Book Review

Asher’s Invention


Title: Asher's Invention
Author: Coleen Kwan
Publication Info: Carina Press 2012
ISBN: 978-14268-9398-8
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Asher's Invention by Coleen Kwan - a close up of a guy in a suit with high collar holding some sort of glowing clockwork thing in his hands. I thought I would love Asher's Invention.  It's a steampunk romance with an enigmatic scientist hero.  It has a great cover and a clockwork dog. 

But, alas, it suffers from boring characters and a lack of plot, and I have Things to Do, so this was a “did not finish” for me.

I actually admired the writing style used by the author, although I find it hard to articulate why, specifically, since there were also some truly clunky sentences.  The first paragraph was a gem but everything deteriorated from there.  Asher doesn't read like a modern ebook that happens to be set in the 1870's.  It reads like a full length Victorian novel with subtle steampunk touches.  Unfortunately all that polished writing isn't about anything or anyone interesting.  The plot is that Minerva's father is a con man who cheated Asher, a young inventor, out of an invention.  Minerva is the daughter of the inventor.  She and Asher were lovers but when Asher discovered he was being cheated he assumed that Minerva was in on it and they parted bitterly.  Now time has passed, Asher is famous, and Minerva comes to him for help becsuse her father has been kidnapped.

The success of a book like this depends on its having a vivid steampunk atmosphere, interesting characters, and a compelling plot. As of page 78, only the atmosphere works, and not all that well. 

Let's start with Asher – he's supposed to be a mysterious scientist, but although he is a brilliant inventor who is “physically the most beautiful man she [Minerva] had ever seen”, he's also a snobby jerk who complains about his butler being “presumptuous” when the butler adds some extra food to the tea tray when company comes.  He is noble when the plot requires it.  He says things to Minerva that I think we are supposed to think are nice but they sound patronizing to me.  He is a character, not a person.

Then there's Minerva, the dumbass.  She wins Asher's sympathy by swooning because she's been so worried about her father that she refuses to eat.  I realize that loss of appetite is a common reaction to stress but you'd think that if Minerva is as smart as she's supposed to be she'd choke enough down to keep from passing out.  She's supposed to be a good inventor in her own right but we never see her invent anything.  At a critical juncture she finds herself too feeble and nervous to break open a small glass vial.  It's not even like her damsel in distress syndrome has a compelling psychological reason.  She's smart when the story requires it and dumb when the story requires it or when the author thinks it will make the story more compelling.

As of page 78 Minerva is in peril because she fell off a bridge into the river.  If there are train tracks in this book I fully expect her to tie herself to them by accident.  That's just how she is.  It's not played for laughs.  We're supposed to admire her pluck.  I don't.

It's not like there's a ton of story, either.  Granted, I'm only on page 78 and it looks like things are picking up what with the raging river, etc., but up until now there's been no action.  I don't need a book to have action.  I like character driven, contemplative stories just as much as I like my crazy steampunk rocketship zombie mash-ups.  But it's not like a lot of contemplative stuff that's satisfying to read about goes on in this story either.  Minerva was a dupe.  Asher was betrayed.  Now he believes she was innocent which, frankly, just adds to the perception that she is stupid.  This is boring.

There's good language in here and I think this author has promise even though I just verbally barfed all over her book.  The author needs to build more solid things to use the language on – good characters that feel like actual people, a story that makes sense and moves along, dialogue that seems authentic.  This particular book didn't cut it for me, but if anyone read past page 78. please let us know if it improves – the first paragraph gives me hope.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | iBooks | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    SB Sarah says:

    NO idea why comments were closed – was an accident. Sorry about that! Open, comment sesame!

  2. 2
    Lyra Archer says:

    Now when you say like a Victorian novel, are we talking like Varney the Vampire kind of novel? Because yeah, you deserve a medal for even making it to page 78!

