Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

September is Steampunk
Steampunk is what would happen if we mixed Victorian fashion with lots of gadgets, and added some adventures. Not all of these take place in Victorian times, but they all have elements of steampunk. It's a favorite genre of mine, and I hope you enjoy.

Tessa can't wait to see her brother Nate again. After a long trip from America, she's finally arrived in London. Expecting to see Nate on the train platform, she is surprise to be greeted by a strange man, who takes her to meet two stranger women. The "Dark Sisters," Mrs. Dark and Mrs. Black, have a letter of introduction from her brother. They invite her into their home, but for more nefarious purposes than she could have imagined.

It seems Nate has been kidnapped by these women, who threaten her with hurting him, always demanding she "Change," beating her when she fails. What is this Change they speak of? Soon, after much torture and coaching, she learns she can transform into someone else, simply by touching an object that was once one of their possessions. On more than one ghastly occasion, they force her to turn into someone who has been murdered. She can hear their thoughts, recognize people they knew in their life, she truly becomes the person in a sense. This power unnerves her, and she longs to escape.

When she hears the Sisters plotting to marry her to "The Magister," Tessa gets desperate. She can't marry a stranger! Especially one who is in league with the Dark Sisters! Her attempts to escape seem futile until she ends up knocking her would-be rescuer in the head with a jug. Luckily, Will's rather resilient.

Will is a Shadowhunter and member of the Nephilim. After killing one Dark Sister, and rescuing Tessa, he and the other Shadowhunters bring her back to their headquarters, the Institute. Their leader is a short but powerful woman named Charlotte. The Shadowhunters' goal is to uncover the plot behind Tessa's kidnapping...but Tessa just wants to find her brother. She agrees to help them, if they will help her find Nate. In a scheme designed to trick the ringleader, she agrees to use her ability to Change. However, it may be that the Shadowhunters are in for a surprise, after all.

This delightful cast of characters will keep you interested, as well as the possible tension between Tessa, Will, and Jem. No one can resist a smoldering bad boy, or his faithful, kindhearted friend, right? Well-written, and fast paced, great for fans of supernatural adventures.
"It had been a day of firsts. The first time she had used her power at her own wish and discretion, and had felt good about it. The first time she had fired a pistol. And - the only first she had ever dreamed of, for years - her first kiss. Tessa rolled over, burying her face in the pillow. For so many years she had wondered what her first kiss would be like - if he would be handsome, if he would love her, if he would be kind. She had never imagined that the kiss would be so brief and desperate and wild. Or that it would taste of holy water. Holy water and blood," (Clare pg. 293, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

Clare, Cassandra. (2010). Clockwork Angel. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

Modo owes everything to Mr. Socrates. He was the one who rescued him from the freak show as a small child, taught him what he was capable of, taught him how to defend himself, and think for himself. Mr. Socrates educated him, trained him...and then, left him, on the streets of London to fend for himself? His final test, it seems, is to survive on his own. Mr. Socrates promises to find him when the time is right...

Modo's most distinguishing features are his hideously distorted face and hunchback. Not exactly the kind of thing you expect people to see beyond, unless you also have Modo's unique ability: to morph into whatever or whomever he desires. His disability need not prevent him from being a member of society, except that the shape-shifting has a limited window of time in which to work.

After he is dumped in London, he establishes himself in a small apartment and does odd detective work for a fee. No one sees his face during their interactions, and he primarily travels by rooftop. What better way to explore London without unnecessary distractions or traffic? One day, a beautiful woman (by the sound of it) inquires about some changes that have come over her brother since joining a scientific society.

Modo makes a visit to this society to inquire about the nature of its membership, and is greeted with less than friendly results. In fact, he gets beaten up by a man with what seems to be a metal arm! After imprisoning him, and setting the building alight, Modo manages to escape and track down this "sister."

