July 28th, 2013
The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
I bought this book because I was looking for a POC leading protagonist in a steampunk themed book. Let me tell you, I am very much glad I choose this as my first steampunk book. Whilst I admire the steampunk inspired sub-genre of science fiction through the small or big screen, I'm ashamed to admit, I've yet to read a steampunk book. Why? Because writers never think to put POC characters in them. Steampunk is a type of fantasy sub-genre within itself. Most argue, that the eras in which they are written are not appropriate for POC to mingle with the white folk XD Bull donkey! It's fiction, and most often alternate reality! It doesn't have to be 100% accurate! It's fiction! And now that I've ranted, on to the review.
For the plot and storyline, I award it .75 of the point. The book exists in a alternative universe where Nicola Tesla dramatically altered put world by tearing a hole in the universe. He and Charles Darwin are what's considered the greatest minds in history, and are even types of gods in this world. The pacing is great, however at times confusing but at best brilliant. I had only found out about this book because I saw the sequel's cover feature an Asian male on the cover. Turns out I already owned the first book just never got around to reading it. It didn't rush information, so that left me always picking it back up. But word of advice, the language used will confuse most,especially those whom don't typically read steampunk inspired books. the writing and storyline proved again and again that everything you see is consistent with everything you WILL see. I don't even think I have to go there on the world building. It was nothing short of amazing. I really felt as if this "New London" was a place I could see, and "The London we do not speak of" was truly a London of the past. As far as predictability, there were some things I easily predicted. The ending not so much, but for the most part, small details I predicted, so I docked it .25 points.
As far as character development goes, the main protagonist "Vespa Nyx" was a great leading lady. I was so glad she wasn't a pushover or some girly girl waiting for a prince to save her. She was intelligent, witty, adventurous, and far from a damsel in distress. She was also a person of color(POC). Our terms don't exist to them, but she's essentially a mixed race Asian woman. I can't say that she's relatable to everyone, but as a woman whom would never expect for a man to solve all her problems, she related to me. If you're that kind of girl, you'll love Vespa =D
There were plenty of development, and the characters introductions were well balanced. I never got too sick of one character. There was also plenty of conflict. Vespa had to face many obstacles, that were not limited to figuring out how to use magic, to figuring out whether she could be with the man she liked. And she didn't want for him to make a move, she took the initiative! I definitely think this is unique compared to books that i've read, so I award one full point for character development! 1.00
As far as grammar, it had very few mistakes. Possibly due to it being a book backed by a major publishing house? It was well edited, had a good balance between dialogue and beats. The language matches the universe as well. And the POV(point of view's) switched between Vespa and the second main character Syrus Reed. It was clear to distinguish them, as hers were always in first person, and his were always in third person. So full point well earned 1.00!
As far as diversity goes Vespa and Syrus(whom I believe was full Asian) were both well written. They were both believable, and I did root for them. Syrus's entire race are based off a Baima Tibetan subgroup in a Sichuan province of China. I only wish I could tell if there were more people of color outside of the two of them and the "Tinkers"(those whom were Asian). Definitely a lot of research was involved, though it could have been more. I didn't feel the effort was forced as well.
Vespa was a woman, whom also had unique heritage. Everything about that says she should be submissive, and she wasn't. I found her empowering, especially to anyone whom feels Asian women aren't main protagonists nearly enough. Syrus was also pretty cool for a 14 year old. I look forward to see if that's him on the "The Tinker King" cover, as the guy is incredibly handsome. Overall I'd say it deserved a full point . 1.00
The miscellaneous things about the book, "The Unnaturalists" had a suitable title. Reading the book you learn an "unnaturalist" is a person whom studies "unnaturals", or mythical beasts(had some great ones to whomever is into mythology). The cover definitely matches the beauty of the heroine. I loved the cover. The names are for the most part distinguishable. Nicknames were harder to associate, and those pretending to be people they were not, also confused me. But the character names were unique enough to distinguish, but simple enough to remember. My only complaint with the MISC aspects were the descriptions of the characters. Three characters that were important, the author never described in detail. Or not enough detail to have clearer pictures of them. Her love interest I thought was Asian, until he was described as having blue eyes. To be quite honest, I kind of just said eff the blue eyes, and pictured someone Asian anyway. I didnt picture him being Caucasian, so by the time he was introduced as such, I was a little upset he wasn't Asian. Another character was a socialite, whom I assumed due to her demanding personality was in her 40's. Turned out she was only 18. The villain? I almost always had a hard time picturing him. So it's getting docked a .25 point because I felt the descriptions could have been a bit more extensive.
Overall it's one of the best reads I've had this year.
Having fun dreamcasting the main characters for this. Even though this actress isnt mixed race with Caucasian, she is Thai and Hmong. I totally pictured Brenda Song. She even looks like her on the cover.
Syrus was also fun, because it's so rare when you get to see an Asian boy as a dual protagonist. I pictured a much younger and less manlier Booboo Stewart. It's appropriate, because Booboo is now hot and older, and makes "The Tinker King's" cover.