Friday, February 26, 2010

REVIEW: Steamed by Katie MacAlister

Steamed is the first novel in a new steampunk fantasy romance series penned by romance author Katie MacAlister. Jack Fletcher is a nanoelectrical engineer. When his sister Hallie pays him a visit in his lab and nonchalantly fiddles with some equipment as she chats away, the two get accidentally zapped to an alternate reality onto a steam driven airship. Jack and Hallie are disoriented and bewildered as they come to in the cargo hold of the airship Tesla. The captain of the ship, Octavia Pye with startling red hair and her cast of strange and colorful crew members are equally confused over the discovery of these two uninvited guests in their ship's cargo hold.

The airship Tesla is en route to deliver cargo to the emperor during a turbulent political time, so the captain and crew are very weary of Jack and Hallie's unexpected presence aboard the ship, suspecting them to be spies on some nefarious mission. As this is Octavia's maiden voyage, she's determined for her trip to go smoothly without a hitch, and Jack and his sister certainly throw things off course for her in more ways than one. The sparks fly between Jack and Octavia from the get go, and Jack is seemingly having the time of his life in this new world attempting to seduce Octavia while trying to learn more about this woman and her world.

When I first got wind of Steamed, I knew I wanted to read it. I've been wanting to read a steampunk novel for a while, so I thought this book, a steampunk romance would be the perfect place to start. Unfortunately, I don't think it was the right steampunk novel for me.

I haven't read any of Katie MacAlister's work before, but I was vaguely aware that her stories tend to be light hearted and humorous. So in fairness, I should have expected a similar style with Steamed, yet it still took me a few chapters to get into the story and not expect something serious and romantic, which I think is what I was looking for. Nevertheless, I made a quick adjustment of my expectations and was set my mind to just have fun with the story. And it was fun to read at times. Steamed is a fun story with some funny dialogue, some slapstick-type action scenes and quite a few colorful and quirky characters. The characters and the world were interesting, but neither were developed or explored nearly enough to meet their potential.

The relationship between Octavia and Jack was entertaining at times because of their differences in shall we say, their 'dating' customs, but really, I never felt convinced that there was ever a true romance between them. What they had was merely physical attraction and perhaps a curiosity about someone so different.

The steampunk world had a lot of political struggles going on in the background, and I had been left wanting for more explanations of each faction's strifes and goals. Again, there was potential there, but the conflicts were never quite explained thoroughly enough and too many questions were left unaddressed. Hopefully the author will reveal more about the world and the motives of the various political leaders in future installments of this series.

Steamed may appeal to fans of Katie MacAlister's stories and others who are looking for a humorous, lighthearted adventure in an airship, but for me, I'm going to start over in my quest for the perfect steampunk romance. Right now I've got my sights on the following steampunk novels.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

The Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook
"Here There Be Monsters" in the Burning Up anthology due out August 2010
The Iron Duke full length novel due out October 2010

I've seen the first two at my library, and the third comes highly recommended from several book blogging friends. The Iron Seas series? Well, it's Meljean Brook. I can predict with confidence that she's going to deliver the depth, seriousness and romance that I'm looking for.

What are your steampunk recommendations?

I prefer the books to have a romance or at least romantic elements, but I'm open to any book suggestion, really, so suggest away!

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Want to know more about what "steampunk" is? There's a great article at Wikipedia that discusses steampunk, its origins and influences at

You can also read author Meljean Brook's approach to "steampunk" at .


  1. I was disappointed in this one because it isn't a steampunk per say, but an alternative universe set in a steampunk type world.

    You have to read Soulless by Gail Carriger. I call it a paranormal steampunk.

    And anything by Meljean is a given I will read it.

  2. Hm, sorry that one didn't work out for you. Based on your assessment I won't be trying it either. But, as you know, I'm all for you giving CLOCKWORK HEART a shot. I <3 it. :)

  3. I set this one aside, couldn't get into it. From your review it sounds like I made the right decision.

    I've got Clockwork Heart on the tbr pile and Abby read Leviathan and said it was really good. :)

  4. I have both Clockwork Heart and Steamed on my shelf. I Katie MacAlister and really enjoy her style, so I think I will enjoy that one. I tried to read Gail Carriger's Soulless, but just couldn't get into it. But I've come across several people who have loved it.

  5. I actually found all the political aspects In Steamed distracting and the relationship just felt flat for me. And I so wanted to like it, Oh, well. Daughter recommends Leviathan and I second the recommendation of (I absolutely adored this book!) Soulless by Gail Carriger. I am looking forward to the second book in the series due to be released at the end of March. *G*

  6. Thanks for the recommendations, everyone.

    I'm going to probably start with Leviathan since the library has it, and then I'll hunt down a copy of Clockwork Heart. I'm a tad hesitant to pick up Soulless because it features vampires and werewolves, right? I read quite a few series with them already. I don't know if I want another. LOL.

  7. Thanks for this nice, thoughtful review. I was wondering abot this book, and I love how you show how it didn't work for you, but show how it could work for others. Even though, I like a bit of angst and seriousness in my books, too. And no slapstick And oh, yeah to the yeah on the Meljean steampunk!

  8. Thanks, Carolyn! I can't wait for Meljean's upcoming releases. Heck, I can't wait to catch up on her Guardians. Sheesh. ;)

    p.s. OMG 23 more days!!!! : )

  9. Awww, Christine. I have the feeling I'm going to have the same reaction as you!

    Katie MacAlister has always been more miss than hit for me, but I still got her book because of the steampunk genre... yeah, probably shouldn't have. Sigh.

    Clockwork Heart was okay. Yes it is steampunk, but the romance reader in me wasn't quite happy with it.

    Can't wait for Meljean's new series. I've been waiting awhile for it already!

  10. I have kind of fallen out with Katie McAlister's books. I loved the Green Dragons series and some of her standalone books, but...I don't really have a sense of humour so after reading the first Silver Dragon book I decided to call it quits.

    I am looking forward to Meljean's book, even though I'm still only up to the third Guardian book!


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