Skies of Steel (The Ether Chronicles #3)--Zoe Archer (or, Skies of Awesome!)
Daphne Carlisle is in desperate need of help; her parents have beekidnapped and their captor is demanding a ransom. Captain Mikhail Denisov is her one chance to deliver the ransom and rescue them. A rogue Man O' War and mercenary, Mikhail has no loyalty save to his crew and the next fortune. Helping Daphne will net him quite a profit; then he can leave and move on to the next treasure. However, when these two are forced together on a journey across countries and seas, sparks start to fly.
I will admit; I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I have read Archer in the past and enjoyed the titles. I expected this book to be the same pleasant experience. (Of course, I have to admit the guy on the cover did have some influence on my choice of choosing this. I mean, come on! Dude is sporting a red tipped mohawk! How awesome is that!)
May I just say: Wow! I was just amazed. I've read several steampunk romances but they all seemed to be a different story set in the same scene with the same stories. I know that steampunk has a few set requirements to be called "steampunk" but these other stories just blurred together. There was nothing thrilling about them.
Not like in Skies of Steel. This story had an refreshing and original feel to it that I really enjoyed. The idea of a bionic solider is not new, I'm old enough to remember the Bionic Woman and Six-Million Dollar man, but I didn't think of either of those characters when reading this story. We got the impression mechanical attributes were an everyday occurrence in society but also a sense of wonderment at the marvels of human creativity. Archer also gave the other side of the story, too, demonstrating the cost of such of marvels. This story could have gone the way of social commentary like Tolstoy or Swift, but there wasn't a sense preaching or ranting. Instead Skies of Steel educated and entertained.
I also liked the widespread representation of cultures. I don't see enough mulit-cultural stories in print as I would like, but this one gave a sense of the different ethnicities and their traditions and histories not seen much in romances today. And they were handled very well too. There was no hint of condescension or use of stereotypes to differentiate one culture from another. There was a sense of respect and appreciation with each different group.
If I had to have a problem with this story, it would have been with the pace and length of the story. Not quite novella length, more like category sized, this story was fast paced and moved well until the end. At the end, the pace seemed to move double time and I felt rushed and left behind. Until this point, I had been right alongside of Daphne and her actions and reactions. (If you want to be honest, I wanted more story! I wasn't ready for it to end yet.)
This issue with pace wasn't bad enough, however, to impact my feelings to adversely. I was surprised at Daphne's and Mikhail's choice in the end and would have liked more story to demonstrate their decisions better. Overall, it was still a fantastic and engaging read; even now, having finished it some time ago, I want to go back and start reading it again.
Review copy from Edelweiss