Posted by: Katie | March 13, 2010

Heart’s Blood by Gail Dayton

After reading Soulless by Gail Carriger, I’ve made a more serious effort to explore the emerging (into the mainstream) trend of steampunk/gaslight, especially if I can get them with strong romance flavorings. Now, I’ve actually been a fan of steampunk/gaslight elements since I was a kid, but that fascination was more from television and movies. Books with those elements didn’t really come on my radar until I became friends with John Klima, of Hugo Award-winning fame for his ‘zine Electric Velocipede, through our mutual part-time job. I need to go back and read some core titles, but thanks to John, now everyone has a primer list to work from: Steampunk: 20 Core Titles.

All of this to lead up to why I was primed to pick up Gail Dayton’s latest in her Blood Magic series. I’ve actually been aware of Dayton since her breakout books with Harlequin’s defunct Luna line. A lot of friends and online acquaintances were raving over her and the richly detailed books she writes. I marked her for my radar, but didn’t pick up a book. When she moved to Tor Romance with the first book in the series, New Blood, I made another note, but moved on because something about the description of the book wasn’t working for me. It wasn’t anything I could quite put my finger on, but as I had a bunch of other books that needed reading, I didn’t let it bother me. With Heart’s Blood, what finally pushed me over the edge was the desire to read some steampunk romance while I waited for Carriger’s next book to come out at the end of this month. I was over on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books site, saw the ad for Heart’s Blood and decided to go ahead and order it from the library. Honestly, the cover art pulled me in. I am so glad it did.

The first thing I liked about this book was that it wasn’t absolutely necessary for me to have read New Blood in order to follow along with what was going on. I’m sure it would have helped with some points in the plot, though. In this steampunk world, the basis of the “altered reality” of Victorian London is magic, which makes me think it might be more appropriately termed gaslight. The steampunk/gaslight debate is one I need to do more research into, also. Dayton’s characterizations are well-rounded, and thoughtful. I would have appreciated more exploration into Grey’s family background as that was the basis for the romance “black moment” and which rang a little hollow for me due to that lack. That was my only quibble with this book. Two days later, I am still wishing I wasn’t done with it. The world-building is rich, and the romance perfectly complemented by the external plot. I would stick this on a list of core “Steampunk with strong romance elements” books. As soon as I finish a few more books in my TBR pile, I’m also going to get New Blood and give it a try. I’m so happy when I find new-to-me authors!

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