Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Review: Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear

Title: Innocent Darkness
Author: Suzanne Lazear
Series: The Aether Chronicles #1
Pages: 408
Publisher: Flux Books
Date Published: August 8, 2012
Format: eBook
Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk (YA)
Source: NetGalley

Wish. Love. Desire. Live. 
Sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock doesn't seem to be made for her time. She's rash, brash, clever, and doesn't always think before she does crash her family's hovercar into the fence. When her rowdy ways land her in an abusive reform school far from home, she struggles to find her place. On mid-summer's eve she wishes to be anyplace but that dreadful school. A mysterious man from the Realm of Faerie rescues her and brings her to the Otherworld, only to reveal that she must be sacrificed, otherwise, the entire Otherworld civilization will perish.

My Review:
When looking at the cover of Innocent Darkness, the only thing that comes to mind is Steampunk. However, both the series name and the cover are both slightly misleading. Aether is, at it's heart, an entirely steampunk word. You  will scarcely find it outside the realm of steampunk or Science Fiction works. The cover contains all that Steam enthusiasts have come to enjoy in their novels. You glance at it and expect nothing less than gritty, technical, gadgety steampunk. Yet in my opinion, only the very beginning of the book is truly Steampunk and it loses steam (ha...sorry...bad pun...) along the way until it's been transformed into something not quite steampunk, not quite fairy tale.

The premise and setting of the book was definitely new and original. As was discussed in the "Intro to Steampunk" post at the beginning of the month, while most Steampunk books are either set in Victorian England or the American "Wild West", this book manages to capture both elements and neither. Though it is set in the American defies the norm by placing the time period to be right around the turn of the 19th century to the 20th in a more civilized setting of Los Angeles and San Francisco. This places it at a time and place when the "American Victorian" era existed. We get to see a side of America that is not often realized, in that we had a sort of gentry class. Though the book makes more of this "class" than what history portrays, there was a time when the upper class women didn't work, and that we American women were every bit as suppressed as the wilting damsels of Victorian England. I loved the originality of this take on Steampunk and I felt like Suzanne did a wonderful job seamlessly mixing the two styles and creating a world of her own.

Then, as if blending Victorian and Western Steampunk wasn't enough, we get a mixture of fairy tales into the story. A frequent occurrence in the classic Celtic and Norse mythos, Noli is spirited off to fairyland so that the fey may drink of her energy and survive. Actually, there was a blend of quite a few different fairy tales and myths. I think I may have glimpsed some of T.S. Elliot's The Waste Land (or perhaps that is because I just came off of an entire year studying that particular work...) Regardless, it was an...interesting...choice to blend the fae with Steampunk. I'm not sure how effective it was for me, because I feel like I have read entirely too many fairy books as of late, so it led me to like this book less. In fact, it was almost as if the Steampunk element was completely dropped once Noli was spirited away to the Otherworld. That kind of bugged me, as did the fact that there didn't seem to be much inventing going on. One of my favorite parts about Steampunk is the pure creativity that the authors can exhibit by inventing a new weapon, vehicle, even something as simple as a beautiful clockwork music box...but there didn't seem to be much to rave about for this book. Perhaps there will be more in later books in the series? Despite my feelings towards the book,  for those readers who love fairies or who typically read the paranormal and are looking to transition into Steampunk, this could  be the book you are looking for to get you over the steampunk threshold.

It may have been because I was reading an ARC version, but I found quite a bit of the dialogue to be choppy and confusing. It was as if I was reading an outline of a conversation and not experiencing what was really being said by the characters. This led to me not really forming an attachment to them so I wasn't as emotionally affected when bad things would befall them. One of the biggest examples of this was with Noli's relationship with Charlotte. They are supposed to be these really good friends, the only bright spots in each other's existence at the boarding school, yet we never really get a good conversation going. There are a few words exchanged here and there, but overall the feeling I got when dealing with Charlotte was indifference. Which made it hard to care when the two were separated. We see Noli crying, running out to say good bye, being physically restrained by the doctors because she's so emotional, and it's supposed to be this dramatic and extremely heart-breaking scene...but I was just like, "Eh...whatever...easy come, easy go". Perhaps if the relationships between all of the characters had been a little stronger, or bolstered by a bit of a heavier dialogue I could have grown to love them and experience the drama along with them. As it was, I felt like I was watching a movie of the story , not living the part.
I give Innocent Darkness 3.5 Keys. It wasn't a bad book, but it did lack certain things that I have come to want, no NEED, in my books to keep me happy.  Also...though it is kind of irrelevant, the use of the word "hoyden" really pissed me off. I didn't even know it was a word at first...and I had to look it up to see what it meant. That in itself didn't really bother me, but then as the book went on and it was the ONLY descriptive word that Noli used for herself and I just kept getting more and more annoyed. I was like...okay Noli...we get and your "hoyden" ways are a menace...get over it already. It's like when 10 year olds are trying to seem cool and use the words like "man" and "bro" almost
Gear-wise I give Innocent Darkness 1 Gear. There actually wasn't much steampunk at all. There was a cool flying car which had a lot of steampunk elements and I really loved how we got an inside look into American-Victorian Steampunk, but there's nothing hard to grasp here. If you like fairy stories this could be an excellent transition book for you to see if Steampunk wets your whistle. Perhaps the fairies and fairy-tale elements will appeal more for someone who wasn't looking for the gritty and super innovative world I've come to expect from my steampunk books :)


  1. Hmm. I have wanted to read this one for a while, but I don't know if I would like the "barely there steampunk" setting/world.

    Great, honest review. :D

  2. This was one of my most disappointing reads for 2012. I loved the cover and it started out with steampunk gooey-goodness and then bam..i was in a fantasy book..grrr.

    1. I have to agree Kimba! I was like...wait...what? And after such a cool world-build as an American-Victorian setting! It's a shame... Still...more cool steamy books to come!