Book Review: The Machine by E. C. Jarvis

The machine

I was contacted several weeks ago by a new publishing company called Rambunctious Ramblings (don’t you love that name?!) and given the opportunity to review their first enterprise; a steampunk novel by new author, E. C. Jarvis. The book just came out at the beginning of the month, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of the genre, as long as they can cope with torture and violence.

Unlike many Steampunk stories, this one is not set in an alternative history of the Victorian era. This allows Jarvis great latitude to embrace tropes and the aesthetic of Steampunk without the need to fit them into events of the past. Purple corsets worn on the outside, a sexually aggressive heroine, airship pirates, and complex clockwork machines abound in the story, landing it squarely into the Steampunk camp rather than anything resembling historical fiction.

This adventure centers on Larissa Markus and the mysterious stone set in her necklace; the only link she has to a father whom she never met. We learn early on that this stone has remarkable qualities, including acting as a power source for a fusion reactor being built by the debonair Professor Maximillian Watts. During the initial testing, the lab is rocked by an explosion and the Professor kidnapped by Doctor Orother, a nefarious character hell-bent on learning the secret of the machine. Along with her cat and the Professor’s engineer, Larissa finds herself in a race against the clock to save the Professor.

I thought that the characters were strong and distinct, though I personally could have done with a bit less of the cat who is smarter than the people. I was rooting for Larissa all the way, which is not always the case with “strong female leads” I read. I find that too often the pursuit of this device just leads to stubborn or bitchy women, but I felt that Larissa was a fully developed and flawed character, and that humanity is what I look for in my heroines. I found her actions and reactions to feel authentic, with one notable exception.

As much as I liked the dialog, which felt realistic and well-paced, I could have done with fewer f-bombs. Don’t get me wrong, I swear as much as anybody, but I counted it used around 60 times throughout the story. I liked how Larissa picked up its usage from her time spent with Cid, the engineer, but other than that it didn’t really add anything to the story and could have been replaced by any number of more interesting adjectives, or dropped from the sentence without changing the meaning.

These criticisms aside, I thought this was a strong debut novel. I am very interested to see where to story goes in the next installment and I am looking forward to continuing to follow this story and these characters into the planned sequel, The Pirate. You can find The Machine on Amazon now.

Phoebe Darqueling is a Steampunk-inspired blogger and artist who currently resides in California, but knows her heart will always belong to Minnesota.

Like my reviews? Check out more cool stuff at my website!

Like my reviews? Check out more cool stuff at my website!

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