Review: A Vanishing Glow

Title: A Vanishing Glow (The Mystech Arcanum Vol. I & II)  26631848

Author: Alexis Radcliffe

Publication Date: September 15th, 2015

Summary: It is an Age of Revolution, an Age of Industrialism. Constructs, living men who are as much brass and steel as they are flesh, man the factories and wage the wars of a ruling elite who gorge themselves on the fruits of the common man’s labor. Mystech, a brilliant fusion of magic and machine, gives rise to a new class of privileged inventors and merchants even as the country festers with wounds from decades of internal strife.

Only one man holds the promise of a brighter future: Nole Ryon, the crown prince. When his childhood friend Jason Tern answers his call for aid, the two of them set out to fight for the change their country needs in order to survive, even as shadowy foes frustrate their efforts. But soon, Jason and Nole’s idealistic mission of hope becomes a furious manhunt for a political murderer as the nation balances on the precipice of a country-wide civil war. Can they cut through the threads of intrigue to discover their true enemy before everything is lost?

Sweeping from the ancient cities at the heart of the nation to the dusty edges of the war-torn frontier, A Vanishing Glow tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and assassins, friends and lovers, who come together in a time of epic struggle. Here a brave officer risks everything to win back his estranged father’s respect; a brilliant young engineer attempts to atone for her sins; a war-weary commander tries to pick up the pieces of the life he lost; and a man touched by the gods struggles to prepare a nation for the coming of an ancient evil which only he can see. In the dying light of a once-prosperous society, amid twisting plots, suffering and betrayal, lost love and shattered dreams, all must fight for what they hold dear. Who will taste the fruits of victory and who will lie bloodied on the ground in the light of a vanishing glow?


I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

A Vanishing Glow was not a book that I had on my TBR list or had even heard of before, but when the author approached me to ask if I would read and review, and I read the synopis, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it. This book was an intriguing story of murder, secrets, steampunk and betrayal. At the beginning we are introduced to Jason, a noble travelling to meet his childhood friend and prince, and Nilya, a young girl with a knack for engineering who is trying to run from her past. Though they initally start out with no connection, their stories soon intertwine, providing a story with dual perspectives and cause and effect through two completely different people’s eyes.

To start with, I really have to gush over the huge cast of interesting and mysterious characters in this book. On Jason’s end, we have multiple shady politicians, idealistic Nole, a weary war veteran, assassins, reporters, a disapproving father and a mysterious man in a cloak who calls himself “Hood”. Then when we move over to Nilya we get introduced to her friend Verse, multiple other members of The Crimson Fist, an injured travelling companion, healing monks and a rejected husband-to-be. Although there is a huge cast, each character is well written and unique enough that you manage to keep them all straight, as they all have some role to play in the story, be it good or bad.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the world building, which was in my opinion, rather superbly done. The world itself was very dense, with loads of different noblity, armies and land, and while it’s hard to keep track of at first, you’ll get to the point where everything clicks. I loved how the steampunk elements were incorporated into the world and how believable I found them. And one of the main points of conflict in this story is the political struggle between all sorts of people, so we are getting multiple views on the world and how they think it should be changed, which I think contributed so much to the world building. A smaller part of the world that I enjoyed was how open they are about their sexuality, even if in the end, the rules enforced about “joining” or having mulitple partners are still unfair. I loved reading about Nilya, who likes women, and that it isn’t unacceptable that she has been with them. One of the bigggest benefits of having Jason and Nilya’s POVs is that we get to see how different actions or decisions effect nobles versus commoners, which I really enjoyed. The contrast between Jason, who is trying to fight for the good of all the people, and Nilya who is trying to save herself and find some sort of redemption along the way, I found to be a really great portrayal of the many battles people fight and how different things are worth fighting for to different people.

The plot, though slow at some times, keeps you engaged in so many different ways. We get a great blend of mental and political battles mixed in with violence and actual fights. There are several occassions throughout the book where the tension is so thick that I had to stop myself from biting my nails or covering my eyes. And although I found certain parts to be more predicitble, it balanced out well because some parts came out of no where and made me pause to collect my thoughts because it was the last thing I had been expecting. I enjoyed that lots of things constantly went wrong or got messed up, only for the characters to form a Plan B and keep moving forward.

