Sunday, 6 May 2012

Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher from NetGalley.

This book first caught my eye a few months ago when I saw it at my local bookstore. I was immediately intrigued but the price stick said €17.50, though, and I usually refuse to go over the €13 mark. So when this book cropped up on NetGalley, I immediately grabbed a copy, eagerly anticipating the adventures that it would take me on!

Title: Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti
Author: Genevieve Valentine
Publisher: Prime Books
Target Audience: Adult?
Genre: Steampunk
Length: 284 pages

Story: Come inside and take a seat; the show is about to begin... 

Outside any city still standing, the Mechanical Circus Tresaulti sets up its tents. Crowds pack the benches to gawk at the brass-and-copper troupe and their impossible feats: Ayar the Strong Man, the acrobatic Grimaldi Brothers, fearless Elena and her aerialists who perform on living trapezes. War is everywhere, but while the Circus is performing, the world is magic.

That magic is no accident: Boss builds her circus from the bones out, molding a mechanical company that will survive the unforgiving landscape.

But even a careful ringmaster can make mistakes.

Two of Tresaulti's performers are entangled in a secret standoff that threatens to tear the circus apart just as the war lands on their doorstep. Now the Circus must fight a war on two fronts: one from the outside, and a more dangerous one from within.

Thoughts and impressions: I feel that it is very important to point out that this novel is a true work of art. Of course, as with all works of art there will be those who are fascinated by it and others who are dissatisfied with what they find before them. As for me, I’m caught up somewhere in the middle.

I could appreciate the novel for the craftsmanship that went into it but at the same time the very original construction didn’t really appeal to me. The narrative jumps around both in point of view and chronologically. I assume that these jumps are marked by chapter breaks in the physical copy of the book but in my PDF-to-mobi copy only a handful of these breaks were marked. Sometimes a paragraph would start in the third person, present tense and suddenly switch to first person, past tense and be following a different plot point. This got to be very confusing at times; I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it affected my enjoyment of the story.

The opening scene is about “you” visiting the circus and admiring the marvels that are to be found there. It was so uncannily similar to the opening of The Night Circus that I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. It turns out that both books are copyrighted to 2011 – in fact, Mechanique was published some 6 months before The Night Circus – so it’s just two different authors who came up with very similar ideas (albeit following completely different plot veins) at around the same time.

It took me a while to really get used to the narrator jumps. Sometimes it would be in the second person, sometimes third person omniscient and others in the first person. It took me a fair while to get used to the flow of this. It didn’t help that the plot took a long time in getting anywhere at all: it wasn’t until the 10-15% mark that the threads of a plot started to weave together beyond the confusion of seemingly random, unconnected scenes that had come before then, and it wasn’t until the 50% mark that the plot itself took precedence over anecdotes from various characters’ pasts.

That was what I didn’t really like about the book – how things seemed to yo-yo a lot between relevant scenes and what were really just scenes to flesh out the history behind the story. When things focused on the plot, though, I found it to be 100% original and absorbing. I loved the steampunk idea it all of a woman somehow endowed with the ability to sustain a person’s life indefinitely through metal contraptions. I liked the idea of a travelling circus moving through the wasteland of a country brought to its knees by constant wars, unable to pull itself back together. This was a fascinating setting, especially as we have no real idea of when it could possibly be as the chronology even within the story is very vague, or even where, though I pictured it being in North America.

I didn’t really buy the hatred behind Stenos and Bird, which was the main motivation for tension within the circus itself. I enjoyed the descriptions of their encounters but to me it always seemed that they were balanced very precariously on that fine line between love and hate, especially Stenos. They were certainly obsessed with each other either way.

They and Boss made a good foundation to build the circus up from but, with the exception of Elena, none of the other characters were quite as dazzling. Still, it presents a very interesting position to pick things up from in the second book.

All in all, I can appreciate that this author is a master weaver of the craft who has great vision but this particular structure didn’t work very well for me personally, which detracted from my enjoyment of the book.

Style: Different in a good way. It felt like a very original style. It worked fairly well for me but I suspect that it won't appeal to some readers.

Final verdict: Had the story concentrated more on the main plot rather than laying so many different building blocks in place, I think I would have preferred it. As it was, I loved the vision behind the story but was less entranced by the execution. 3 stars

Extra notes: Not sure whether there was any bad language present. Sex is but behind closed doors. I have seen this book shelved in the YA section but I’m not sure I’d really consider it aimed at the YA market.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review :) It sounds good :)

    from ur amazing friend :)



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