Book Review

Kilts and Kraken by Cindy Spencer Pape:  A Guest Review by CarrieS


Title: Kilts and Kraken
Author: Cindy Spencer Pape
Publication Info: Carina Press June 4, 2012
ISBN: 9781426893841
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Kilts and Kraken Oh, please, like I wouldn't be reviewing a book called Kilts and Kraken.  It was practically subtitled:  “A Novel That CarrieS Will Adore”.  There's these Victorian Era Highlanders, see, and they fight these Krakens, and the hero lives in a castle, because everything is better with castles.  And it's all steampunky so everyone flies around in airships, but there's also magic so people cast spells and say things like, “Don't land your airship in the stone circle, please”.

I hate to describe the plot more coherently because it's fun to watch it unfold.  This guy, Magus, is injured while fighting a kraken, and he washes up onto the shores of an island in the Hebrides, where he lies, all unconscious and fevered and helpless.  Dr. Geneva MacKay comes from Edinburgh to treat him.  The plot synopsis on the book's website goes into way more details, but really, I think it's just better to start with the whole “nursing a mysterious hero back to health” thing and see where the story takes you (clockwork dogs!).

The heroine is a doctor, and she has to battle sexism (and krakens – she shoots one in the eye, thus earning my eternal devotion).  Also there is a clockwork dog.  The only thing that could possibly improve this book would be if Antonio Banderas handed it to me personally.

The heroine is one of my all-time favorites.  She's smart, she stands up for herself, she's brave, she's good with a gun, she's good at her profession, she's forthright, she's compassionate as well as practical, and she is not shy about initiating sex or about carrying around a few “French letters” (early condoms) just in case she meets the right man.  Magus is a good hero, but Geneva is a heroine for the ages with just enough flaws to seem like a real person.  Seriously, if my daughter grew up to be just like Geneva, I would be a very, very happy mom, which is the highest praise I have to bestow.

I really don't have much to say about this book.  Either the description in my first paragraph makes you weak with joy or it doesn't.  I did knock it down to a B+ over some nitpicky stuff.  The writing could be smoother, the lead couple gets physically demonstrative really early on, which didn't ring true, and a couple of the villains are far too over the top, even for a book in which everything is pretty insane.  Maniacal villains are fun, but these were just caricatures. 

Another issue is that there's too much stuff going on to absorb – not just krakens and airships but tons of characters and back stories.  If ever a book could have been expanded it would be this one (admittedly, it is part of a trilogy), but the short length also gave it a pace that was jubilantly fast.  This fast pace was handy, because I suspect that the plot may have contained holes but I was so busy yelling, “CLOCKWORK DOG!” that I honestly didn't notice them.  Maybe one of our calmer readers can look into this for us.  Actually, a clockwork dog is sort of a dumb thing to make – why not just have a real dog?  I'll tell you why:  because anything clockwork is neat.  OK?  Can we just all agree on that?  Also, if you are looking for historical accuracy, stop now.  Some steampunk tries to stay historically accurate in every way except a few technological changes.  This read more like the best live action roleplaying game ever than as anything remotely historical in nature.  It is pure fantasy.

My last note is that Kilts and Kraken is the third book in a series. [The first is Steam & Sorcery  ( A | BN | K | S | ARe ) and the second is Photographs & Phantoms  ( A | BN | K | S | ARe )] I hadn't read the other books but that wasn't a problem.  I recommend this as a stand-alone although of course I am also going to devour the other two books as soon as possible because this was AWESOME.  Clockwork Dog!

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks and is on sale this weekend only through 24 June 2012 for .99c.

Comments are Closed

  1. KRGrille says:

    I’m unclear on one point…are there any clockwork dogs?

  2. SB Sarah says:

    Possibly. Can’t confirm. 🙂

  3. Lisa Pegg says:

    “Photographs and Phantoms” is currently free on the Nook. “Steam and Sorcery” is $5.15, which is pretty good when you consider the other two books cost me .99 total.

    In related steampunk news, I’m going to a Gail Carriger reading this afternoon! Squee!

  4. Angstriddengoddess says:

    I can only assume there are clockwork squirrels that you have to wind up for the dog to chase.

  5. Tania Kennedy says:

    So many of these books linked in reviews and sales aren’t available for Canadian kobo. It’s so frustrating! One book I was planning on buying wasn’t on Kobo any more when I actually found my credit card to purchase it.

    Why does everyone in publishing and music hate Canada?

  6. JaneDrew says:

    That sounds like an excellent and fun trilogy I will have to… Clockwork Squirrel!!

  7. M_E_S says:

    Ahhh, I was randomly gifted “Steam and Sorcery” a while backed, and I enjoyed it!  It wasn’t revelatory or breaking new ground, but it was definitely entertaining.  Looks like I’ll have to read the other two now (clockwork dogs!  How could I resist!).

