Monday, March 24, 2014

"The Lady Astronomer" shoots for the stars - and gets there!

“The Lady Astronomer” by Katy O’Dowd was my first foray into the world of “Steampunk.”  For the first time visiting that genre, I feel fortunate that Katy O’Dowd was my tour guide. 

In case you didn’t know what Steampunk is here is the dictionary definition:

a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world.

Now that we have that covered, let’s get right into “The Lady Astronomer.”  Lucretia is a young woman with a lot on her plate – hatmaker, de facto lady of the house to her two brothers, owner of a lemur and owl, and an expert astronomer to boot.  Pretty eclectic chick!

Things were going fine until the King commissions her brother to build a Forty Foot Telescope, one of the largest ever conceived at the time.  They move, settle into their new home, and problems start right away.  But the problems that Freddie, Lucretia’s brother, is having isn’t the King’s problem.  The King’s problem is costs have gone over budget and Freddie keeps hitting him up for money.  So now the King needs to decide – should I lop off Freddie’s head or might there be some other way to light a fire under him.

I really enjoyed this book.  I am very fortunate to have gotten a good one to introduce me into this genre.  Katy O’Dowd did an excellent job of building up the novel’s world and getting the reader to actually care about what was going on without being overly descriptive.

Strengths of the book – O’Dowd does an excellent job of getting the readers to actually “care” about the characters.  Of the reviews that I read for other books, this is one of the more frequent complaints.  That doesn’t happen here.  The plot is interesting and there were enough different things going on to hold my interest and keep me guessing.  There were no glaring spelling or grammatical errors, even though the publisher points out that the author is from Ireland and the spelling of some words were left in their Irish form.  Maybe I am part Irish then, because I didn’t see any.

As far as weaknesses – the pace of the book is very good, but getting to the main story took just a little more time than I would have liked.  At some points, as O’Dowd was building up her characters, we were given insights that didn’t come up again at any point in the book (violin playing & hat making come to mind).
Overall, I am giving this book five stars.  If you want to open up yourself to the world of Steampunk, this is an excellent novel to get acquainted with.

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