Follow-up to Bear’s feminist steampunk yarn, Karen Memory (2015), whose setting is an alternate-world gold rush–era city in the Pacific Northwest.
This time, the hero of the previous adventure, horse-breaker and retired 17-year-old “seamstress” (or prostitute) Karen Memery, enjoys dinner and a show at the Rain City Riverside Hotel with her partner, Priya, a mad scientist who converted a steam-powered Singer sewing machine into a suit of battle armor (yes, it still sews), when a series of loud knocks interrupts the proceedings. Tables flip over and other weird damage occurs, for which Hypatia and Hilaria Arcade, a pair of spiritualists, are blamed. Clearly, or so Karen thinks, there’s a tommyknocker—a generally helpful supernatural creature whose normal habitat is the gold mines of Alaska—loose in the basement, and it’s very upset about something. Karen unthinkingly rushes off to investigate along with the Arcade sisters and Mrs. Micajah Horner, a stage magician performing as her late husband’s stand-in. Priya stomps off in a huff, so now Karen has two issues to resolve. Even with the richly imagined backdrop and distinctively earthy narrative voice, it’s all a bit of a stretch, with a too-brief adventure sandwiched by lengthy disquisitions on interpersonal trust-building.
Reams of practical advice for those embroiled in troubled relationships but, fictionwise, not too much to chew on even for series fans.