  8. Carolyn says:

    You sold me when you mentioned Antonio Banderas. Off to buy.  🙂

  9. toni adams says:

    dangit..only a kindle version….no paperback 🙁

  10. rhea says:

    If the book is half as entertaining as your review, it’s sure to be a winner with me. Thanks for adding to my TBR pile. I think. 

  11. Reneesance says:

    You had me at clockwork dog.  Downloaded it and Photographs and Phantoms since it was currently free on Amazon.  Kraken!

  12. chantalhab says:

    Downloaded the trilogy – first book was $4.99 (on Kobo Canada) but I used c4auto30 to get 30% off! And can I just say how amazeballs it was to actually be able to use the coupon code they sent me without running into “due to publisher restrictions promo codes are not allowed for this item”?! The second book is free and the third book was $2.99. Great deal for a trilogy!

  13. I’ve got the first two on my TBR list on the Sony PRS 350, but based on your review I may have to move them higher (and get the third book).  Thanks!

  14. ?? keri ?? says:

    Sweet! I went and got the novella Photographs & Phantoms, and if I like her style, I’m totally going to jump on Kilts & Kraken, especially while 99c! This sounds right up my alley – I adore when authors go completely over the top ridiculous with the whole intent to have fun – especially something inherently kind of absurd, like steampunk+fantasy creatures. (I hate it, though, when it’s over the top ridiculous but the authors are being completely serious. Blech blech blech.)

  15. CarrieS says:

    FYI, am writing up a storm this summer – if anyone knows of any upcoming new releases this year that they wish I’d review, mention it on the comments thread or to SBSarah.

  16. .99 on Amazon and Photographs and Phantoms free.

  17. cleo says:

    Ooh. I was hoping you would review this one. Thanks. It looks like a good vacation read and I am on vacation.

  18. cleo says:

    Have you read the new steampunk novella by Zoe Archer? Love to read your review. I enjoyed it. Typical Archer. Kickass heroine, lots of action, kind of thin plot but so, so much fun to read.

  19. Lynnd says:

    Particularly given that Carina is owned by Harlequin which is a Canadian company! 

  20. Clbevill says:

    I CANNOT believe that no one said anything about the cover.  I mean, what in the holy name of the bitchery is that over his nether regions?  Is it like a fan?  Does it glow and spin?  Is it where he attaches something?  Of course, I have to go and read this book now.  Seriously though, that cover belongs in one of the caption the cover segments.

  21. Karin says:

    I’m gonna guess it’s a steampunk style sporran. Love the goggles, but it’s hard to tell if he’s wearing a kilt. And I can’t help noticing the castle has got a set of smokestacks that look like they came off an oil refinery.

  22. Fran says:

    I really enjoyed it too!  I agree with the assessment of the villains though.  They’re the obvious suspects, so obvious that I couldn’t see them actually being the villains until the proof was there.

  23. Molly says:

    You had me at “steampunk sporran”.

    Seriously…kilts and krakens, an awesome SBTB review AND 99 cents on Amazon?  If they could get James McAvoy to read the audiobook I would crawl into a hole with it and never come out.

  24. cate says:

    So – what does a steam punk keep in his sporran ? There’s got to be a punch line to that !

  25. Bnbsrose says:

    You lucky, lucky girl! I hate you.

  26. JennH says:

    Kobo currently has Photographs and Phantoms available as a free download for Canadians – grab it now!…

  27. chantalhab says:

    I read all three in one day (Saturday). They are fairly short but SO good! I loved the notes from the publisher (Carina Press) as well, I’ve got to check out more of their stuff.

  28. naked_spinster says:

    I would have given it a B+ as well but not a single character hinted at “releasing the kraken” which would have made it priceless.  I would have given it an A if the kraken reference was about a penis. 

    Clockwork dogs rule.

  29. Becca says:

    er… I hesitate to disagree with consensus here, but I’m part way through the first book and they seem awfully amateurish, and the writing is clunky. Please tell me they get better?

  30. CarrieS says:

    The writing was clunky, but not cringe-worthy.  I haven’t read the first book yet, but I’m guessing this one is better – it’s more crazy madcap fun than anything else.

  31. Amitatuq says:

    I had to get this after reading your review.  Clockwork dog!  But being a little (maybe a bit more than a little) OCD I had to find the other books in the series and read those first.  One was free and the other was really not very much so three books for about $6-7 was not bad at all!  I’m always reluctant to start books by new-to-me authors, especially in genres I don’t read often, but I managed to start this in less than a week after buying it and was so glad I did!  I loved the whole series.  And the clockwork dog!

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