There were only a few things I didn’t love about this book, hence the four start rating. First of all, Jason wasn’t my favorite character of all time, although I did find him very realistic. I struggled to understand some of his decisions and views on certain things and occassionaly found myself wanting to give him a good thump on the head. Also, a few parts with him were rather slow, and while I liked that it contributed to character growth or world building, I found it hard to get through.

Overall, this book was a huge and pleasant surprise and I’m very happy that the author approached me for a review. It was a great break from all of the YA I’ve been reading lately and I enjoyed the mature themes and complexity that A Vanishing Glow had in abundance. If you’re a fan of steampunk and plots full of death, deception, love and redemption, I would definitely recommend checking out this impressive debut novel.



Review: The Clockwork Scarab

Title: The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker and Holmes #1) 17084242

Author: Colleen Gleason

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Publication Date: September 17, 2013

Summary: Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes never meant to get into the family business. But when you’re the sister of Bram and the niece of Sherlock, vampire hunting and mystery solving are in your blood. And when two society girls go missing, there’s no one more qualified to investigate.

Now fierce Evaline and logical Mina must resolve their rivalry, navigate the advances of not just one but three mysterious gentlemen, and solve murder with only one clue: a strange Egyptian scarab. The stakes are high. If Stoker and Holmes don’t unravel why the belles of London society are in such danger, they’ll become the next victims.


You know, you’d never think that two teenage girls, one related to Bram Stoker from Dracula, the other related to Sherlock Holmes, could ever manage to work together to solve mysteries and save the day. And you’d be pretty much right. These two ladies definitely did not like each other and were not above making sure the other one knew it.

First we have Alvermina Holmes, who unsurprisingly goes by Mina, a young lady who was abandoned by her mother, lives with a brillant father who is never home, and is known to mostly because of her crime solving uncle, Sherlock Holmes. She is headstrong, just as brilliant as her uncle, unfortunately not very fashionable, and definitely socially awkward. Mina brings the brains and determination, the logically side to the duo. She is also my favorite out of the two. I loved seeing how her brain works, working out clues and determining all of the possible explanations. But I could still relate to her because she wasn’t just a robot, she was still an awkward teenage girl. And I loved how she had kind of the feminist streak in a time where women aren’t really supposed to do anything improper. She didn’t care about propriety, she just wanted to use her brains and help people, and was constantly annoyed when people underestimated her because she is a woman.

Evaline Stoker was a bit more difficult for me to like. She was beautiful, has super speed and strength, and has never killed a vampire despite her abilities. She made a few rash decisions in the book that she obviously didn’t think out, nearly getting both girls killed, and that annoyed me. I also didn’t like how she kind of seemed to put herself up on a pedestal because she was prettier and had more gentlemen interested in her than Mina. But I did like how she still tried her best to be a good addition to the team and use the strengths she had to help. I can appreciate when a character knows their strengths and weaknesses and can admit when they are a bit out of their league. I also found the whole vampire slaying thing to be really interesting, although we don’t get any of it since there are no vampires in London anymore, but I did like the few bits we got on her family history when vampires were still around.

As far as the romance goes, we have several cases of forced insta-infatuation and even a love triangle. Yep, the dreaded love triangle. Evaline falls for some guy that I can barely understand because he uses a strong Cockney accent, and wears a barrage of disguises. But the best part is that he is named Pix. Like a pixie. Don’t ask because I really don’t know. Then we have Mina who is getting all swoony over some Irish detective, but who could blame her with an accent like that? But she is also panting over some boy that is from the future of a parallel world. When she first sees the future boy, she immediately gasps over how attractive he is. Two second later the detective walks in, and she again gasps at how attractive he is. I’m pretty sure Mina is just going to become obsessed and insert herself into the lives of every eligible bachelor she meets. Really, with both girls, their relationships don’t really get to in depth, it’s mostly just a steamy attraction sort of thing, so it was of little to no interest to me.