Tavia may not be anyone's sister, but she does happen to also be working for Mr. Socrates. After being reunited, Modo is informed of the treacherous nature of the society they are going up against. The Clockwork Guild, as they are known, are working with a Dr. Hyde who is known for his experiments with animal hybridism. The exact nature of their scheme is still unclear, however there are several incidents which lead to the conclusion that they are "up to no good."

Very well written, it's just enough Dr. Jekell and Mr. Hyde meets The Hunchback of Notre Dame for audiences to feel familiar with the characters, but enough of a departure to be fresh.
"Steam geysered out the seams of the giant's clothing. He swung his massive arm again and Modo caught hold of it. Fuhr slammed him up against the wall. Modo wrenched himself away, ripping the sleeve from Fuhr's jacket. Modo's jaw dropped. The arm was made of metal! Pistons pushed back and forth between steel bones, the steam pumping out of holes in narrow iron plates. Fuhr swung yet again, Modo ducked and the man's fist pounded a hole in the wall. Modo shuddered: What such a blow would do to his skull!" (Slade pg. 75, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Dark Deeps: Hunchback Assignments #2 by Arthur Slade
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
Soulless by Gail Carriger

Slade, Arthur. (2009). The Hunchback Assignments. New York, NY: Wendy Lamb Books.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Alek, better known as the son of the Archduke of Austria, next in line for the throne, has had better days. He's woken up in the middle of the night, rushed around by his fencing instructor, piled into a walking machine, and made to march across the country for weeks. Why? Only because the Germans assassinated his parents to instigate World War I, of course! Like I said, he's having a rough time. In addition to this, he has to get out of Austria before someone kills him. Turns out his uncle, the Emperor of Austria, denies that Alek has any claim to the throne...because Alek's mom wasn't of royal birth. So pretty much his whole life, he's been made to feel like a fake prince. Losing both his parents at once, and running for his life is not exactly helping things.

Deryn wants so badly to be a member of the British Air Service. Her Da used to pilot a hot air balloon, and she loved it. After her Da passed away, it's the only thing she can think of that will give her another chance to fly. The obvious problem? It's 1914, and she's a girl. Using some serious tomboy skills, some advice from her brother, and the fact that she doesn't look a lot like a girl to her advantage, she signs up as Dylan Sharp. Turns out she is a serious airship(wo)man , and lucks out getting assigned to the Leviathan.

This story takes place in an altered history, which uses similar historical events (like World War I) but changes things to bring about a different future. One of the major element changes in this 1914: mechanical walking machines and bio-engineered animals. Starting to see some steampunk elements? The Germans (Clankers) are really into mechanical tech, while the British (Darwinists) prefer armored, engineered animals. It's a fascinating concept to think what might have happened if Darwin had engineered new species.

So, back to our protagonists. Dylan's ship, the Leviathan, is a huge collection of different animals which acts like a hydrogen airship. (S)he shows enough skill and daring to stay on board as they take on some interesting passengers and cargo. En route to deliver said cargo, the ship encounters enemy fire. They land on a glacier (not an ice berg) near where Alek and his "family" are camped. Alek first meets Dylan when he cuts her loose, and (s)he promptly proceeds to turn him into the higher ups. Without giving too much away, there is some great action, really cool drawings by Keith Thompson, fantastic slang ("Barking spiders!"), and the promise of more to come.

If you like steampunk, this is a must read. I was a little disappointed at how Westerfeld kept jumping back and forth between characters, and the storyline seemed disjointed. When the storylines joined, it was a much more enjoyable read.
"Maybe this was how you stayed sane in wartime: a handful of noble deeds amid the chaos," (Westerfeld, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Westerfeld, Scott. (2009). Leviathan. New York, NY: Simon Pulse.

The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

The narrator begins by telling us to put down this book. "Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it." Strange how when someone tells you not to do something, you want to do it even more. Of course, I kept reading.

