Exciting things are happening here in Metro Detroit! I have the day off and there’s a new, independent coffee shop down the street from me. Those two things, plus fantastic fall-like weather, combined with the fact that we’re hosting Megan Curd and her fabulous novel, Steel Lily, today, mean that your Assistant Editor is happy as a clam. I could rhapsodize about the leather recliner, soft jazz, fireplace, and house special Mayan Mocha…but why would I do that when I have a truly fantastic book to tell you all about?
I’d never seen anyone like him in Dome Four. His jawbone was strong, his cheekbones set high. His nose was regal and straight and when my gaze reached his eyes, my breath caught. Stormy blue-grey eyes that reminded me of shale returned my gaze with seemingly genuine curiosity, if not a bit of humor. Strips of colored fabric were woven into his dreadlocked hair, giving it a wildly unique appearance that suited him. His smug expression made me realize he was enjoying this.
“Are you finished checking me out? If you’re not, that’s okay; I allow every new woman I meet a free five-minute gawking period. After that, it’ll cost you.”
Blood rushed to my face. I tore my eyes from his magnetic gaze and watched as he took a worn leather strap off his wrist. He pulled back his dreadlocks–deep brown streaked with blonde–into the strap. His devilish grin pulled his eyes tight at the corners. He was trouble incarnate. Trouble I may very well want to get into, given the right circumstances.
“You’re at five minutes and thirty seconds now,” he said in a purr as he leaned in toward me. I felt his breath against my cheek, and my heart raced. “I’m going to start taking payment, and I choose how that payment is issued.”
Before I could respond, Alice stirred groggily beside me. She rubbed her eyes as she sat up. “Where are we?”
“Good question,” piped Jaxon. “One that your friend here failed to ask, but it could have been because I rendered her speechless with my good looks.”
Alice moved to get a better look at him, but he emphatically covered his face, as though he were a vampire trying to block the sun. “Don’t look at me!” he cried, then grinned as he winked at me. “I don’t want to make two ladies swoon in such a short period of time. How would I entertain myself tonight?”
“You’re not that handsome,” I argued mulishly.
“There’s drool on your chin. Either you’re physically unable to keep your mouth shut, or I caused you to forget how. Since when I found you, you were drool free, I’m going with the assumption that it was me.” He fished in his pocket and offered me a piece of white silk. “Here, a handkerchief for your trouble.”
The year is 2030, and Avery Pike is an orphan living in Dome Four, in the ruins of Detroit. A war between the Alliance and the Resistance has destroyed the world, killing both of Avery’s parents. Exposure to radiation left Avery with a powerful ability to produce steam, which means she gets the best of everything from the government because they depend on her power to sustain life in the dome. Unfortunately, the best the government has to offer isn’t much. Then, a mysterious man named Atticus Riggs shows up, claiming to run a school for Elementalists in another Dome, and offering Avery a new home. Unaware that there was any life outside of Dome Four, Avery’s suspicious, but Riggs also claims that Avery’s parents are still alive, so she accepts his offer. Chromelius Academy is more luxurious than anything Avery has ever known, but the luxury may just be a hologram hiding danger and deception.
Gems for Writers:
Setting. In a book that is set in a real city (or what remains of a real city), the tiniest details can make or break a setting. Though I no longer live in the city of Detroit proper, I can still visualize it and mentally map out my old haunts from my time at Wayne State University. So while I’m a stickler for details with any setting, I’m a downright detail fiend when it comes to the portrayal of the Motor City in fiction. Megan Curd includes these details with pinpoint accuracy and finesse, right down to street names, intersections, and landmarks. It was only too easy to immerse myself in the setting as the fictionalized Detroit on the page overlaid the map in my own mind, bringing the story that much more vividly to life.
Dystopian and Steampunk Elements. Megan Curd produces a perfect blend of dystopia and steampunk, working elements of each so that the story balances perfectly between the two. The circumstances that caused the rise of the dystopian society, also caused civilization to revert back to the need for steam power. Using the elements of both subgenres, Megan Curd crafts a fascinating world where the line between death and survival is a fine one, where gadgetry and technology coexist seamlessly, and everything you think you know may prove wrong at any given moment.
Bait-and-Switch. Compared to Avery’s life in the ruins of Detroit, the students at Chromelius Academy live in the lap of luxury, but often the physical beauty is just a hologram to hide destruction. The headmaster, Atticus Riggs, is kind and fatherly one moment and cold and calculating the next. Absolutely nothing is what it seems from the first glance. All these quick changes build suspense and fill the reader with a sense of foreboding, but nothing prepared me for the denouement that made me shriek out loud and claw for the next installment in the series. Megan Curd is a true master of the art of suspense and surprise endings.
With a masterful blend of two of my favorite speculative subgenres, Megan Curd has created a story I will reread over and over, set in a world I can’t wait to revisit. I can’t thank Megan enough for the privilege of taking part in her blog tour—in fact, the worst thing about this whole experience is that I have to wait until 2014 for Book Two, Iron Pendulum!
Until next time, Beardies, Keep Calm and Scribe On!
***Steel Lily (The Periodic Series, Book 1) (2013) by Megan Curd is published by and copyright Studio 22 Productions. It is available in stores, online (see above), and from your local public library.
***Per FTC Regulations: I received an advance reading copy (ARC) from the author and was not compensated in any way, monetarily or otherwise, for this review.