Book Review: For Steam and Country

This review’s been long in coming, but I’m finally getting to it. It’s always harder to do reviews when it’s been some time since I read the book, but I haven’t forgotten anything major. Full disclosure before I begin, I am friends with Jon del Arroz, the author of For Steam and Country. However, that didn’t factor in to my thoughts as I was reading.

For those who prefer short reviews, it was a very enjoyable, if light, read.

But I like reviews with some more (spoiler-free) details.)

I’ve had very minimal experience with steampunk, not counting seeing seeing people dressed in steampunk-style outfits at conventions. And while I like the look, the only steampunk book I’d read prior to this was Jim Butcher’s The Aeornaut’s Windlass, a year or two ago.

So, to intro For Steam and Country:

Her father’s been pronounced dead. Destructive earthquakes ravage the countryside. An invading army looms over the horizon. And Zaira’s day is just getting started…

Abandoned at an early age, Zaira von Monocle found life as the daughter of a great adventurer to be filled with hard work and difficulty. She quickly learned to rely on only herself. But when a messenger brought news that her father was dead and that she was the heir to his airship, her world turned upside down.

Zaira soon finds herself trapped in the midst of a war between her home country of Rislandia and the cruel Wyranth Empire, whose soldiers are acting peculiarly—almost inhuman. With the enemy army advancing, her newfound ship’s crew may be the only ones who can save the kingdom.

For Steam and Country is the first book in the Adventures of Baron Von Monocle series by top-10 Amazon best selling space opera author, Jon Del Arroz.

Not a complicated premise, but as we see too often today, people find plenty of ways to even mess up simple things. Fortunately, Jon does not do that. Zaira is an enjoyable and compelling protagonist, and doesn’t fall into the traps of not sounding like a teenager or seeming too perfect. I should also note that as someone who is generally not a big fan of the first-person perspective, I had no problem with it in this book. Thinking back to some of the YA I have read that is written in first person, I think it really just comes down to Zaira being a believable, well-written character. She makes the kind of mistakes that one might expect someone of her age and life experience to make, while also bringing something to the table that more experienced characters lacked.

The side characters, primarily key members of Zaira’s airship’s crew along with her love interest, are also well done. In particular, I liked the dynamic between Zaira and Captain von Cravat, and the captain also manages to be a believable action-oriented female character.

I don’t really have a whole lot else to say, as I’m avoiding spoiler territory. The pacing was very brisk, and everything very straightforward while the plot twists were not always things you could predict. It was a light read, and a quick one, but that comes with the YA territory. I would have liked to see James, the (likely) love interest a bit more, but there will be sequels to further flesh out his character, as well as some of the other side characters. We also only get a brief glimpse of who I assume will be the main villain going forward, so I look forward to more on him in the sequel, along with the grander scheme of things, which we only start to really learn about near the story’s end.

That’s all I’ve got, really. As I’ve said, it was a very fun read, if light. A very straight-up, old-fashioned adventure. Between this and Butcher’s book, I may yet end up calling myself a steampunk fan. Looking forward to the sequel!

You can pick up Jon’s book here, in either e-book or dead tree form (I went with print, in part because it’s got a wonderful cover.)

Before I go, one housekeeping note. Signing up for my new mailing list will get you a free sci-fi novelette immediately, along with (hopefully) monthly free short fiction. The mailing list will only be used for important announcements, along with a monthly update, and it’s an ideal way to keep informed when I have new stuff coming out, or special deals. There are great things coming down the pipeline, and this is the best time to get in, on the ground level!

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