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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 
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Sunday, 22 June 2014

A Dodge, A Twist and a Tobacconist (The Alexnder Legacy, Book 1) by Sophronia Belle Lyon



A Dodge, a Twist and a Tobacconist (The Alexander Legacy)

Florizel of Bohemia tries to live a quiet life as a London tobacconist. The mysterious gypsy beauty who invites him to a late-night meeting in the Bronze Cascade Hotel seems desperate for his help, but what can be a life-or-death matter to a socialite singer? An eccentric little inventor, calling himself by the absurd name of Oliver Twist, comes to collect him in a curious old mail coach. It only becomes an airship after it's too late for Florizel to disembark.
How can a former street orphan, a Texas Cowgirl who rode a Giant Catfish across the Atlantic, a world-traveling abolitionist bearing "the Flail of God", a quiet country clergyman, a jungle tracker, and a Chinese merchant, track down a shadowy slave master who trains pickpocket slashers and fills freighter holds with human cargo bound for ports around the Empire? A poison maiden gives Florizel a kiss and an ominous warning: "Some ruler will rise and take the throne of a true Empire where the sun never sets and where the people will never be free."

The Guru's Review:

The genre of steampunk of this novel is a first for me. I have a few steampunk novels in my To Be Read shelf and this is the first of them I have read. 

Steampunk is generally defined as, 
  1. a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.
However, there are more specific definitions applied to this genre such as, 
Medieval Steampunk: Speculative fiction set during the Middle Ages.
Victorian Steampunk: A modern Science Fiction work (post-1930s) that is set in the early parts of the industrial revolution.
Western Steampunk: Science fiction set in the American Old West.
Industrial/Modern Steampunk: Science fiction taking place in the late industrial age, early modern age; i.e. World War 1, World War 2
(http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=steampunk) 
In this novel, Belle Lyon deals with steampunk set in London in the Victorian era (Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death, on 22 January 1901) despite the time frame set before the above definition of Victorian Steampunk (post 1930's).

Despite the steam powered machinery such as a flying machine and submarine, and other non steam powered machinery such as a glider, computer tablet (hinted as having similar functions to an iPad/android tablet) and adjustable lens glasses, that were not invented in this time, their inclusion and use in this novel and time period fits well into this story and it may sound strange but adds a sense of fun. I chuckled many times as I imagined this technology being used as described in this novel amidst this era when we know in reality this was not the case. If this steampunk element is what makes steampunk a genre, then I have become a fan! 

Having technology in an era or time when it would just not have been also reminds me of another series that I have read that is not steampunk by the above definition but it did contain advanced technology such as phones, cars, pizza for example. This series is from Kel Richards, one example being the Case of the Vanishing Corpse, set in Jesus time, and involves a private investigator hired to find the missing (albeit resurrected) body of Christ. That, like this novel, was a lot of fun and also made me laugh having police cars, using the phone to call for pizza etc in solving the case of the missing body of Christ. I find the mixing of this steampunk characteristics and/or advanced technology in these two novels a very clever idea and it works well. 

The other factor about the use of this steam powered machinery and other aforementioned technology in this novel is that it does add to the suspense and plot development.  An example of this is the character of Spring Heeled Jack and his use of the glider to infiltrate the home of the Alexander Legacy and the suspense this caused when Florizel launched himself off the roof onto this glider and then later after Oliver Twist has repaired it and Florizel used it to fly to London. This really was a great example of the use of this technology and how well it moved the plot along. 

Another element that made me laugh/chuckle throughout the novel is the inclusion of the characters from various other novels who form the Legacy and how they, despite their human or animal form, different cultural differences and background all come together and work as a unified team with their various talents and abilities (and accents, try "reading" the accent of Sluefoot Sue!!) to rid London of the organised crime of petty thieves who are under the control of Dodge. Anyone who is familiar with Oliver Twist can join the dots and identify who Dodge is here. But is it just the case of finding and exposing Dodge for who he is? In this instalment is this all there is to it? Read and find out!! 

Based on what I have written so far, this novel is fun! Very entertaining without detracting from the main motive of the plot which is to expose Dodge and destroy his organised crime syndicate of petty thieves and people smuggling.

I grew up with Mowgli and Bagheera, and Oliver Twist. Loved their respective novels and them as characters. I was totally unfamiliar of the rest of the Legacy members from their respective novels only because I have not read the novels from whence they came: 

Prince Florizel of Bohemia (The New Arabian Nights by Robert Loius Stevenson), 

Zambo (The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), 

Sluefoot Sue, (married to Pecos Bill by Edward O'Reilly)

Fun See Tokiyo, (Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott)

Edward Ferrars, (Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen)

Phoebe Morre-Campbell (Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott)  

Rose (Bloom by Louisa May Alcott).

I found invaluable the notes provided by Sophronia in the Afterword at the end of the novel. Here is an example of Sophronia's motive for writing this novel, 

When I watched the movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I had great expectations.....since it included some of my favorite literary characters. I was disappointed, however, because I didn't feel the characters bore much resemblance to the originals. So I resolved to create my own league of classic fictional characters and try to be more true to the spirit, if not always the letter, of these beloved imaginary heroes and heroines.
I started with certain criteria: One, they had to have "lived" in or near the Victorian era, since that was my chosen setting. Most of my favorites lived in 1800s anyway. Two, they had to be people of strong, good moral character. Three, I wanted some racial and cultural diversity. Four, I needed to be able to use at least some of the original character's "true" book story as a jumping-off point for my story.  
This example and the entire Afterword gives a look into the mindset of the author and where she is coming from, why she chose these characters, but more importantly, why she wrote this novel and its sequel. This gives credibility to the story and how it is constructed and what she set out to achieve and I feel she has been successful in this. There are some very good plot developments and twists and Sophronia ties it all together well so by the end of the novel, you are content, satisfied, and look back and laugh at the journey you have just traveled. Knowing there is a sequel just adds to this satisfaction and you want to explore this next instalment just to see what happens next as your interest and curiosity has been more than piqued and how Sophronia is going to continue the plot lines..  

The spiritual elements in this novel fit in well too. Sophronia is writing from a Christian perspective so she has depicted her characters as being Christian. Florizel is depicted as being led by the Spirit in his dealing with Kera and her subsequent conversion to Christianity and he showed no hesitancy when he finally caught up with the Dodge at the end of the novel and offered him Christ's salvation. This is just two examples of the Christian side of this novel Having all the characters in the Alexander Legacy as Christians and the motivation of Legacy to fight this increasing crime wave from the moral and justice side of Christianity seems to be a binding force behind this novel. 

All in all, a fun and enjoyable steampunk adventure from an author strongly influenced by the classics she grew up with and who successfully translates these characters into another world inspired by her vivid imagination. 

Strongly Recommended.




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