  3. 3
    CarrieS says:

    Here’s part of the first paragraph (any spelling errors are my own):

    “Never in her worst imaginings had she thought it would come to this.  Minerva tilted back the drooping feather of her hat and wiped a raindrop from her nose.  All day the rain had been unrelenting.  The draughty third-class train carriage had rattled and jolted all the way down from Manchester.  She couldn’t afford a hansom cab from the station, so she had walked, and now she shivered on the porch of a fashionable Kensington villa, waiting for her door knock to be answered”.

    See, that’s not too bad -was such a let down that nothing and nobody was interesting once Minerva knocked on the door!

  4. 4

    If her worse imaginings extend only to rainy weather and uncomfortable public transportation, I hope Minerva never is transported to the Pacific Northwest. We have no patience for weather complaints. I’ve heard locals say that you can always spot the tourists by their umbrellas. As in, they have them.

  5. 5
    Lyra Archer says:

    Ah- well if this story took after Varney, it would have taken her at least three more paragraphs to get to the door, and another one to knock on it (I’m seriously not kidding about that). The desperation of paid-by-the-word seems to be missing from this book, which looks rather neat and trim by comparison. A greater sadness that it turned out to be such a disappointment.

  6. 6
    StarOpal says:

    But… But I really like the cover. When I saw it on the front page I was like “Oh, shiny!” then saw the DNF and was disappointed before even reading the review to find out why it was a DNF.

  7. 7
    CarrieS says:

    I love the cover.  The guy reminds me a little of the author Michael Chabon *sigh*

  8. 8
    LovelloftheWolves says:

    I know that stock model! I’ve seen him before on the cover of “Lord of Legends” by Susan Krinard. Different angle and different lighting but its totally the same guy!

  9. 9
    LG says:

    Yeah, I almost bought it just because of the cover. For some reason (the excerpt? the description? I can’t remember) I opted to pass it by. It’s nice when a review confirms my gut instinct.

  10. 10
    SB Sarah says:

    HA! Are we going to need a “Hey! It’s that Guy!” with romance novel cover models instead of character actors? Not only do we now recognize (and know the names of) so many models, but we recognize the stock photographs and photo sessions (like nipple-less o-face lady too.

  11. 11
    Mochabean1 says:

    So I’m the only one who saw the cover and thought wow, time-traveling Bob Dylan romantic steampunk?  Cause I’d totally read that.  Or listen to it.

  12. 12
    H.Vert says:

    I would totally read time-traveling-Bob-Dylan-romantic-steampunk.  In a skinny minute!

  13. 13
    CarrieS says:

    Yes, the time travelling Bob Dylan thing must happen!  And he meets up with a sentient and sexy soprano clockwork automaton named Joan, and this time he learns to not be such a jerkwad!  Make it so, Mochabean.

  14. 14
    CarrieS says:

    First verse, shelter from the storm, time travelling steampunk style:

    It was in another lifetime
    One of gears and steel
    When smartness was a virtue
    And clcokwork dogs were real
    I came out of a time portal
    Desperate to get warm
    Come in, she said, I’ll give you
    Shelter from the storm

  15. 15
    LovelloftheWolves says:

    Short answer: YES. Long answer: oh yes please that would be just perfect yes!

  16. 16
    willaful says:

    I’m really sorry you DNF’d it, because you missed the world’s most seriously WTF ending.

  17. 17
    StarOpal says:

    This comment + the cover = Interest renewed.

  18. 18
    CarrieS says:

    OK, I skipped to the end.  What a pair of morons.  I hope in the sequel they both suffer a fatal accident.  Maybe Asher will accidently throttle himself to death while attempting to fasten his own cravat.  An Minerva will wring her hands and say, “Oh, Asher…”

  19. 19

    I saw the cover and thought Josh Groban.  That’s quite a range from Chabon to Dylan to Groban in one shot, dude.

  20. 20
    Mochabean1 says:

    Let’s call him “Grabyn”

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