Book Review: Steam on the Horzion: Aether Saga Volume 1 by Melissa Ann Conroy


Steam on the Horizon
Genere(s): Adventure, Steampunk, Sci-Fi
Format: Paperback
Publisher: SteamyGirl Publishing

Description: When the boiler explodes on the airship Lucky Lady, killing three men, first mate Gavin Roberts finds himself in the crosshairs of one of the most powerful men in Europe. Sir Cornelius Smothers, an iron-fisted shipping tycoon, has lost his youngest son in the boiler explosion and he holds Roberts responsible for the accident. Determined to rescue both the Lucky Lady and his own name, Roberts negotiates a deal with Smothers to purchase the ruined airship within three years, a bargain which promises certain death if he defaults. Renaming his crippled airship The Horizon, Roberts begins to rebuild her with the help of an eccentric inventor and a motley handful of loyal crew members. When The Horizon rises to life again as the fastest airship in the sky, she earns fame but also increases Smothers’ wrath against her new captain. Battling airship pirates and dodging malfunctioning automatons, Roberts must fight to keep the Horizon in the air and pay off his debt before his luck and his time run out.

Review: It is hard to go wrong by starting your book off with a boiler explosion. The real test, however, comes when an author can maintain the intensity of a boiler explosion throughout an entire book. Melissa Ann Conroy does just that with Steam on the Horizon. Pressure builds up steadily in this novel and when it has reached the point of no return, it explodes in action and adventure. For the reader, this cycle repeats itself several times and each time, the explosion is different, unique, and still maintains a high level of excitement.

Conroy has a unique take on Steampunk without trying to re-invent the genre or wow us with so many fantastic devices that we lose the story. She did plenty of research and did her best to keep the steam technology as close to plausible as she could. I like fantastic, steam powered Rube Goldberg devices as much as the next guy, but it is nice to see the normal boundaries pushed just a little and seeing the results. Conroy did her homework on not only the technology, but the history as well. I wish some more of her research had hit the spotlight during the book, but seeing as this is the first volume in the Aether Saga, I’m sure more of this extensive research will show up in subsequent volumes.

I have mixed emotions about the characters, I enjoyed them, rooted for them, and even liked them, but they were exactly what you would expect them to be. Cpt. Roberts could have been Mal from Firefly… actually, on the cover he does wear a brown coat. Oboe, the first mate, was both my favorite and most hated character. Oboe was my favorite because he was such a cool guy. He was strong, loyal (but not blindly so), well spoken, and an all around bad-ass. The problem is that he had no discernible flaws. His only disadvantage was that he was a black African. Now during this time, that would be a real hindrance to most people and as disturbing as racism is, it happened and it is part of history. For Oboe, there was very little conflict based on the color of his skin and if he had been less of a “superman” type of character, I think there could have been some really interesting encounters because of it. I understand that someone, somewhere would have cried racism if Oboe had been portrayed as anything other than what he was, but come on.

As a reader, I could tell that Ms. Conroy is running a distance race, not a sprint with this novel and the series that will follow. She didn’t try to push anything, and yet, I didn’t feel like she held back. I know there is more to this story in terms of significant events and the characters and based on volume 1, I really want to learn more. If you are tired of the same ole’ same ole’ Steampunk novel, this might be the novel that rejuvenates your love for steampunk and interest in the goggle clad genre.

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About Cape Rust

Cape has led a life of adventure and excitement. Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas he joined the Army where he served six years as a Military Policeman and six years as an All Source Intelligence Analyst. He served in such diverse places as South Korea, Germany, Bosnia, Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Kansas, Alabama, Kentucky and Arizona. After leaving the Army he spent 4 years training African Soldiers for peacekeeping missions. After visiting ten different African nations (some several times) he developed training materials for counter IED training. He now builds web sites for the Army. He enjoys PC Gaming, Table Top RPGs, reading and shooting. He has been married to his wife Laurie for almost 18 years and has two daughters Mallie and Megan. He is currently the caretaker of one of the world’s largest corgis Truman and a clowder of cats that includes Midnight, Smokey and Tum Tum Monster Destroyer.