A bit archaic yet eminently popular, steam punk is a genre of writing all on its own. Full of inventions or the possibility of inventions from the early 19th century, writers have taken to using the backdrop for novels of adventure and mayhem.
In Revenge of the Mad Scientist by Lara Nance we are introduced to a world of steam power and gaslights, one of differing nations vying for supreme power and the creation of chaos. When the Lord High Minister of Urbannia is kidnapped just as their country is on the verge of signing a peace agreement, blame is laid to rest on Gandiss, the very country in question. The kidnapping is handled during the celebration of the event, directly after the Minister’s daughter, Lady Arabella is introduced to the Lord of the realm in question.
Once the kidnapping comes to light, Lord Ismatan is rushed away by his men for safety reasons, but not before he assures Arabella of the innocence of his country. Giving her a ring to wear and use in case of need, he disappears before he can be arrested for the deed. Arabella is the only one who believes that Ismatan is innocent while all suspicion falls directly on him and his country of Gandiss. Knowing her father’s life is in danger, she realizes that she must be the one to react.
Her faithful servant and her young charge, a boy she rescued from abusive behavior because of his difference, become a part of her retinue in her quest to find her father. It seems to be the only solution to head off a war between the nations, and Arabella is well aware that no one else is looking in the right direction.
As she finds the captain of a steam airship that is willing to take her to her destination, she unintentionally sets into motion a series of events that will change the lives and destinies of all involved. She herself is kidnapped by slavers and escapes with another only to find that her fellow abductee is related to Lord Ismatan of Gandiss. The coincidences continue to pile up as danger falls around the small group that is beginning to grow. After the crash of her hired aircraft, fate puts another complication in her life. The only ship now available seems to be run by the man who left her at the altar years before.
Can she trust her fate and the fate of her father to such a ruffian? She knows she has no choice; her father’s life hangs in the balance. Can this band of misfits rescue her father and put a stop to the war that is now brewing?
The genre of steam punk is exciting and interesting. Nance does a great job of modeling the circumstances and describing the machinery and inventions that I find very interesting. In some novels the events of the story overshadow the background, yet Nance continues to interject with the variety and description of the steam punk props, whether it is the machinery, the clothing or the other interesting gadgets that strike our interest. At the same time she weaves a story that moves forward with purpose.
Interspace the entire event with knives and guns that also set up visuals, the novel moves at a smooth pace. There is certain believability about many of the modes of weapon and transport, much like those that carried the likes of Jules Verne on his fantastic voyages.