I was actually really pleasantly surprised to see that this is a steampunk book. Very light steampunk for sure, but it’s still there and adds a little unexpected fun to this story. So this book looks kind of like a hot mess, considering just in the first few chapters we already have steampunk, vampires, time travel, and an evil Egyptian society, among other things. But I actually found that the author did a fairly good job of making things flow together well. She didn’t shove the steampunk stuff in your face or make it feel forced, so the little mentions we got of it were very intriguing.

The plot itself  was pretty fast paced and fun. The mystery wasn’t anything amazing, especially since it really didn’t even get solved in the end, which I’m sure will tie into a later book. But I did really enjoy the world, the steampunk parts were very interesting and I loved the more traditional historical London feel too. I did enjoy seeing the girls kind of dance around each other, not wanting to work together or cooperate, only to become a bit closer by the end. Their banter was really entertaining, as well as seeing their different lifestyles and how they were both kind of jealous of each other, even though they would never admit it. As for the time travel part, that mystery wasn’t figured out, a pretty stereotypical explanation was given and that was that. I’m convinced that time travel is only in the book so the author could bring a ridiculously attractive boy from the future for Mina to fall in love with, only for there to be a huge amount of drama once they find a way to get him back to his own time.

The villain in this book was really strange to me. I get that the author wanted them to be mysterious, but literally no one in this book could tell if it was a man or a woman. Mina at one point thinks she knows who it is, but even then, I don’t get how there is literally no way to figure out what sex the person is. It absolutely drove me crazy and I didn’t understand the relevance of having the villain be like that in this story. It seemed really random and confusing.

While this book wasn’t anything amazing, I would consider it to be a light, entertaining sort of read. If you just want to settle down with a fun mystery, attractive young men, witty banter, and a hint of supernatural stuff, this would be the book for you. Just don’t expect to have your mind blown by an ingenious plot or character development. I’m pretty sure you’d be rather disappointed.


Review: The Unnaturalists

Title: The Unnaturalists (The Unnaturalists #1)12988074

Author: Tiffany Trent

Publication Date: August 14, 2012

Publisher: Simon & Schuster


In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.


I don’t think I’ve ever been so confused but strangely fascinated by a book in my life. I feel like the author had a great idea for this world, but transitioning it from her head to paper wasn’t as successful as it could have been. The whole alternate history/ fantasy world/ steampunk blend was actually fairly cohesive, but overwhelming.

This is one of those books where once I finish, I just sit here trying to piece it together and understand what it was that I just read. So what it is, to my understanding so forgive me if any of this is incorrect, is that back in like the 1800’s, the big wig scientists somehow transported London to a different alternate world London? Maybe? I think they created an invention and it opened a gateway and swooshed a bunch of people through. So now, the people have a New London, where magic is outlawed and they have like the Holy Scientific Bible and Saint Tesla and run all of their machines off of myth, basically the life force of all the magical creatures that they are rounding up and killing. Yeah. It’s basically just a big mash of stuff.

Now, I actually found myself enjoying this world. But so many things were just fuzzy. I can always appreciate an author who plunges us into a story and actually believes us to be smart enough to figure things out for ourselves instead of holding our hand and walking though it all, but this book could have seriously used some of that. Like there is this dead zone called The Waste that I assume is caused by the killing of all the magical creatures, but we don’t really know why and it seems to be a sentient being but again, we don’t really know why. Or the Empress, like the evil ruler of the city, we never find anything out about her, or her mysterious daughter. Absolutely zip.

I did really like the alternating viewpoints of Vespa and Syrus. I wish we could have learned more about the Tinker society but Syrus ended up leaving that pretty quickly due to certain circumstances. I liked that Syrus was just kind of an angsty (with good reason) young boy who was independent and out to fix the world, following his beliefs. Vespa was a little bit harder to like for me. Where Syrus had a reason to be angst filled and sad, her reasoning for those emotions were the usual over dramatic girl blah blah over some guy and the mistakes she made and yawn…. No thanks. Actually one of the characters I ended up liking the best was the Minotaur. Who was in the book just a few small times. So I’m not sure where that came from but I enjoyed her for the few encounters we got with her.

This book does end up getting extra brownie points for the reason that I honestly did enjoy it. The world was fun, the adventure was fun, the characters were all kind of fun, and I might end up reading the next book, just in hopes of learning more about this world.