Saturday, November 29, 2014

Steamed Up Anthology - Reviewed by Trix

STEAMED UP anthology

Inventors, pilots, tinkers, and soldiers; magical metals to replace an aging heart or a ruined limb; steam-powered fantasy worlds of clockwork nightingales, automatons, dirigibles, and men. The stories in this anthology visit diverse times in the history of modern man, and the men who populate these tales face war and cruelty, masters and autocrats, illness and poverty and greed. Yet the heat of romance outmatches even the steam engines, and time and again, the gears of love rule the day.

Stories included are:
The Clockwork Nightingale's Song by Amy Rae Durreson
Caress by Eli Easton
Swiftsilver by Bell Ellis
The Clockwork Heart by Kim Fielding
The Galatea's Captain by Anka Grace
Screws by R.D. Hero
The Golden Goose by Mark Lesney
Spindle and Bell by Augusta Li
Ace of Hearts by Mary Pletsch
Five to One by Angelia Sparrow
Untouchable by Layla M. Wier

Trix’s Review:
4.25 stars

While I usually prefer more humorous steampunk, the quality of the writing is very consistent throughout the anthology. Many of the stories (especially in the first half) have much less sexual content than is usual in m/m, which may appeal to more hesitant readers while disappointing m/m veterans. Various online reviews had me fearing that these stories would be upsetting, but I was relieved to find that that wasn't true. There is a certain melancholy to many of these tales (given the time period and subject matter), but in most cases, they lead to a satisfying and hard-won happily-ever-after. (I was also unable to predict how most of the stories would end while I was reading, which is a rare thing in m/m!) 

Angelia Sparrow's "Five To One" opens the proceedings with a charming friends-to-lovers story, one that seems the closest to a contemporary m/m piece. The two stories that stood out for me happened to be right next to each other. R.D. Hero's "Screws" is both funnier and raunchier than the others, and winks at the literal nuts-and-bolts of steampunk in a clever and self-referential way. This paves the way for the emotional punch of Kim Fielding's "The Clockwork Heart," the slow-burning relationship between a castaway golem with a soul and an inventor who believes he has none. The two stories couldn't be more different, but both are very effective.

The second half of the book is a little more whimsical and relaxed than the first, culminating in the lyrical and sensual "Swiftsilver" by Bell Ellis. The stories are nearly novella-length, so there's plenty of attention given to character and plot development. STEAMED UP has a different feel than most m/m or steampunk I've read, and is all the more satisfying for it.

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