Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: The 7th of London by Beau Schemery

Title: The 7th of London
Author: Beau Schemery
Publication Date: November 29, 2012
Target Age Group: Young Adult
My Rating: 3 out of 5

Book Description (from Amazon)

After his parents and family die, Seven escapes his factory job. By wits and will alone, he survives in a London divided into the affluent Fairside and the squalor of London’s industrial Blackside, where many struggle to eke their existence out of despair. But Seven has to fight for more than just food and shelter. 

All over Blackside, a secret cabal of prominent citizens and the mysterious Mr. Kettlebent are snatching children. Rumor has it a wizard is controlling the queen, and the country’s most notorious villain is the only one who wants to stop him. Seven is determined to find out why. 

Hired by the criminal Jack Midnight to steal the evil wizard’s spellbook, Seven soon discovers the mystery runs deeper than he suspected. But events spiral out of control, and it isn’t long before the intrigue sweeps Seven into its deadly current. 

My Review

This is a book I received from the author at Book Expo America 2013, so as always, many many thanks to Mr. Schemery and BEA for the opportunity to review it. 

First off, I love steampunk books. This one definitely fits comfortably in that category, and yet has some other unique elements to it - like some magic and alternate history to add some flavor. Plus, the main character is gay, which is a great book in an arena where there is currently a desire for diverse books.

The world building in this book is amazing. You're thrown into a divided Victorian London - the Fairside and the Blackside. Just the names alone will give you an idea what they look like, but they are both very well described in the book. There are other "set pieces" that I can't even discuss without ruining some of the mystery of the story.

Characters are also very three-dimensional. Sometimes they suffer a little from being caricatures of themselves - the main character, Seven, has this accent that kinda grates on you after a while - but otherwise they are all interesting and realistically drawn, with some exceptions, which I'll discuss below.

Which brings me to a few negatives that caused me not to rate this one higher.

First off, the story could've used a little more editing. Being a writer myself, I pick up on language that to me sounds weak, and there is quite a bit of it in this book. Again, some editing would've solved that problem I think.

Second, at the very beginning of the book, there are a lot of what I call "info dumps", I guess to bring the reader up to speed on the main character and the setting of the story. Again, editing would've resolved this. Info dumps tend to throw me out of the story when reading, and it initially caused me to consider putting the book down. Fortunately, I was willing to overlook them, and I was glad I did so.

Third - and I'm attempting to convey this without spoiling anything - the relationship between Seven and another boy in the book (I won't mention names because it'll kinda spoil certain plot reveals in the book), while most of the time seemed very natural, was very difficult to believe at the point where the characters first met, and at another point toward the end of the book. I would think conflicts and suspicion in any relationship would give pause and question the relationship, but I didn't see any of that, which also made it difficult to buy into the relationship. (How's that for an attempt at no spoilers? Sounds a bit vague I know, but if you read the book I think you'll know what two events I'm referring to.)

One final note - and it's always customary to leave on a high note - is that this book was plotted extremely well. Events flowed naturally, there was plenty of suspense, twists and turns, and real goals for characters to strive for. The scope of the story was a lot more epic than I thought it would be, and to its benefit. The stakes for Seven were high, and the stakes for the world itself and the other characters populating it were even higher. 

All in all, this is a book I would recommend. Ignore the rough spots and enjoy the ride.

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