For today’s book, we’re headed into the world of Steampunk–one of my favorites, but one of the hardest to do right!
The Dockland Kingslayer
After witnessing the wrongful execution of his parents, Alistair Métis seeks his king for answers to a never-ending list of questions. However, a lowborn child cannot escape the shackles of poverty to scour cobbled streets while on the run from the law. Alistair, too, was sentenced to die for his father’s crimes.
In Book 1 of the Steamworks in the Bylea series, Alistair’’s journey spans the unforgiving Western realm of Falone. His tale brims with airships, cutthroats, war, mischief, and wonder.
My Review: 3 Stars
I opened this book expecting a great steampunk novel, but was sadly disappointed: THERE WAS NO STEAMPUNK! Or at least, none that stood out to me. I read nothing of airships, steampunk vehicles, or gadgets. The only thing (I think) that was remotely steampunk was a set of armor, but even that was unclear to me. It could have been a normal fantasy book and the story wouldn’t have changed.
The wording throughout the book is quite clunky and overdone. It’s hard to understand, and not because it’s too intelligent. It’s just phrased awkwardly, with expressions that make you read them three or four times to comprehend.
The book starts off too slowly, and it doesn’t pick up speed for at least a few chapters. Even then, it takes until the middle of the book to really get rolling and interesting. There’s no natural flow to the book, and it just doesn’t have the climax and tension that you want in an action novel.
The present tense of the story seems a bit off. When it switches to past tense for the flashbacks, it’s jarring. The flashbacks are not only unnecessary, but they could have been done much better. The ending didn’t make any sense to me, and it felt like the story didn’t work.
I got a feeling that the author was trying to be very creative and original in their writing, which could be a good thing, but it fell flat in this case.
Of course, the world built by the author is rich and fascinating, but the writing detracted from the story so much that it was hard to enjoy.
Here’s a Taste:
Arrows whistle past Alistair’s ears. He falls to the snow, dropping his rusted blade. Scrambling to retrieve his weapon, Alistair crawls past Tiro Gage. The young man lies pierced with an entire quiver’s worth of arrows. Two arrows pin his neck to the blood-drenched snow, five litter his chest, one in his shin, and the last goes through his armpit.
“Exemplar, no . . .” Alistair mutters, his lips trembling at the sight of the wheat-haired boy spitting out and gulping down a fountain of his own fluids. Tiro Gage squirms, writhing in pain.
“Leave him!” Tiro Beckett exclaims, taking off into the woods. “Get out of their line of sight!”
“Tiro Gage, y-you have to stand. They’re sending another volley.” Alistair holds his hand above an arrow piercing Tiro Gage’s lung. “D-do you want me to pull it out?”
Tiro Gage does not respond. His head, though resting against his chest, angles toward the redoubt.
“Come on, Tiro Métis! Move your arse!” shouts Tiro Beckett over her shoulder. “Leave him!”
Alistair scrambles through the snow, grabs his falcata, and takes off running in Tiro Beckett’s direction. He dances past a swarm of arrows landing just short of his feet. Leaping and ducking under the volley as he sprints across the field, Alistair finds safety in the trees.
Tiro Beckett holds her back to a tree thick enough to provide cover for a few more Tirones. Short sword in hand, her chest rises and falls rapidly, fear splaying her face. Alistair sprints over to her tree, then takes a squat at her feet.
“What do we do?”
“I don’t know! Give me a minute to think,” Tiro Beckett responds, tearing at the sight of Tiro Gage lying in a puddle of his own blood. “Is he—”
“We don’t have a minute!” Alistair interrupts, poking his head out of cover. “They’re going to know where we’re hiding.”
“Okay.” Tiro Beckett inhales and exhales a triplet of breaths. “Okay, I know what to do.” She pokes her head out from the other side of the tree, then waves Alistair over. Lifting a finger at the side of the redoubt, she says, “See those men running out to the front? They’re going to hook inward to hit our incoming swordsmen.”
“Well, they’re going to flank our men, Tiro Métis; it will be our job to stop them. When they hook in, we attack from the back and take them down for good.”
“And what about the archers? We don’t want to end up like Tiro Gage.”
“Shields.” Tiro Beckett takes the clunky piece off her back and slaps the embroidered iron star on the front. “Tough hide may not be the best against spears, but it’ll stop most arrows from that distance. Plus, I doubt these rebels have spearmen.”
Alistair nods. “Okay, okay, I-I think we can do this.”
Tiro Beckett peeks out once more, then looks back at Alistair. “Ready?”
“Aye. Let’s do it.”
The two charge out into the field just as a small group of rebels in civilian wear comes running out, swords held high above their heads.
What in blazes are they doing? Do they even know how to swing a sword?
One of the rebels—a bearded, plump man—turns his gaze on Alistair, then charges in his direction. He roars a blood-chilling cry before swiping twice at Alistair with the full force of his sword arm. Alistair blocks the first attack, then ducks under the second. He kicks the rebel in the chest and plunges his sword into his opponent’s upper leg—right below the knee; the man collapses to the snow, screaming in pain.
“Do it, you miserable bastard!” he shouts up at Alistair, clenching his weeping wound.
Before Alistair can stab his falcata downward, into the heart of the rebel, Tiro Beckett shoves Alistair aside as another rebel swings down on him. He misses, and Alistair falls face-first into the snow. The ice burns his face.
Alistair cranes his head to find Tiro Beckett sliding her sword across the downed rebel’s throat. She turns her attention on the second rebel closing in on her. Unlike his ally, the other rebel appears to know how to fight—not as well as any Tiro, but enough to assume there had been a scheduled sword practice every month or so.
Tiro Beckett deflects his attacks with her shield arm, then falls to the ground as he delivers a swift kick square into the middle of her shield. The force is enough to drop and disarm her.
“Gotcha now, you filthy bitch!” the rebel yells, jumping on top of her.
Tiro Beckett grabs the dirk strapped to her hip and slides the blade across the rebel’s forearm.
“Blazes!” he bellows, leaping off. He loses control of his sword arm, and resorts to holding his sword in his other hand. “I’ll have your head for this, tart.”
Alistair grips his falcata tight. “For king and country.” He takes off running.
With a sickening sloshing and unnatural resistance, Alistair drives his falcata to the hilt through the rebel. The man wails in agony, looking down at the blade pierced through his stomach.
“Exemplar! Why have you forsaken me?” the rebel shrieks skyward. He does not move—not until Alistair pulls out the sword and drives a heel into his back.
With the rebel flat on his stomach, Alistair stabs his falcata into the stranger’s back, plunging it deep below the man’s navel, pulling it out, and then stabbing repeatedly with increased momentum each time. The man cries weaker and weaker in response to each stab, until his cries fade and he can no longer speak at all.
About the Author:
V.C. Remus holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northern Illinois University. He is an economist, chess instructor, runner, RPG gamer, musician, songwriter, and avid reader of numerous genres. He is from Chicago, Illinois and owns three bunnies. To escape studying for his Series 7 and 63 examinations, he writes fantasy novels. His critically acclaimed debut series “Steamworks in the Bylea” was imagined on a late night in June of 2013 and completed on an early February morning in 2015. Watch for the sequel in 2016.
Find him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vcremusauthor
Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Steamworks-Bylea-V-C-Remus-ebook/dp/B00TWJNULQ