Fires of Invention
Mysteries of Cove #1
by J. Scott Savage
Shadow Mountain Publishing
I want to thank Shadow Mountain Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC.
A major thing I love about this book is that there is definitely the feel of a dystopian or post-apocalyptic society here, but it isn't depressing. I'm very tired of the no-hope, doomed-civilization worlds. With Fires of Invention, there's a fun, playful essence to the story that's infectious. It's just a group of people who decided to hole themselves up in a mountain because overuse of technology poisoned the air outside and that's just their life. It's a (mostly) normal little society -no Hunger Games, no aptitude test, just good old fashioned job placement.
But back to that 'holed themselves up in the mountain' thing. I was a little wary at first when the characters talked about how the sky was poisoned by too much technology because I didn't want to be beat over the head with environmental strong-arm tactics and that wasn't the intent at all. Imagine my joy to find that this is straight up, really truly, an actual plot device to further the story. Because of this outside sky poisoning, inside Cove 'inventing' and being 'creative' are the worst crimes comprehensible.
Of course our main character rather excels at that. Trenton is a mechanic who wants nothing more than to improve the poor, often ill-maintained machinery their society runs on and, while he doesn't want to be a cursed Inventor, sometimes he just can't help but see a better way to do things.
Throw in Kallista Babbage, daughter of an Inventor and murderer, on the hunt for her father's last invention and -yeah, I call that a party.
story unfolds at a good pace, giving us a mystery within the first few
chapters to keep our attention until things really start to unfold. For
this reason, this book could be easily handed to a middle grade or YA
reader and I doubt they would even notice. Coupled with the great characters and the fantastic if eerie underground steampunk setting, this one's a win.
Both of our main characters understand machines and blueprints far
better than they do people and emotions, which means the awkward interactions (<3 <3 <3!!) are
frequent, endearing, and great points of character and relationship development.
Speaking of relationships...
thing I really admired is that, in the story, Trenton and his mother
don't get along very well. Savage handled it so well
because -despite Trenton's frustration and anger with his mother, how he makes her stew and stings her with barbed comments in his anger- Savage never makes his mother the bad guy. Trenton's angry with her, he's hurt by her actions, and he doesn't understand why she's trying to ruin his dreams. He certainly doesn't like her for a good portion of the book, but despite all that I never felt that she was truly villainized and I have immense respect for Savage for that, especially since this is a children's book.
But that's not the only tricky parent/child relationship Savage handles and the second one is much subtler. Leo Babbage is hinted to be much like Trenton in the respect that he understands mechanics much more than people and we see how this affected Kallista's upbringing and personality, and how it affects her relationship with Trenton. We don't see too much on the actual relationship between father and daughter, but I'm hoping we get more flashbacks/details in the sequel. *crosses fingers*
Minor characters are given good depth alongside our heroes and, even better, roles to play in the story's conclusion. I love it when that happens.
The one exception for this was Clyde who, admittedly, didn't have a whole lot to offer in the climax. I don't even know what he would have done. I just liked the character and wanted to see him involved. The fact that he didn't isn't bad for the story, but it does mean that I will be watching out for Clyde's role in future books because he'll have to do something important eventually.
Oh, right. Did I mention that huge mechanical, FIRE-BREATHING dragon? Each chapter is headed by an illustration of this steampunk awesomeness, as it is being built one gear and mechanism at a time. But what's it doing in the story? Dude, you have to find that out for yourself!
Have you read Fires of Invention?
If not, what book are you enjoying right now?