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Shades of Aether Paperback – 11 Aug 2017
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Long before you've reached the end of Shades of Aether, you're realising quite how far you've come and how much ground you've covered, despite not noticing the pages turning - it's a long distance covered in a fast read, full of memorable characters - watch out for Amethyst Forester (the woman on the cover), she's gonna become your new steampunk heroine - and more layers than you can shake a stick at. Is it about the impossible romance between Amethyst and the monosyllabic Lord Maker? Is it about the murder of the brilliant Professor Richards, maker of aetheric engines? Is it about a controversial bill going through parliament to give aetheric power the upper hand over electricity? Or is it about something altogether broader and more dangerous? Yes, yes, yes and yes, and then some. There's a lot of good storytelling here, and I'm going to be looking out for the next book in this series. Big fan here.
As per my intro title, I hadn't read SteamPunk previously. This was recommended to me by a friend, and I'd read the author's two crime novels and enjoyed them so I gave this a go.
The central characters - Amethyst and Maker - are fascinating and compelling characters. I found myself caring really quite deeply about them. I've read many books where I forgot the characters immediately after finishing the last page, but these two have stayed with me. I have no idea if the girl on the cover is how the author imagined Amethyst, but I now see her as I'm reading, and it "works".
I *thought* (please read on) I had an issue with the pacing of the central "plot", but I soon realised that this book is actually a really nicely written slow burn, really drew me in. The characters are so memorable, and the dynamics between them so compelling, that I massively enjoyed the chapters in-between major events. There were characters I adored, some I admired and felt for, and one or two I genuinely loathed. I find it rare that characters in a book grab me so much.
I hadn't read SteamPunk before, but I used to read a huge amount of fantasy and sci-fi, a lot of it hard sci fi with real and made-up science mixed in. In this book, the whole thing about the mysterious Aether and the Victorian technology around it was well-realised here, really imaginative.
Maybe the biggest compliment I can pay Shades of Aether is this - I've tried reading "literary" fiction before and could never get into it. But even if this book had all the SteamPunk stuff removed and only the characters and dynamics and the personal sides of the story left in, I think I'd still enjoy it.
I'm currently well into the follow-up book, Echoes Of Aether, and I was delighted to find that we get even further into the heads and hearts of some really damned fascinating characters. I'll post a review of that when I've finished it.
Every concern I had going into this book was assuaged by Gail's thoughtful writing, you can tell this book wasn't written without care and attention.
I fell in love with Maker and Amethyst is wonderful, the tension between the two was brilliant. But I think my favourite character was Bobbie and I hope we get to see more of her in the coming books.