Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review: Steampunk Darcy by Monica Fairview

William Darcy is obsessed with his ancestors. So much so that he intends to rebuild Pemberley (destroyed during the Uprising) stone by stone, and he wants to employ reconstruction expert Seraphene Grant to help him.

Or does he? Seraphene wasn’t born yesterday. She can smell a rat, particularly when it stinks all the way up to her airship. She knows Darcy is hiding something. But with the Authorities after her and her other options dwindling by the moment, the temptation of genuine English tea and a gorgeous Steampunk gentleman are very difficult to resist.

But what if Darcy’s mystery job courts nothing but trouble? What if Darcy is harboring a secret to kill for? When kiss comes to shove, will Darcy’s secret destroy Seraphene, or will it be her salvation?

Join us on a romantic adventure like no other in this whimsical Pride and Prejudice-inspired tribute, featuring Wickham, Georgiana, dirigibles, funky fish, and swash-buckling pirates.

Steampunk Darcy is my first foray into the unusual world of steampunk storytelling. This culture of science fiction, blended with some not-too-distant historical eras has risen in popularity in the last few decades. For those who aren't familiar with this conceptualization, imagine a blend of Victorian England, America's Wild West and a touch of modernized Jules Verne. It is at times whimsical, yet in other aspects there is a dark edginess to it. This amalgam of ideas has piqued my interest in the last few years, and I’ve been interested in sampling a bit of it within the pages of a novel.  The closest I’ve come is having Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan sitting on my shelf, untouched. I do intend to get to it one day, but an Austenesque novel within this particular paradigm was too tempting to pass up.  The minute I heard that Monica Fairview was working on this title, not only was I delighted, but I was surprised that no one had thought of it sooner!  The original characters are already set in the 19th century, the same period for much of steampunk lore.  It was just a matter of pointing Austen’s creation in that direction.  Purists may find this to be a wild notion, but I was willing to take the literary leap into this fantastical vision.

Because I’m new to the world of steampunk, I’m not thoroughly acquainted with the ground rules for what will or will not be a part of it. Monica could have easily thrown in random external elements and I would have been none the wiser.  As a reader, my highest interest was not in remaining incredibly true to Austen (just the concept is a wild diversion), nor was it focused on how this frameowork would fit into steampunk fans’ definition of the genre. Those notions are important, but the ultimate priority was to have an enjoyable story. The fantastic elements make this genre intriguing, but without a quality narrative to support them, my interest would fade quickly.

I’m pleased to report that Monica Fairview has succeeded on all fronts with Steampunk Darcy. I loved the amazing environment she created in her vision of Jane Austen’s England, adjusted with a post-rebellion, modern-yet-steampunky tone.  Main character William Darcy is a descendent of Austen’s Darcys, and there are other elements that tie the story back to the original material. In Steampunk Darcy, Jane Austen is a “biographer” of the Darcy family, with the text of Pride and Prejudice being a non-fiction account, rather than a classic novel. Other characters, such as the lead-female Seraphene seem to be completely new inclusions. She is a welcome addition, as the repartee between the high-spirited Seraphene and pretentious Darcy is quite entertaining.  There is a romantic element of course (conservative readers might find it a bit steamy), but their story also involves their relationship as employer and employee.  Through Darcy’s obsession with his family history, he hires Seraphene to help him with his work on a top-secret project.  The following quote exhibits much of what I refer to—the ties to Austen, mixed in with the steampunk elements:

“Give me a chance to explain. As you know, Pemberley was my ancestral home before it was destroyed, first during the Blitz, then by the slime rain before the Uprising. What I require-- in a nutshell-- is a detailed record of Pemberley as it was at its height, during the Regency period. I want to know everything about it, from the paintings on the wall to what the servants ate for breakfast. I would also like a detailed rendition of Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife Lizzy at the beginning of their marriage. I want to know their manners, their personal peculiarities, their interactions with each other, their food preferences, their taste in music-- just about everything there is to know.”

This leads to high adventure, as well as opportunities for Seraphene to deal with important issues within her family’s past, especially the struggles her kin have endured since the culture-altering Uprising years ago. Adversaries include the culture around them, a very interesting character based on George Wickham and more.  Surprises, romance, humor and drama abound in a way never before seen through a filtered derivation of Austen’s imagination.  I highly enjoyed my first experience with the steampunk genre, and Monica Fairview has crafted an interesting and compelling story which can stand on its own, regardless of classification.  Steampunk Darcy is a rousing, amazing adventure, one that breaks new ground in Austenesque fiction and does not fail to entertain.

More Jane!

Connect with Author Monica Fairview


  1. I just had to read it for the same fascinating reason too, Laura. Glad you liked it!

  2. Thanks for the review, my only contact with steampunk is that I have read Jules Verne. But I have the book to read as I won it in a giveaway so I will have to see how I get on with the genre

    1. Sounds good, Vesper-- Let us know what you think of Steampunk Darcy!



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