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.