There is quite a lot of Paranormal Steampunk on the market these days, Gail Carriger being one of the most unique voices of the genre. More than a few authors have gone the route of turning historical or famous literary figures into vampire and zombie hunters – including Queen Victoria and Abraham Lincoln. The genre is popular with authors and readers alike. Readers like Steampunk because they have a semi-familiar setting, usually in the later half of the 1800’s to early 1900’s, and a historical context that’s slightly twisted yet remains recognizable, not unlike contemporary UF, so they don’t have to imagine the entire world. Authors like it because their landscape and history is partially set and the reader can just mentally paint in the modifications as the author refines it. Historical errors can be dismissed, as can technology unsuited for the time, some of which is quite ‘fantastical’. The other advantage is the existence of magic, and/or least legendary creatures, like werewolves, zombies, and vampires. And it is the existence of magic combined with various bits of technology that Lynn Viehl uses in her Disenchanted & Co books.
The Clockwork Wolf, the second book in the Disenchanted & Co series, came out just a few weeks after publication of her first book, which was, in turn was compiled from a series the author had e-published under the Disenchanted & Co label. Disenchanted & Co falls a category that is part mystery, part romance, and part thriller all with a magical twist. Unlike the uniquely stylized florid prose of Carriger, Viehl’s is cleaner and leaner, yet manages to convey the period she wants. In Disenchanted & Co, she laid the basic world building, so The Clockwork Wolf presumes the reader knows the general history of the place. The US is still an English colony called Victoriana, or Toriana for short, having lost the Revolution. Mages exist side by side with inventors. The political structure remains one that is largely British with Lords and Ladies. The city of Rumsen seems to be San Francisco, or a similar local.
Charmaine ‘Kit” Kittredge is unique. Her gift is the ability to undo magic, except the magic of Deathmage Lucian Dredmore, a darkly handsome man who has made his interest in her quite clear. But Kit is an independent female and not anxious to be bound by society, especially a society that made her life hell when she arrived in the city as teen orphan. Against her better judgment, she gained some fame among upper crust when she saved the city from an invasion. Now she is back in Dredmore’s house awaiting another client from society, the vey group she strives to avoid.
Lady Eugenia Bestly made Kit’s life hell and now she needs her talents, talents Kit is disinclined to use on behalf of someone who saw a harmless girl tossed to the mercy of the streets. In the end, she grudgingly agrees to help and stumbles over yet another monstrous conspiracy to destroy the city, this time using clockwork wolfmen, wolfmen that are all part of high society and have systematically impregnated females to bear their off-spring.
With the help of her Grandfather Harry’s spirit – who is really an immortal Aramanthan spirit known to humans at one time as Merlin – and a Native American shaman Blue Fox, Kit unravels the plot, though some will still pay the price.
Ms Viehl does a nice job of creating the wolfmen, a combination of gears and native magic, but what is somewhat lacking in any depth on feeling in her relations with people. As a result, Kit feels a bit 2 dimensional as a character and the author seems more at home with problem solving and adventure than with interpersonal relationships, especially love interests. The plot is well paced and interesting. Kit is independent and adventurous, in addition to being intelligent and insightful. But both character and author stumble over any real emotions. It makes the sex a bit lifeless.
Overall, The Clockwork Wolf fell a bit short of fulfilling the promise of Disenchanted & Co. Still, despite its shortcomings, it remains a very good read. The dialogue is fast and often witty, Kit is a strong protagonist, and the plot holds the reader and helps cover the flaws. It gets a B- (3.8*) rating from me and is a good addition to the series.
Recommend in addition or instead – Lauren Dane’s Witch’s Knot, de la Vega Cats, Cascadia Wolves, and Bound by Magic series, Kalayna Price’s Alex Craft series, or Jenn Bennet’s Acadia Bell series.