Author: Augusta Li, Eon de Beaumont
Title: Boots for the Gentleman
Series: Steamcraft and Sorcery (#1)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (2011)
Disclaimer: Copy received for review purposes.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“Hired by a mysterious faerie gentleman to steal seemingly worthless artifacts, Querrilous Knotte is seen as a traitor by the humans of Halcyon. But as long as he’s getting paid, Querry doesn’t mind. When his client makes a cryptic comment about a certain house, Querry contacts his old flame Reg—a former street rat who now works in the Royal Archives—to learn if the property contains anything of value.
Though Reg has no answers for him, Querry learns there is indeed something precious in the house, something Reg is convinced will bring nothing but trouble. The armed guards that attack the thief prove Reg’s prediction true, and he can’t leave Querry to face it all alone. Not when Reg’s feelings for the man may not be as extinct as he'd thought.
The trouble is, Querry's heart doesn’t just belong to Reg anymore, and surprisingly, Reg’s heart no longer belongs only to Querry. In the end, it may not even matter, because if Querry, Reg, and their hearts’ desire can’t stop Lord Thimbleroy from draining Halcyon’s magic, they won’t live long enough to regret their unresolved romance.” GoodReads’ blurb
I’ll say this much: Boots for the Gentleman has really gotten me into Steampunk, even though it was a genre I had never read before. The mixture of an alternate Victorian-like society with extremely advanced steam tech and faery magic was perfect!
I think that’s the part I’ve enjoyed the most: worldbuilding. While the story takes place in a fictional world, it’s all too easy to recognize the cities and countries as their counterparts during Victorian time. The city’s districts, the classes and their different outlooks and concerns... It was all very well represented. And right in the middle of such a familiar setting, I found myself surrounded by a faerie quarter! Yep, the authors had the faeries move into the real world, to live in an area everyone else has shunned since then, Neroche. Faeries bring magic into the mix, and chaos and loose morals... which doesn’t sit well with an upright society that despises anything that’s not technology and that banned the existence of wizards on the homeland as soon as their guns and machines could rival the wizards’ spells. This opposition fuels a lot of the conflict of the book – more than I guessed at first, in truth, but I can’t go into details there without spoiling the fun of the discovery for you.
So, let’s move on discreetly and talk about the storyline. I think there were two distinct parts to it, one that involves the characters and their sentimental relationship, and the other that’s more linked to the previously mentioned conflict. While it’s the sentimental part of it the one that doesn’t allow Querry and Reg to walk away, I found the bigger picture to be much more interesting. In short, Lord Thimbleroy’s the Grande Chancellor, second in power only to the Queen, and he has plans. This plans involve repairing a beautiful clockwork tower, and he’s sunk enough money in the project to strike the reader as unhealthily obsessed. And that’s before we get to learn the real extremes to which he’s willing to go... and what the tower does. This part was very well plotted, the plans of the villain slowly falling into piece in such twisted manner that I just had to keep reading to see how it would turn out...
It’s very rare for me to say this, but I think in this one instance the romance actually does very little to improve the storytelling. Don’t get me wrong: there were parts I liked very much, like the conflict Querry faces as he begins to fall in love with his new companion. I liked the moral issue about what makes a human, what tells him apart from a machine. About choosing your own path in life. I can even accept the resolution to the love triangle. I think it just felt a bit rushed. You know, those moments when just idealism is enough to get you one step further? They are contrasted a lot with the bleakness of the rest of the world, and I missed the potential conflict and development that could have been.
I think the core of the matter is that way too many things happened. The book is self-conclusive, in spite of being first in a series. I’m thankful for that, because it gives you enough closure while still leaving a couple of questions to wonder about. But Boots for the Gentleman would have worked best as two novels, in my humble opinion. It’d have given the characters more time to deal with their personal situations, and this might have helped to reduce the “that’s too much” moments.
But that’s just my humble opinion. In the end, the story was satisfying enjoyable, and while I’d not recommend it for the younger audience or for readers who might get offended with non traditional relationships, I’d tell any yaoi and steampunk fan to give this one a chance.