If you follow my blog for very long at all, you’ll soon learn that N.D. Wilson is one of my favourite living authors (there’s really only one other, and she also goes by her first initials). Of course, you’ve never heard of him, because none of his books have been turned into movies, and therefore his fandom pretty much consists of…me. And maybe a few smart preteens and adults of the sort who like to discuss the writings of G.K. Chesterton in pubs. N.D. Wilson is a wonderfully creative writer who deals in adventurous young adult novels and equally adventurous nonfiction for adults. And today he just released Empire of Bones, book 3 in the fantastical Ashtown Burials series.
Hooray! I can’t wait to go out and buy it!!
The Ashtown Burials series isn’t technically steampunk. It takes place very definitely in the present, and doesn’t involve a whole lot of clockwork. But the story does contain all kinds of anachronistic technology and situations. The plot revolves around Cyrus and Antigone Smith, siblings who are recruited into a secret society, the Order of Brendan, whose main job is to protect the world from the mischief of “transmortals” – powerful humans who have made themselves immortal. These beings include real-life historical figures like Robespierre and Rasputin, and also mythological characters like Arachne and Dracula.
Since so many of the main characters come from the past (whether it’s the 18th century or prehistoric times), Cyrus and Antigone get into a lot of interesting situations. They fight with swords and guns, fly around in helicopters and ride nauseating underground trolleys, face mutant zoo animals and telepathic sorcerers, and wear World War II air force jackets with their jeans and backpacks. The main villain of the series, Dr. Phoenix, uses a very Victorian concept of “science” and genetics, combined with some magic and relics from Greek mythology, to do his evil deeds. In the first book, The Dragon’s Tooth, Cyrus receives a dangerous gift from a man named Billy Bones (who literally has his skeleton tattooed on his skin), and is later betrayed by a cook named Sterling who has two wooden legs. In the second book, The Drowned Vault, the Smiths meet their ancestor John Smith, of Jamestown fame, and his reactions to modern technology result in a lot of laughs. It’s past-meets-present, history-meets-fantasy–almost like steampunk on steroids.
Anyway, it’s an incredibly fun series so far. Think Percy Jackson and the Olympians meets Treasure Planet, only way better. We should have more steampunk books like these. I can’t wait to read the next one! Namarie!