Title: Blue on Black
Author: Carole Cummings
Publisher: DSP Publications
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Genre(s): Fantasy, Steampunk
Page Count: 380
Reviewed by: LenaLena
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Kimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech, beloved brother, most promising student the Academy’s ever had the privilege of calling their own, genius mechanical gridstream engineer, brilliantly pioneering inventor… and dead man. But that’s what happens when a whiz kid messes with dynamic crystals and, apparently, comes to the attention of Baron Petra Stanslo. Killed for his revolutionary designs, Kimolijah Adani had been set to change the world with his impossible train that runs on nothing more than gridstream locked in a crystal. Technically it shouldn’t even be possible, but there is no doubt it works.
Bas is convinced the notoriously covetous and corrupt Stanslo had something to do with Kimolijah Adani’s tragic and suspicious end. A Directorate Tracker, Bas has finally managed to catch the scent of Kimolijah Adani’s killer, and it leads right into Stanslo’s little desert barony. For almost three years, Bas has tried to find a way into Stanslo’s Bridge, and when he finally makes it, shock is too small a word for what—or, rather, whom—he finds there.
Let’s start with the bad news: The middle part of this book is unnecessarily long and repetitive. It could have benefited greatly from tighter content editing. The arguments between Bas and Kimo all start running together at some point and the hanging out in Crazy Town in the desert gets monotonous too.
The other thing the content editor should have caught is the sometimes repetitive phrasing. If you’re using a wink-wink-nudge-nudge reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (‘brain the size of a planet’), you can do that once. Not five times. And -especially in the first part- there a few incongruously humorous phrases. It’s not like the book is too deadly serious and broody for humor, it’s not, but the steampunk Western setting with its massive body count and its psychopath control freak torture-happy robber Baron in charge does not gel with phrases like: ‘He lies awake and broods like a brooding thing…’ Please leave those for the Sterek fanfic writers.
As long as I am making a list of what the content editor* missed, then I would also have requested a prologue type chapter set in the Territories, so I would have had a better idea of what passes for ‘normal’ society in this world and therefore I would better appreciate how abnormal Stanslo’s Bridge really is.
Aside from those niggles, this book is great. The hot and dirty desert town is so vividly set you’ll be yearning for a cold beer and deodorant. It has a meaty, multi-layered mystery plot, with twists and surprises and we see plenty of action. The second half of the book reads like a train. One that runs on gridTech and has a canon mounted on top to shoot mutants with. Yeehaw!
The romantic pairing is the Cummings standard couple. The slighter, more or less unhinged genius as the love interest and the older, larger, protective MC ,who gets yanked out of his comfort zone. It is what she likes to write and she writes it well. The book came with a warning from the publisher that it wasn’t a romance and it shouldn’t be judged as such, but I found it plenty romantic. It has a very hopeful HFN, so I am not sure what the issue would be? Maybe they have a minimum percentage of sex scenes that wasn’t met by this book. On the Carole Cummings Angst-o-meter that ranges from Queen’s Librarian at the bottom to the Wolf’s Own series at the top, I’d say it rates just a little under Aisling, but still well above Queen’s Librarian (thank god).
Anyway, despite a saggy center part, this is an interesting, plot-like-an-onion driven story that should satisfy most fantasy fans of the steampunkish variety.
*Btw, the line editing is great, I don’t remember seeing even one typo and that’s not something I would have expected from an associated-with-Dreamspinner publication.Author Link GoodReads