Edward Moon is a singularly arresting character, a formerly affluent member of Victorian English society, and an intriguing master of illusion and mind reading. His partner on the stage is known simply as The Somnambulist. The Somnambulist never speaks, and communicates only through hand-written messages on a slate he carries with him. Perhaps the singular most spectacular feat the two exhibit involves the Somnambulist being pierced with several long swords, every night, but exhibiting no wounds or signs of distress.

Another of Moon's endeavors is like that of Sherlock Holmes, a bit of an amateur detective consulted by Scotland Yard for especially baffling cases. The latest bit of bother involves a mysterious murder. At first glance, it seems ordinary...and then, another murder followed by the disappearance of both murdered men's mothers?

The Directorate, an underground government organization dedicated to preventing threats to Queen and country, may not always use scrupulous means to get what they want. They blackmail Moon into service, and take him to see a psychic...who may actually not be a total fake. The scariest part? She's predicting the end of the 10 days.

As Moon and the Somnambulist begin to uncover more and more of this deep plot, more colorful characters are introduced, including Barrabas. Barrabas, also known as The Fiend, is a gluttonous prisoner, obsessed with beautiful trinkets. His previous association with Moon is hinted at, and it's believed that Barrabas may know more than he lets on.

As the foretold day approaches, events start to spin out of control. Will they be able to uncover who's behind it all, and stop them before they bring down the entire city? A fantastic steampunk Victorian murder mystery that crosses over for teens rather nicely. There is quite a bit of grisly subject matter, so recommended for older teens.
"Moon allowed himself a private, faintly malicious smile at their departure before flinging wide his arms. 'Applause,' he cried, 'for the city's most remarkable man! Asleep! Awake! The celebrated sleepwalker of Albion Square! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...the Somnambulist!'" (Barnes pg. 23, 2007).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

The Domino Men by Jonathan Barnes
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

Barnes, Jonathan. (2007). The Somnambulist. New York, NY: William Morrow.

Mister Monday by Garth Nix (Keys to the Kingdom Series)

Arthur is kind of a weenie. His asthma prevents him from most strenuous activity, and his family moves a good deal, so it's hard for him to make friends. In fact, he's what you might call "ordinary." So much so, that when Mr. Monday and Skeezer show up during his gym class, he really has no idea what's going on. How could he? Even if he IS the rightful heir to the Will of the Architect, creator of all things, including the House and the Secondary Realms....wait, what?

It turns out that the Architect was the one who created everything out of Nothing (not nothing mind you, Nothing). She created the House, and the denizens of the House, who endeavor to watch and catalog the goings on of the Secondary Realms (which is pretty much anywhere outside of the House, and includes Earth), but not to interfere. So when the Architect died, she left a Will and Trustees (who are conveniently named after the days of the week) to watch over the House until a suitable Heir can be found. Of course, no one likes to give up their the Trustees hide the Will away, after breaking it into seven pieces, and increasingly start to interfere with the Secondary Realms. PHEW! Are you confused yet? Arthur sure is, especially when his friends start succumbing to the "Sleepy Plague" as they are calling it, which seems to be caused by contamination from the House.

It turns out, Part 1 of the Will has found a way to get to Arthur. Armed with the Key, and the Compleat Atlas of the House (a very useful book), he must find a way to fight Mr. Monday for control of the Lower House. Lucky for him, he meets Suzy Turquoise Blue, one of the Piper's Children brought from Earth long ago, along with all the Rats. She, it seems, is the carrier of the Will...albeit in the guise of a frog! The three plot Mister Monday's downfall, but will they ever make it past all his guards, traps, prisons, and more?

Excellent juvenile fantasy, and recommended for lovers of Harry Potter.
"Don't look, part of his mind said. If you don't see trouble, it doesn't exist. But it does, thought Arthur, fighting down the fear. Keep breathing slowly. You have to confront your fears. Deal with them," (Nix, 2003).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

Nix, Garth. (2003). Mister Monday. New York, NY: Scholastic.