Inventors, pilots, tinkers, and soldiers; magical metals to replace an aging heart or a ruined limb; steam-powered fantasy worlds of clockwork nightingales, automatons, dirigibles, and men. The stories in this anthology visit diverse times in the history of modern man, and the men who populate these tales face war and cruelty, masters and autocrats, illness and poverty and greed. Yet the heat of romance outmatches even the steam engines, and time and again, the gears of love rule the day.
Stories included are:
The Clockwork Nightingale’s Song by Amy Rae Durreson
Caress by Eli Easton
Swiftsilver by Bell Ellis
The Clockwork Heart by Kim Fielding
The Galatea’s Captain by Anka Grace
Screws by R.D. Hero
The Golden Goose by Mark Lesney
Spindle and Bell by Augusta Li
Ace of Hearts by Mary Pletsch
Five to One by Angelia Sparrow
Untouchable by Layla M. Wier
Review: These stories prime the pump. Admit it; it’s punny. Seriously, these are great steampunk reads. I’m not the biggest fan of anthologies, well ’cause I’m not the biggest fan of short stories which is what comprises the aforementioned–But…I can say this is the best anthology I’ve read to date. There was a wide range of mechanics–from whimsies to clockworks. And there was a broad range of time period inspirations and locations. Something for every taste with this smorgasbord of mechanical delights. Worthy of rereading to me.
FIVE TO ONE by Angela Sparrow: 4 Hearts
Great atmosphere in this early 20th century love story. The sense of innovation and optimism of Dee and Jon gives this Boston tinker story a sweetness in the harsh reality of immigrant life. Felt a bit short changed that Dee has some secrets we never find out about and the story really just seems to be beginning.
He wanted to imprint his claim all over Dee’s body now that he knew Dee’s heart was securely his.
THE CLOCKWORK NIGHTINGALE’S SONG by Amy Rae Durreson: 4 Hearts
Victorian airships and the mechanics who keep them working. Lord Marchmont and Shem are amusing and their discourse is funny. The nightingale brought me nearly to tears. The mystery and the experimentations to perfect the mechanics was a wonderful metaphor for Marchmont and Shem.
“Occam’s razor is a terrible obstacle to creative thought, you know.”
ACE OF HEARTS by Mary Pletsch: 4 Hearts
Love this WWI homage with all the arguing over military equipment development between the zeppelins and planes was great. William, an unfortunate accident during childhood left him on the sidelines. I loved this character and we spend the entire story following him. When he finally gets his chance to shine you just want to cheer for him. Even better, his prize is worth it.
Far better to belong to the skies, where death, when it came, was quicker and cleaner.
CARESS by Eli Easton: 4.5 Hearts
Brilliant tinker and broken soldier.
Two men caught up and used for war. Tinker, the Brain and creator of exquisite and deadly objects. I like his Edward Scissorhands-esque beginning and his transformation even more.
Colin, the Brawn and fashioned to perform gruesomely efficient tasks for the army. Given new hands by Tinker after the battlefield loss he is mechanized into a supersoldier. He accepts the cost due for the new hands, but begs for one thing:
He closed his eyes as he choked out the request. “Allow me to be tender to myself at least. No one else will ever want to touch me.”
Another short story with excellent details for world building, the grim reality of both the physical space and the emotional/psychological elements.
GALATEA’S CAPTAIN by Anka Grace: 3.5 Hearts
A matched set. Living metal and prosthetics’ innovation in this story of a privateer tinker and the diplomat. I liked the mythos around Talos. Even more, his quiet certitude it made me smile. While Kamil’s quiet circumspection made me wonder how these two would ever manage to bridge the gap.
Anyway the story of a pacifist and the privateer was surprising and made me smile. Mayhap a bit saccharine, but I enjoyed it.
If I didn’t know any better, I might think this to be a lovers’ reunion, but you make for an odd pair.”
SCREWS by R.D. Hero: 3 Hearts
After challenging his father, Julius is sent to a local factory to learn his place and fall in line. Julius doesn’t fit in, but he finds a friend. Hank is kind hearted and pragmatic. I loved the two, but this ended before I was ready.
“Never thought I’d have to be dealing with some young buck sniffing after me at this age.”
CLOCKWORK HEART by Kim Fielding: 4.5 Hearts
The golem and the watchmaker’s son.
Dante has chosen a path of solitude rather than constantly alter his work to “meet specifications”. I respect that, especially since he does whine about his accommodations and finds contentment with his choices. A lovely, little love story.
Nothing so mangled should be capable of movement, let alone… thought.
THE GOLDEN GOOSE by Mark Lesney: 2.5 Hearts
Unexpected, but wholly time appropriate pro-Socialist hero. One raving Lord Dennis, an inventor has sacrificed his family fortune to finance a great new machine. While testing it a thief falls into his life and changes fate.
Story was amusing in that it had a few twists. Not to my taste as it was a bit slapstick and rushed to an ending.
He was not a golden goose—just a simpleminded one.
SPINDLE AND BELL by Augusta Li: 3.5 Hearts
Bel is brilliant, a shiny golden figure through a window that Spindle spies. Time is fleeting and each moment is precious. While I appreciate the honesty of this tale of loss, it is as sad as it is happy and each smile is paid for with a heavy heart.
He wished he had Bel’s talent for saying exactly what he felt so prettily.
UNTOUCHABLE by Layla M. Wier: 3.5 Hearts
Prohibition powder keg with two Federal agents undercover.
Rawson, the grizzled field agent and Aldis ihs wet-behind the ears nanny are a good fit and entertaining. Their respective backgrounds are well developed and interesting. And the story has a very noir feel to it. A solid story, but not much in the way of fireworks.
My mouth tasted like metal. “Tell me how you lost your heart.”
SWIFTSILVER by Bell Ellis: 4 Hearts
Sweet and inspiring with an inventor and alchemist in partnership. I was drawn to Seamus innocence and pragmatism as he toils away until Thio drops into his life. Thio epitomizes the aristocratic dilettante. Bold and unconcerned of the consequences of his actions, to himself or others, and possessed of a blue-sky mentality.
Optimistic and breezy feel to story that could have been much darker.
“You appear to dampen his insanity oscillator.”