In a Europe known for its lawlessness, mercenaries travel from town to town selling their security. Railway lines are the travel preference of the ruthless bandits that use Steam Engines to travel the country looking for easy marks. Only the most ruthless of people join the ranks of paid protectors. War is at hand when two of the largest cities are looking for change but in different and opposing ways. Unable to agree, they decide to fight for the survival of their own ideas.
The traditionalists of St. Vith feel that steam power is the way. The Wintescheid Diesel Empire opposes St. Vith; they feel that diesel is the only power. The fighting is dirty and messy, and the traditionalists have come up with a new ploy to get more soldiers to their side. Death and destruction continue on both sides.
Erica is an emotionally troubled girl with a penchant for trouble, and on her last good footing with the law. Her father is forced to send her to work as a mercenary with a reputable group to keep her from arrest. She is brash and insists on punishing those she considers to have done her wrong. Her feelings are somewhat stunted and she does not care for people. She uses a knife and a gun like actual appendages, something that will useful in her new life as a mercenary. She is oddly afraid of dirt and cannot abide touching or being around any type of filth.
Her new surroundings are not what she is prepared for; she will be living and moving from place to place in a Steam Engine called Steam Queen. She is not impressed with her compatriots and makes it very clear in very short order. When her crew is pulled into the war, she has no choice but to come along. Fascinated by the diesels, Erica makes herself known in her usual but somewhat alarming fashion, by creating a scene. Trapped in the situation they find themselves in, can they survive the war?
In Steam Queen, Jack Hessey has built a story around the Steam era. It is a fascinating world set with odd and yet likable characters. Written in the steampunk tradition, it resonates with action. Set amidst gangs, bandits and soldiers, it is a world in turmoil, with different factions believing their side is right.
Erica is an interesting hero, unlikely and yet she seems to fall into the fray without trying. Always looking to punish those who wrong her often puts her in precarious situations. The rest of her crew is quite gregarious and have their own set of characteristics. While I have never read steampunk before, I found it to be very quick paced and often just a bit “tongue in cheek.” It was strangely addictive, and when I put it down, my mind kept traveling back to the story.
This is a great book for those that enjoy the steampunk genre. I have seen other books described as steampunk, and I was not sure of the category; I do believe I understand now. You have to like a girl that carries a gun named Mr. Pop Bang and a knife called Mr. Slice. It is an intriguing story, full of spunk.