So, I’m a sucker for great covers (and this, my friend, is a seriously great cover) and swashbuckling titles – throw in a bit of Steampunk and Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders fits the bill. On a bit of a lark, I grabbed the book (OK, downloaded) and began reading it. This is an unabashed, old-fashioned fun read. If you’re looking for angst, complexity and subtlety, you probably want to look elsewhere. If you’re looking for some fun action/adventure populated with characters whose names include Katzenjammer Smelt (snobby Imperial), Ivan Gorky (mechanic) and, I kid you not, Pluteus Brassballs (General), you know you’re in for some fun. Just in case you’re in any doubt, you have dialog like:
“Ahoy! Ahoy! You greasy cloud rats!” Buckle shouted into the chattertube mouthpiece at his left elbow, his voice loud enough to overcome the howl of the wind passing the gondola and the hum of the maneuvering propellers behind. “Eleven o’clock low! Target in sight! Man your battle stations ! I repeat— though don’t make me repeat it again—man your battle stations!”
Preston Jr., Richard Ellis (2013-07-02). Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders (The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin, Book One) (p. 9). 47North. Kindle Edition.
Sabrina mumbled the words she often mumbled, even though afterward she always regretted mumbling them, but she was by nature something of a cynic. “We’re sitting ducks.” “Piece of cake,” Buckle responded absentmindedly, as he had many times before. “Sure, a real peach,” Sabrina answered. She peered down at the shattered landscape and then leaned over her navigation table to check her map .
Preston Jr., Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders (pp. 14-15). 47North. Kindle Edition.
You might be tempted to dismiss this book as being on the very Y end of the YA. I like to think of it more as a sort of “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” or Indiana Jones type of throwback adventure. It would make a great Saturday morning matinée serial. There are large gestures, big struggles and the characters who certainly stay true-to-form. There is, however, a bit more beneath the surface: the orphans have secrets, surprises mount and not everything is quite as it seems. It looks to become somewhat more complicated in Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War as the relationships, good and bad “sides” and game plan all blur a little grayer and morph a bit towards the end of City of Founders.
What do I love about the book?
- The Steampunk setting is well done with vivid descriptions of the various apparatii.
- This is a book that is just plain fun to read. Unadulterated entertainment which deserves a bowl of popcorn and coke, a chair by the window and some time to read.
- There is some development of characters and relationships.
- It’s fun to have clear heroes, trusting cohorts and a fairly straight-forward world.
What am I less enthusiastic about?
- The language and action were so broad-based and cliché in the beginning that it was almost too simplistic. Over the length of the book, however, it grew a little more subtle and I became a little less jaded.
As is my habit (aided by the brilliant Whispersync for Voice), I went between the Kindle and Audible version. Luke Daniels did a nice job narrating; he played it up like it was written – true to form; heroes sound like heroes and snobs sound snobby. The only slight point to pick was somewhere between half to two-thirds through the recording it was evident that Mr. Daniels was in a recording session that sounded different, whether that was due to a different studio or other equipment change. It wasn’t better or worse, just different enough to be noticeable.
Overall, this book has a solid storyline with lots of fun and some pretty interesting characters. To be perfectly clear in my praise, it reaches that high standard of wanting to read more: I’ve already bought Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War.