Reading Level: Adult
Size: 416 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Bookman Histories series
Source: Audiobook through Audible.com
Rating: 3/5 stars
I read the 2nd book in the Bookman Histories, Camera Obscura, last year and really enjoyed it. I was excited to go back and read the book that started it all. Unfortunately this book was just okay for me; I had trouble engaging with the characters and the story just seemed to drag on and on.
I listened to this on audiobook which I do not recommend. The narrator distinguished between voices of different characters well, but his choices for voices were often shrill and obnoxious. There were character voices in the book that made me flinch with their shrillness. Definitely don’t listen to this on audiobook.
This book tells the story of Orphen. He is a poet who wants nothing more than to live our his life with his beloved Lucy. When Lucy is murdered by the terrorist The Bookman, Orphen goes on a quest of revenge. He will either get Lucy back, kill the Bookman, or die trying. Unfortunately for Orphen he becomes deeply embroiled in a plot full of alien lizard races and automatons.
As with Camera Obscura, I enjoyed the wonderfully creative world here. The British Empire is run by a lizard race, automatons are struggling for their rights, and the Bookman seems to have eyes and agents everywhere. Unfortunately since I was introduced to this world in Camera Obscura, while I still enjoyed it, some of the novelty had worn off for me.
I had a lot of trouble engaging with Orphen. His is kind of whiny and weak as a character; he is a poet at heart and spends a lot of time whining about loosing Lucy. He wants to take action but is continually swept up in events that are bigger than he is. By his own omission for most of the book he is a pawn.
The majority of the storyline revolves around political struggles between the lizard folk, the Bookman, the Automatons, and the British people. If you like politics you may really enjoy this. I personally am not big on politically focused books and constantly had trouble staying engaged in the story.
The story takes many side trips along the way. You may find yourself suddenly emerged in a history of this or that when you thought you were on an adventure to a different locale. This lead to the storyline being somewhat ambiguous and convoluted. I was listening to this and constantly found my mind wandering and missing parts of the story because I just couldn’t stay interested in what was going on.
As I said the writing wanders a bit and the pacing is slow. There is some wonderful descriptive writing throughout though and the dark and bleak environments really come alive. There is an oddly heavy science fiction element to this steampunk story as well.
Overall an okay book. The world is wondrous and creative and the descriptions very well done. The main character of Orphan was a weak one though and I had trouble staying engaged. The story was ambiguous at times and wandered quite a bit, again I had trouble staying focused on what was going on at points because I just didn’t care. The story was very political in nature, which I don’t care much for. If you love steampunk stories and are interested in a politically motivated steampunk story that is a bit ambiguous you might like this book. Personally I would recommend Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series over this one.