Top Ten Favorite Steampunk Reads: An utterly biased perspective

A friend and I are talking about a joint writing venture. She writes contemporary romance and historicals, mostly set in the first part of the 20th century. I write…a little of everything. Usually with vampires. The one thing we have in common, though, is a flirty, funny approach, and I’m kind of excited to dive into the project.

Neither of us has done the co-author thing before. And neither of us has written Steampunk.

So why Steampunk? There are a couple reasons, the first being I’ve always wanted to explore the genre from the writing side. I’m a huge fan – as you can see from the rest of the post – but  have never tried to create a Steampunk world of my own. The second is I think the basic idea for our setting – a premature baby incubator display on a carnival midway in about 1910 – would lend itself to all kinds of gadgets and gizmos.

Most important, I think layering on the fantasy elements will free us from having to take a strict approach to historical behaviors and attitudes, particularly for our female characters. Creating women who don’t make modern readers cringe is one of the trickier parts of writing historical romance, but calling it Steampunk lets us do an end run around that particular obstacle.

And did I mention I really love the genre?

As part of my research (ow, ow, twist my arm, make me read more Steampunk) I came up with a list of my favorites and shared them with my writing partner. It was a surprisingly long list, and I decided to organize it as a top ten for you, the readers of this blog. Give her a go, and let me know in the comments if there’s anything I missed. (Oh, and you’ll notice I skew towards romance. So shoot me.)

10. The Native Star by MK Hobson – There are a couple different styles of Steampunk – there’s the futuristic variety (think Joss Whedon’s Firefly or books by HG Wells), and the Victorian style (almost everything else). On the third branch of the Steampunk tree, you find stories set in a reinvisioned American West. That’s where Native Star falls. It’s the first of a series involving a lively witch and a cantankerous warlock who might be rather heroic if he’d get over himself. It was a fun read, and though I haven’t picked up the sequel yet, I likely will…

9. A Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin – I read this a bazillion years ago, before I knew Steampunk was a thing, but it came up on a Goodreads list so I’m including it here. Though I don’t remember many details, I know it’s a magical story set in turn-of-the-century New York. Hmm…might have to pick this one up again.

8. The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger – There’s a whole bunch of books in this series, and I think of them as kind of a starter drug. I loved the first few, then moved on to other Steampunk series. Many people might put them higher on the list, and I might have if she’d stopped at three. IMHO the energy dwindled a bit after that.

7. The Seduction of Phaeton Black by Jillian Stone – Okay, so the hero is a mash-up of Robert Downey Junior’s Sherlock & Jack Sparrow, and the heroine’s got brass…buckles, but there’s a naughty scene quite near the opening that scored so many points with me it overcame the messy plot edges toward the end. Lots of fun if you like a sexy anti-hero.

6. Kiss Of Steel by Bec McMaster – This one’s also the first of a series, and I really should read more of them. Gritty Victorian London setting, compelling set-up, and tons of sexual tension. Fun read.

5. Flash Gold by Lindsey Buroker – Ms. Buroker is a self-published author who has a couple different Steampunk series going. I linked to Flash Gold because it’s free (and free is good). This is the first in a series set in the Yukon, with a strong heroine and a solid take on the genre. Her novel Encrypted is from a set of three similar novels (although I couldn’t find a name for the series). It’s more of a fantasy take on Steampunk, and it’s a fresh, enjoyable read.

4. The Darkest London books by Kristen Callihan – These books are currently on my auto-buy list. Pretty much I’m reading them as fast as the author can write them. There’s werewolves and magic and some really hot writing. I started with Moonglow. You should too.

Okay, now for my top three…

3. Dead Iron by Devon Monk – This is the first in her series called The Age Of Steam, which are also pretty much auto-buys for me. Strong, strong writing and wordbuilding and compelling characters. Her language is so beautiful it’s worth reading even if you don’t give a hoot about airships and shapeshifters and witches.

And, well, there are two #1s, because I love both these series so, so much, and they’re both so different and marvelous

1. The Iron Duke by Meljean Brooks – Okay, just because I’m listing this one here does not mean it’s in any way second to any other book. It was the kind of book where I read compulsively, in borderline inappropriate places (the bar at a pricy eastside restaurant surrounded by lawyers and salesgeeks while waiting for a friend), and then as soon as I finished, I went back to page one and started again. Amazing world building. Incredible romance. Hot sex. *gulp* This series isn’t just an auto-buy – it’s a ‘check the author’s website regularly to see if there’s a new one coming out’.

1. Wicked As They Come by Delilah Dawson – This. This. Just as imaginative as the world building in Iron Duke, but in a more playful, creepy carnival kind of way. And there’s vampires. Sort of. And a nurse (which comes very close to my heart). And hot sex. And the best use of a door in any novel anywhere.

And finally, here are a couple on my TBR pile…

Godspeed by February Grace and anything by Cherie Priest and the Bannon and Clare books by Lilith Saintcrow and Gossamer Wings by Delphine Dryden. There might be a few more, especially after I see what you put in the comments here.  🙂

So…what’s your favorite Steampunk story? Have you tried writing in the genre? Are there any tips you’d like to share?

Peace, Liv

11 thoughts on “Top Ten Favorite Steampunk Reads: An utterly biased perspective

  1. Shauna Granger says:

    OMGosh, I am right there with you! I love reading Steampunk, but I haven’t gotten up the nerve to try my hand at it. I think because of all the mechanical stuff, it really scares me off. I wasn’t/am not much for the sciences and math and whatnot so I’m not sure I could do it well. I am a big fan of The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross and I just started Karina Cooper’s St. Croix Chronicles. Good luck with the new project!

    1. livrancourt says:

      Ooh, I saw Girl in the Steel Corset while I was putting the post together. It should probably have been on my TBR list at the end. As far as Ms. Cooper’s book, I’ll be interested in hearing what you think. Do tell…

  2. I’m always on the lookout for new steampunk! Haven’t read a lot of it yet though…too many other genres to love. Some of my favourites include the Girl Genius graphic novels (also online as free webcomics), Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (YA), The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, and arguably some of China Mieville’s stuff.

    1. livrancourt says:

      Okay, so Amazon just sent me the sample for The Difference Engine. I’ll let you know what I think, Siri. And thanks for the hot tip!! 😉

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