An endearing romp through a joyously conceived steampunk world.



This sci-fi debut brings a young man through time and into the company of an eclectic airship crew.

In 1867, former burlesque dancer Millicent Darlington captains the airship Elizabeth Anne. She and her crew, based in the gold mining settlement of Grahamstown, prepare to take cryptozoologist Lady Elspeth Lovelace to investigate “several mysterious disappearances of whaling ships.” The Elizabeth Anne’s odd crew includes Jonas Enoch Emerson, a secret assassin for the Ministry of Dark Affairs; Dr. Persephone Mockett, a specialist in mechanical body enhancements; and Lenore Ravenwood of the Ministry of Technology and Alchemy, among others. While heading out to sea, Lenore detects an open time portal, disguised as a cloud. Millicent’s crew confronts a pirate ship run by time-traveling “time slavers” and rescues a young farmer, covered in cow dung. They learn that he’s a New Zealander named Kev and explain to him that, if not for their intervention, he would have been sold on the black market and lost forever. Persephone assures him that after completing Lady Elspeth’s research, the crew will return him to the past, where she thinks that he belongs. However, after some adventures involving a kraken and the mistaken arrest of crewman Sherlock Whitley, Kev realizes that his return will be more complicated than initially thought. In this jubilant steampunk adventure, McLean plays with the culture shock of time travel by having the crew assume Kev is from the past, when he’s actually from 2017. After all, the year 1867, as presented here, features bionic body parts (including Millicent’s left eye) and personal aircraft like the Hummingbird, which impress Kev but leave him thinking that “there must have been some kind of apocalypse or something.” The author’s episodic narrative develops many members of her large, outlandishly named cast and allows a romance between Kev and Persephone to blossom. Further complications arise, however, when Kev begins to recognize the landscape of Grahamstown, and Professor Archibald Quatermain Popkiss is enlisted to solve the mystery of the farmer’s origin. A sublimely orchestrated twist ensures that readers will return for a planned sequel.

An endearing romp through a joyously conceived steampunk world.

Pub Date: May 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5144-6689-6

Page Count: 154

Publisher: XlibrisNZ

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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