Riwenne & the Mechanical Beasts by Kristen S. Walker
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
DNF @ 30%
I always get so excited about steampunk books and I'm always (seemingly) disappointed these days. You'd think I would learn. Is it because so many steampunk books are YA? Or because they are often written by new/debut authors? What is it about steampunk that the big three publishers are so afraid of?
In a nutshell it seems to me that there are three major problems that steampunk books have (and Riwenne & the Mechanical Beasts was no exception):
1) Believability. I'm not sure why it's so hard to make a steampunk book feel realistic. Airships work out fine but as soon as a "monster" is mechanical it seems to lose something or become awkward.
2) Intelligence. Truly smart characters seem to be a huge problem in steampunk books. It's like we need a creative author to pair up with a real engineer so that they can together write a great steampunk book. A lack of research about how things function is always lacking (and YA or not I would like machines that could in theory work please). Plus poor descriptions of mechanics makes for a very unsatisfying experience. Just like I would expect law, medicine and space to exist within our worldly parameters; I also expect machinery and engineering to be realistic and plausible at least.
3) World building. Just because you have chosen a stereotypical genre (steampunk) to set your book in doesn't mean I don't want just as much intelligent (and shown) world building as I do from fantasy. This also again goes for YA or not I expect the world building to be concise, shown (not told) and intricate but decipherable.
Edit, edit, edit
If you've ever heard the phrase "measure twice, cut once" then you may understand what I mean when I say that a book needs to be edited AT MINIMUM two major times. Once by the author themselves and once by a third party who is not worried about the author's feelings being hurt. Unfortunately Kristen S. Walker's story feels like it wasn't even edited the first time. In the opening chapter alone I couldn't numerous issues from undefined words (what is 'ordinary' in a fantasy world?), contradictory phrases ('burned with heat', say what now?), poor descriptions and explanations.
A few stand-out examples include:
"Most of the priestesses turned and glided out again. The elite in the front rows out, except for the few leaders who stayed behind."
-Yet one page before this quote we are told there are only 8 elite priestesses? So what exactly is a few and how many front rows were there? Nevermind that sentence fragment.
"When I stepped inside, lights flickered on in the ceiling. Sunstones gave off a warm glow almost as bright as natural sunlight."
- So are the sunstones the light, or is there another source of light? Would a stone flicker on? And how exactly? This entire two sentences makes my head hurt. Unfortunately the following paragraph that attempts to explain the sunstones fails miserably.
I really, really wanted to like this book. After all it does have a sassy girl (love that purple hair!) on the cover who appears to have intelligent and spunk. The blurb sounds very interesting, the world building is similar to many we've seen before but seemed like it might have its own twists later on. And yet I could barely get past the opening chapters. Yes I could have powered through a couple hundred pages of awful grammar and writing; but why?
Honestly I would love to see Walker go back to the editing room with this one. In fact at one point before I gave up I wanted to start editing and commenting at length on Riwenne & the Mechanical Beasts myself (and then realized that I do not have spare time for this unless it was a paid gig). This story has a potential future; but a lot more work needs to be done to edit, rework and reorganize it before I'd say Riwenne and her story is publication ready.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via BookSirens. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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