December 31, 2010

The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson

Date Started: December 2010
Date Finished: December 31, 2011

Summary: Sophie Hunter is an average young 15 year living in the 1930's Scotland. She goes to boarding school, but comes home on the weekend to live with her Great Aunt Tabitha. Sophie gets a rather startling message from a medium that has come to her great aunt's house. When this medium winds up dead, Sophie and her friend, Mikael, decide to conduct their own investigation that leads them into the dark political works of an alternate history Europe.

Likes: This novel is similar to taking a Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray and combined it with the dieselpunk nature of Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, yet it thrives as it's own story. I like the alternate history aspect of the story. What if... is always the greatest question a writer can ask and this story definitely answers the author's question of what would happen if the England had actually lost at Waterloo. The world would be a very different landscape and I like the author's reimaging of the world. I also like that the world wasn't an info dump either. The world starts off like an other world, but as a reader you realize that something is not quite right. Finally you learn what makes this world different. I always liked that the worldbuilding was done in a classroom where characters can discuss and critique some of the aspects of their world.

Sophie's character was well-written and very like 15 year old girl. Sometimes she wondered why she was being treated like a five year old when she sometimes acted like a child. She hated being teased, threw fits, got depressed, but she also fought against the constraints of society. When she realized her feelings for a certain character, I thought it was hilarious and I'm curious to know what becomes of their relationship in the other books.

Some of the paranormal aspects were crazy cool, I like the idea of the Dictaphone and typewriter being used as spiritual items that contained thoughts of the dead on a different wavelength. The spiritual photography was pretty awesome too.

Dislikes: The paranormal aspects felt a little like plot devices at some points and I think the remedy for that would have been for Sophie not to always get it right. These aspects made it a little too easy for Sophie to succeed and I can't imagine that they'd be that easy, even for her. Granted the story is already long enough as it is, it's just something I noticed. I'm curious to see what role it plays in the subsequent books.
Overall: Like Matched, the story reads like the first a series. It has to set up the rules of the world. It's not what I thought it was going to be. It's not a steampunk and it's not Victorian. It's a genre bender mixing in paranormal elements with dieselpunk but ultimately it's an alternate history. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Recommended by: I was looking for a steampunk reading challenge and failed to find one, but I found some intriguing websites. Finding Wonderland had a steampunk week and recommended this book. . This book was highly recommended, so I decided I had to check it out. I'm glad that I did.

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