and the Brass Dragon
About a year ago I reviewed the first book in the Gideon Smith series, Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. It was one of the first steampunk books I had ever read because it is admittedly not my favorite genre. But that one in particularly won me over. The characters, the manipulation of history, and the plot were all just well written and fun. It was a fun book. It was full of adventure and twists and it kept you wondering what came next.
That book ended on a cliffhanger and a dramatic one at that with a character’s future in limbo and the others looking to follow after in hot pursuit. So I was more than pleased that I was able to get a review copy of this second book because, man. This is like the only steampunk series I have really gotten into and I needed to know what was going to happen!
One of the reasons that I’m so attracted to this series in particular is the world building. It’s incredible. And this time around we traveled to the United States which is a much different place than you would expect. It’s a horribly divided country split between the colonies, the Confederacy, Texas, the Japanese land in the California Meiji, among others.
In the Brass Dragon, Gideon is hot on the tail of Louis Cockayne who – at the end of the last book while Gideon was saving the world – ran of with Maria and the massive brass dragon she came to control. Though the urgency of the moment is a bit delayed as the book itself takes a while to get them on the hunt. We take a number of detours to introduce a number of new characters and locations – include a half man Charles Darwin and a Jules Verne-esque lost world where dinosaurs still reign.
That, I think, was one of my favorite parts of the book. It seems disjointed, sure, but this is a world that is rich with possibilities. Barnett has created something that makes me want to know more and the Brass Dragon more than it’s predecessor brings us a diverse cast of characters from many different walks of life as varied as this alternate United States. Never at any point are you bored and when you think the main purpose of the book has been resolved they remind you that there are whole other plot points that need to be wrapped up still. And it develops a mythology all it’s own, creating dynamic figures and mysteries and potential.
It’s a book – and a series – that keeps you wondering and keeps you wanting.
I loved every moment of it.
Well, almost every moment.
As a proud Texan who was born here and chose to return to the homeland after finishing law school, I was a little disappointed in the portrayal of the Republic of Texas. It’s depicted largely – though not entirely – as a place of rape, slavery, and murder run by what I have to admit is an awesome Steampunk villain whose basically half man and half machine by choice. But being from Texas… that’s not us. So I look forward to later books where hopefully Texas is revisited in the aftermath and manages to become a much better place.
But all in all?
This was a worthy successor to Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. Though, admittedly, the first one will always have a special place in my heart for being the first steampunk book I ever really enjoyed.
Some sequels slow down a bit or don’t quite live up to the potential of their predecessors. This one, though? There’s no reason to be concerned about that at all. It’s a great book and if you enjoyed the first one you’ll definitely enjoy this one, too. So you should totally pick it up the first chance you get!