Book review – Thomas Riley

Oh Ahnonay, how much I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.
Well, not many actually, but it’s extremely annoying when you find you missed one cloth and have to go through the whole thing again. Aargh.

On other news, I was in Negilahn waiting for the portal to appear and decided to pass the time by writing a short review of a steampunk YA book I read recently. So here you go:

“Thomas Riley”, by Nick Valentino

Plot recap: Thomas Riley and his assistant Cynthia Bassett are alchemists and weapon makers for the country of West Canvia, in the middle of a decennial war with the bordering country of Lemuria. When Cynthia becomes the unintentional receptacle of the soul of the Duke’s sister, she and Thomas will have to cross the Lemurian border and find the only person who can help them – their enemy counterpart. Of course things don’t go as planned, and adventure ensues. And oh, did I mention there are sky pirates?

Review: I quite liked this book. The first few pages didn’t quite grip me but I liked how the story developed from there, and the plot is a simple, straightforward romp which makes for good, lighthearted reading.
I really loved the attention to details and the inclusion of nice scenes like the mechanical bear or the ghost people – background touches that work both as world building and possible hooks for sequels, without burdening the story with dangling subplots.
Thomas and Cynthia also work very well as a duo, and you can easily believe they have been working together for some time. Cynthia in particular, while being absent for a good while in the second part of the novel, leaves a remarkable impression as a strong-willed capable woman with distinct shades of Emma Peel – especially in her attention to a comfortable yet stylish wardrobe!

There are however a few things that didn’t work for me: the obsession on describing characters and their clothing bring to the occasional halt in the narration, and there are also some typos (‘decent’ for ‘descent’ over all, since it was a repeated offense) and some things that look like leftovers from a rewriting, which a stronger editing before publication could have taken care of.
I was also confused by the use of some terms, like ‘Gatling’, which hint back to our real world, since there wasn’t any clear hint in the story about how much the world in the book differs from our own (or if there were any, I missed them). To use an example: Girl Genius, while using fictional countries like Thomas Riley, also uses real ones like England and states several times that the background for the action is the European continent.

Overall a very nice YA book, good for young and not-so-young readers. Here’s to hoping for a sequel!

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