken captive by the Ciracusan army and transported from the frozen north to the gaslit city of Nev Anyan. Jarrett is a captain in the Ciracusan army -- and the son of a powerful general -- who returns on leave to the same city after a fearful encounter with Qoyotariz, a warrior of one of the many tribes Ciracusa is battling.

This is a strong, emotionally gripping novel that deserves much more attention than it received when it first came out. Karin Lowachee's prose is powerful and often uniquely styled. Be warned: you won't find much exposition here, and as a result the first few chapters can be a bit confusing as the new vocabulary and names trickle into the story. I actually ended up reading them twice, partly to connect the dots on some world-building details that are implied rather than explained, and partly to enjoy the beautiful prose and Lowachee's often surprising word choices and similes. Some books can be read quickly, and some need to be savored and enjoyed slowly; The Gaslight Dogs is most definitely an example of the latter.

Also impressive is the way Karin Lowachee quickly and deftly adds depth to her characters. Within the first pages of their respective chapters, you'll have a solid idea of who Sjenn and Jarrett are, and as the book progresses, they are placed in emotionally wrenching situations that add layer upon layer to their personalities. However, the emotion in this novel is often understated: certain scenes contain powerful but almost silent clashes of worldviews and personalities, and their true impact may not strike you initially and hit you long after reading them.

The Gaslight Dogs' fantasy world is fascinating, but not everything is explained in this first novel. There are many hints at a complex history that's impacting the story in ways we may not yet understand. Even though there is no indication of it on the book's cover (featuring a beautiful illustration by Sam Weber), this is actually the first book in a planned trilogy, but rest assured: the ending, while open, is extremely poignant and more than satisfying, so the novel works very well as a standalone.

The most pressing question, after finishing the novel, is the true nature of the "little spirits." At first they may appear to be standard animal familiars or guiding spirits, but you'll quickly realize that there's a lot more going on here. The novel's characters, powerful prose and well-realized world would be enough to have me run to the bookstore for the sequel, but my main motivation will be finding out more about these mysterious spirits. Regardless, The Gaslight Dogs is an excellent fantasy novel, and highly recommended to anyone looking for an original and emotionally gripping story.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting fantasy colonialism 8 Mar 2012
By Heidi Waterhouse - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have been referring to this as "the problematic colonialism book". I mean that in both senses. It is a book all about how colonialism screws people up, and it's a book where I think some of the colonialist narratives are not examined.

A friend pointed out that the story makes a lot more sense when you realize it's Canadian, and not American fantasy -- that is to say that the fantasy countries are deeply informed by the Canadian experience of contact with original inhabitants. There are snow-dwellers who hunt caribou, and copper-skinned woods-dwellers, and at least two factions of white people attached to shoes and guns and proselytizing and all that.

The story is about a young not!inuit with a tangible spirit animal which can leave her body. Through a series of unfortunate events, she is kidnapped and taken to an industrial-age city, where a crazy meglomaniac is trying to use her magical powers for Bad Ends.

The story is about the unfortunate son of the meglomaniac who is almost as whiny as Harry Potter circa book 6. He never knows what's going on, has a very brittle kind of strength, and may have been one of those kids who took up bullying because it was better than feeling powerless.

The story is about a domesticated abo who is carefully analyzing his masters between forelock tugging.

The story is about Benedictines and Jesuits, although not really, of course, and about the city and the wild, and about madness and compliance, and the dark heart of men.

Also, this story is half a book. It's got a very slow start, then a long ramp up, and right at the crisis moment for all the characters.... you realize the book is over. GAH. I expect that the next book in the series will be along eventually.

Almost everyone in the story is a pragmatist, in their own way. I suspect that this is why it is hard to identify with any of the viewpoint characters. We are used to a diet of protaganists who are at least heroic in their own mind. None of these protaganists is, as near as we can tell.

Read if: You have tolerance for a book with an ending like a New Yorker short story, you like thinking about colonialism, you like magic systems that are not the boring semi-feudal wizards (and in that case, allow me to recommend Death of the Necromancer or Tinker again).

Skip if: You need sympathetic viewpoint characters, you don't want to deal with a very slow start, you hate interrupted stories.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising Steampunk Fantasy Falls a Bit Flat 6 July 2010
By Emily Chen - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Sjennonirk has lived all her life in the icy tundra north as the ankago (or spiritwalker) of the Aniw people. Her father was the ankago before her, and the Aniw hunt and travel nomadically across the icy landscape. Foreigners from the south (the Kabliw) with their great iron ships and curious, religious priests are not uncommon-however, when Sjenn witnesses the Kabliw unloading boxes upon boxes of guns onto the tundra, she knows something has changed, and not for the better.

