Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Review: Mechanique, A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine

Title: Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti
Author: Genevieve Valentine
Series: N/A
Pages: 284
Publisher: Prime Books
Date Published:April 23, 2011
Format: Trade Paperback
Genre: Steampunk/ Fantasy
Source: Library

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.

My Review:
In this chilling and thrilling story of a Steampunk circus, I was treated to a combo of my two favorite genres: Steampunk and Dystopian, with a smidgen of the paranormal thrown in for good measure. Upon opening the pages, you find yourself in a world that's been devastated by war and dysfunctional politics for so long that no one really remembers a time before it. In this desolate and dangerous world, a circus wanders from bombed-out town to war-torn city and brings with it an eerie mystery that captivates even the most hardened of the war veterans. While reading I was vividly reminded of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, not only because of the obvious setting of a circus, but because of the intricate imagery that painted a better picture than I could ever imagine myself.

The aspect of the book that was my favorite was actually that there was an eerie undertone that ran throughout the entire story. There was this creeping sense of unease that left you slightly uncomfortable as you were reading because you could feel in your bones that something just isn't right. Things are NOT going to end up Happily Ever After, and chances are going to be good that some of your favorite characters aren't going to be left standing when the dust settles. This might sound kind of morbid for a "favorite" aspect of the story, but it was that feeling that kept me gripping the book in white-knuckled agony. It kept me reading even though at times I didn't understand what was happening or what was motivating the characters.

Speaking of the characters, I really don't know who to talk about first. The story is mainly told through the perspective of the ringmaster's assistant, Little George. It's through his eyes that we get our first glimpse into the circus at all, and then later, perhaps because he can go unnoticed, we see him witness the other characters when they would rather be hidden. Though George has a fluid character at the beginning, seeming to simply be there to bear witness to those more important around him, he eventually grows into himself and when the circus really needs him he's able to pick up where the "boss" leaves off. Boss is one of my favorite characters. She really seems to care about her people, and she should...she made them from the bones up, somehow managing to capture the soul of the person she was operating on and ensnaring it in a skeleton of metal and a frame of flesh and mechanics. There's this odd...dependency of all the characters on one another. At times they seem indifferent, but they always come back to each other, mourn each other, and thrive on each other's closeness in a way that kind of freaked me out.
I was absolutely captivated by Genevieve Valentine's writing style. It was very...vague. She almost never comes out and says anything for sure, which may infuriate some people. I was one of them in the beginning until I started to appreciate the subtle bits of information being thrown at me like darts. You would get a flash of insight in one chapter that completely confuses what you learned in the previous one. Then in a single word or sentence, Valentine throws the world on it's ear and you realize that nothing you thought before is actually true. Yet in the end, the mystery and allusions to past and future events tell you more about the story and characters than you realized. While I loved this style, I can understand where some would find it confusing and hard to read. It took me a while to get into the story because of how much it jumped around and back and forth, but in the end I felt rather clever for figuring out the game.

Last but definitely not least, I found the illustrations that translated from the cover to the interoir of the novel really created a magical and imaginative atmosphere. The cover artist created several very fascinating black and white illustrations that showcase pivotal moments. Typically, adult novels have few or no pictures in them. I'm not saying that is a bad thing, but it does make the illustrations in this book into a sort of special treat, especially with a Steampunk book. Steampunk itself is such a visual culture. You really can't get a full appreciation for the creativity and imagination of the genre without seeing the pictures, witnessing the fashion at the cons, and experiencing all the little aspects that collectively make Steampunk such a visual phenomena.  Mechaniqe gained just a bit of extra spice by including the illustrations, bringing that extra aspect of wonder and beauty.

In the vast worlds of Steampunk and Fantasy, it's easy to overlook something like Mechanique which can go between genres and isn't quite a perfect example of either. Yet in my opinion, this is something you don't want to miss out on. The creativity, the wonder, and the almost desolate hopelessness that crops up time and again in Steampunk is present in this book in full force. I kept an almost religious vigil to get this book read, avoiding calls from my boyfriend and family to get it finished. I found that it's one of those books that, once started, seems to occupy every one of your waking moments until you've read the very last word on the very last page. I give Mechanique 4 out of 5 Keys. It was an excellent read and something that should keep readers of multiple genres happy.
Gear-wise (If you remember, that would be Steampunk Difficulty) I give Mechanique 1 Gear. It represents all that the very best of Steampunk has to offer, without clouding it up with technical and mechanical information. The descriptions of how to make a mechanical man are more about the man, less about the machine. You don't understand HOW boss creates bones and people out of metal, but you understand that she does. I actually enjoyed not getting an insiders perspective into the mechanics because it made the circus seem that much more magical and lyrical without having to get down to the nitty-gritty and finding out what makes everything tick. I think that this book would be an excellent transition for those who haven't started Steampunk yet. It combines Fantasy, Dystopia, Steampunk, and plain old Drama into a creepy and memorable piece that will haunt you with questions and "what ifs" for weeks after you finish.


  1. This books sounds amazing! I need some more steampunk in my life. And ever since reading The Night Circus, I have been looking for more circus themed books.

    Great review, Andra!!

    1. Hey Ashley! Great to see you again :) I would say I probably liked Night Circus a bit more...but this one has steampunk so it's kind of a tossup...lol

  2. Andra this book looks amazing! I love the way you describe everything so...I don't know...magically? It sounds great and I'm adding Mechanique to my TBR pile immediately!

    Thanks for this review and this wonderful event!

    1. Thanks Cherie! remember that if you enter on the Intro Page you can win a copy of this and every other book reviewed in FEB!

  3. What a superb review! Good job.

  4. Sounds kinda cool...not that big of a circus fan, but I am really into Dystopian books lately. Not really sure about this one but thanks for the review! I really enjoyed reading it :)

  5. I actually read this one! I liked it...kinda...I had a hard time with the POV changes...but I really enjoyed your review!