3 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Lorraine Ulrich

Mechanical Magic by Lorraine Ulrich

::sigh:: This is one of those books I had tremendously high hopes for, which, in the end, might have helped to contribute to some of the disappointment I felt in it. It was pleasant enough, to be sure, but seemed as though it could’ve been much more with only just a bit more attention to detail and a whole lot more editing.

I love steampunk. Love. It. And the author did a great job of fulfilling my expectations (for the length of the book) of the imaginative and magical clockwork devices and wondrous atmosphere of a good and sooty steampunk world.

The relationship between Aster and Y’rean was touching (though underexposed), as both men are outcasts in a caste society where the city is even delineated into tiers; the lower terrace reserved for those such as Aster, a man who hides his heritage so he can continue to sell his brilliant and beautiful creations to the peerage that wouldn’t dare set foot in his shop were it known he came from gypsy stock.

Y’rean is an elf, perhaps lower in the social hierarchy than even a gypsy, as elves are little more than property, owned as slaves to the wealthy and forced into all manner of servitude, including fulfilling their Masters’ sexual proclivities. Y’rean is found near death after having his wings cut off for a perceived transgression, though the reader never discovers what brought about that horrific punishment, something I found I wanted very much to know since Earl Karloff von Whitsburg, Y’rean’s former Master, was introduced into the storyline but didn’t add much to it, something which felt a bit of a wasted opportunity for some added tension and drama.

As Aster patiently and lovingly nurses Y’rean back to health, their feelings for each other spring from their constant and close proximity. Or perhaps it was their physical attraction to each other. Either way, the evolution of that connection wasn’t explored in much depth. It wasn’t difficult to accept, however, as both men, their pasts, and the handicaps they’ve each suffered left them open for that emotional bond and they capitalized on it. It was sentimental and romantic and worked within the framework of the story.

My one niggle with this book, other than the fact the editors at Dreamspinner left some (for me) unforgivable errors hanging out there, is that this story felt like a great big world squeezed into a wee little box. It seemed as though there was so much more opportunity for exploring the elf world, the gypsy backstory, and the one character I was thoroughly intrigued by and wanted to know so much more about, Beznik, was introduced, then disappeared far too quickly.

Overall, I’d say this was a pleasantly effortless romance that I wish had made a little greater effort at being more.

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