- Paperback: 350 pages
- Publisher: Snowbooks; UK ed. edition (Sept. 1 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 190967933X
- ISBN-13: 978-1909679337
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 259 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,225,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon Paperback – Sep 1 2014
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About the Author
David Barnett is an award-winning journalist, multimedia content manager of the "Telegraph & Argus," cultural reviewer for "The Guardian" and the "Independent" on Sunday, and has done features for "The Independent" and "Wired." He is the author of" Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl," "Angelglass" (described by "The Guardian" as "stunning"), "Hinterland," and "popCULT"!
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Here we are, just over a year later, and David Barnett has delivered admirably on those sequel demands with Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon. This installment swaps out the old-fashioned horror for old west adventure, but adds even more steampunk science fiction to the mix. It's a book that surprised me several times with the direction it took, avoiding the genre clichés towards which it seemed to be teasing us, and (of course) setting up several plot threads for a third book.
The story opens with a mechanically augmented Charles Darwin, marooned in the lost world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, slowly succumbing to rust and ruin. He and Stanford Rubicon are the last survivors of the HMS Beagle II, with the rest of the crew having either fallen to their deaths or been eaten by dinosaurs. Just when all seems lost, they are rescued by Mr. Gideon Smith, "Hero of the effing Empire," and Aloysius Bent, his chronicler for World Marvels & Wonders. From there, we briefly follow the heroes home to England, only to dispatched just hours later to the shores of America, where the brass dragon (and, presumably, Maria) have been spotted.
It's in the alternate history of America that Barnett's second adventure really shines. The Mason–Dixon isn't just a line here, it's a solid wall to rival that of China's great one. The America to the north is one of skyscrapers and dirigibles, still loyal to the Queen; while Texas, Louisiana, and the Confederate states to the south are lawless, old west towns full of slavery, prostitution, and black magic. As for California, it was ceded to the Japanese long ago, with the remnants of Spanish occupation still putting up a good fight around them. It only takes a few small twists in the history of the American Revolution to create this world, with at least one forgotten hero making a surprise return later in the story.
The fact that Gideon does find Maria and the brass dragon should come as no surprise, but the ways in which she has changed certainly do. At the risk of spoiling the story, I won't say much about her role, except to say the Japanese provide a worthy foe . . . and there is an escaped Tyrannosaurus Rex to be dealt with. Rowena Fanshawe once again gets to play heroine of the airways, while Louis Cockayne's story is brought full circle with a very satisfactory revolution. Bent doesn't have as much to do this time around, but he's an effing marvelous for sarcasm and comic relief.
While I didn't enjoy Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon quite as much as the first book (it's pacing is slower, and America is a distant second to Egypt in terms of setting), it's still a great read that has left me hungry for a third helping. What further surprises or settings Barnett may have in mind, I have no idea, but I'll hazard a guess that the oft-referenced Jack the Ripper may finally pit himself against Smith and team.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire, a teeming metropolis where steam-power is king and airships ply the skies, and where Queen Victoria presides over three quarters of the known world-including the east coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.
Young Gideon Smith has seen things that no one should ever experience. Through a series of incredible events Gideon has become the newest Hero of the Empire. But Gideon is a man with a mission, for the Texas pirate Louis Cockayne has stolen the mechanical clockwork girl Maria, along with a most a great brass dragon that was unearthed beneath ancient Egyptian soil. Maria is the only one who can pilot the beast, so Cockayne has taken girl and dragon off to points east.
Gideon and his intrepid band take to the skies and travel to the American colonies hot on Cockayne's trail. Not only does Gideon want the machine back, he has fallen in love with Maria. Their journey will take them to the wilds of the lawless lands south of the American colonies-to free Texas, where the mad King of Steamtown rules with an iron fist (literally), where life is cheap and honor even cheaper.
I can hardly wait for the next book in this series.
I enjoyed it at first, and would still read it again, but yeah - too much of a good thing.
Oh, and a note on the ebook version - the formatting is terrible. Just awful. It's not just that sometimes people are talking in the same sentence, or occasionally a sentence gets a new line for the last word, it's the frequent jump in perspective to an entirely new character in a different place and time with no indication - very unprofessional proofing on this.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against young adult fiction, but sometimes it's good to have stories featuring grown ups. Gideon Smith works so well because it works on both levels. It has the young adult appeal with mature themes. The characters are a mixture of all age groups, from the young Gideon Smith to older companions who have as much of a voice as does our young protagonist.
I don't mind romance either, just not when it completely overwhelms the entire story. I hate picking up a book where the two main male and female protagonists spend the entire novel fighting their growing emotions for one another. Just get it over with already so we can focus on the plot.
Gideon Smith seems to have something for everyone: adventure, romance, fully developed characters, imaginative settings, and an edge of your seat plot.