After defending herself rfrom being attacked by a drunk Kabliw man, Sjenn is kidnapped from her family and taken on a ship south to Ciracusa, or the land of the Kabliw. During this journey the readers are introduced to Sjenn's incredible ankago power-as a spiritwalker, she is able to manifest a Dog spirit, a powerful being in the form of an animal that cannot be killed and is essentially unstoppable unless called back into Sjenn's unconscious human body.

Sjenn quickly discovers that the Kabliw have ulterior motives for preventing her from returning to her homeland. General Fawle, a high ranking and greatly respected commander of the Kabliw armies, seems to know a great deal about Sjenn's Dog and the ankago ways; in fact, he tells her that unless she can teach his own son, Captain Jarret Fawle, the spiritwalker "magic," she will never return to her tribe and family in the north.

While The Gaslight Dogs is about a fictional world with fictional geography, it's fairly easy to draw comparisons between the Aniw and the real-world Inuit. As well, the Ciracusans are battling tribes of indigenous people and have recently split with the "old country" of Sairland where most of the Ciracusans came from. Ciracusans = the United States, and Sairland = the United Kingdom, which makes the indigenous tribes the Native Americans. Kind of over-simplified, but these comparisons rose to the surface while I was reading the novel. In that, the Gaslight Dogs offers perspectives on the unending conflict and violence between the tribes and the conquering Ciracusans-there is no bad guy or good guy here, no real winner or loser. Both sides suffer losses and exact vengeance upon each other, perpetuating a cycle of killing and fighting.

I did not enjoy The Gaslight Dogs as much as I thought it would. In fact sometimes I had a hard time staying interested. The characters were fascinating and they were all original and intriguing-not only Sjenn and Captain Fawle, but Sister Oza (a mysterious and perhaps militant religious "nun") and Keely, the indigenous warrior who is weirdly loyal to General Fawle. However I definitely did not like the way Lowachee plotted Dogs; it felt incredibly slow and by the time I was 3/4 of the way into the novel I felt like nothing had really happened. There were so many mysterious and attention-piquing hints about the characters, but they didn't go anywhere.

It was only in the last 1/4 that things began to pick up and a great twist happened. Definitely a lead-off into the assumed sequel that's coming, but that didn't really make up for the long, meandering path that the first 3/4 was. I wasn't into it. I've been a big fan of Lowachee's for awhile, and I'm sad that I wasn't as into The Gaslight Dogs as I'd hoped to be. The pacing was just too slow for me.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Failed to present enjoyable characters 23 May 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Sjenn is part of an ancient group of nomads that brave the cold of the frozen north day after day. She can tell you what the weather will be like by the sound of the wind and she knows that ice and snow has more then just one form. What she doesn't know about is the lands to the south and the empire that has brought guns to the shores of her homeland.

When Sjenn must protect her family and release her animal spirit, she is shipped to the south and thrown in a prison. In order to go home she must teach a southern solider how to release his own animal spirit or she will never see her homeland again. First she must convince the solider that animal spirits exist and he must accept that he has one.

I thought this book sounded really interesting from the blurbs, so I picked it up soon after it came out. I should have waited til I could see some reviews of it. The magical system and world took me a while to get into and I spent the first 100 pages trying to figure everything out. Then I was in and I enjoyed the middle section...only to be very disappointed by the ending. I just felt like it was rushed and that it didn't really resolve any issues within the book. I know this is part of a series (and if it isn't, then I don't at all understand how this book could end how it did), but because of how it ended, I don't feel like this book was anything more then an introduction to the world/magic/characters. While I'm mentioning characters, I like books where I like at least the main character. I started out liking Sjenn but she seemed to change and not in a good way throughout this book and I stopped liking her. In fact, I didn't like anyone. I disliked a few characters (the "bad guys") but I never really enjoyed the three main ones. At moments I felt pity for Sjenn's plight, I couldn't get over some of her behavior nor could I understand it.

This book had smooth moments and others that felt choppy to me. I never really settled into and while I enjoyed the last half of the book more then the first, it didn't leave me feeling satisfied when it was over. I might have expected more from this book based on the blurb then I should have but either way, this book just wasn't what I was hoping for. I would give this book 2.5 stars. I didn't dislike really but I really feel positive about it either.
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