This week’s Danger Gal Friday post profiles Caroline Bristol from Cindy Spencer Pape’s new steampunk release from Carina Press, STEAM & SORCERY.
From the book’s description:
Sir Merrick Hadrian hunts monsters, both human and supernatural. A Knight of the Order of the Round Table, his use of magick and the technologies of steam power have made him both respected and feared. But his considerable skills are useless in the face of his greatest challenge, guardianship of five unusual children. At a loss, Merrick enlists the aid of a governess.
Miss Caroline Bristol is reluctant to work for a bachelor but she needs a position, and these former street children touch her heart. While she tends to break any mechanical device she touches, it never occurs to her that she might be something more than human. All she knows is that Merrick is the most dangerously attractive man she’s ever met—and out of reach for a mere governess. When conspiracy threatens to blur the distinction between humans and monsters, Caroline and Merrick must join forces, and the fate of humanity hinges upon their combined skills of steam and sorcery…
Cindy Spencer Pape has described this story along the lines of “Mary Poppins meets Van Helsing,” which is interesting on its own, but I also enjoyed the Arthurian elements and “easter egg” references to other period books (can you find the PRIDE & PREJUDICE nod?). While she blends all three elements well, what really drew me into the story was Caroline “Caro” Bristol and young Winifred “Wink” Carter.
With Caro, Pape managed to create a very ladylike character of the Mary Poppins mold who carries a mean umbrella and knows how to use it. Caro learned of necessity to defend herself against unwanted male advances and is also a crack shot with a revolver. Sixteen-year-old Wink, on the other hand, debuts in the story kicking vampyre arse and taking names. Then we find out what a genius engineer she is. During the course of the story, Wink creates three clockwork animals: a mastiff, a monkey, and a lark.
I liked that Merrick never feels the need to out-compete Caro. He respects her talents and never wants her to diminish herself in any way. I also liked that Caro turns out to indeed be “something more than human.” Merrick may be descended from Artorius himself, but Caro has her own otherworldy aspect not to be taken lightly.
A steampunk Mary Poppins with an otherworldly twist, I thoroughly enjoyed the world-building and strong characters in this story. STEAM & SORCERY is the first of the Gaslight Chronicles, with a free novella sequel called PHOTOGRAPHS & PHANTOMS available from Carina Press in April 2011. I’m really hoping to see a grown-up Wink in a future story.