First up is Richard Harlan’s YA Steampunk novel “Worldshaker”.
I enjoyed this read. It was fast paced, full of quirky characters and set in the marvellous world of a single, mindbogglingly enormous city on wheels which provided all the cogs, grease, rivets and steam power that makes steampunk so delightful.
Worldshaker is a Juggernaut to which the population of Britain has retreated after a version of the Napoleonic Wars that you won’t find in any history books. Queen Victoria III rules Worldshaker, but is in fact a figurehead for the powerful Porpetine family. The book follows the coming of age of Col Porpertine – destined to one day run Worldshaker, but who comes suddenly into possession of some terrible truths about how the upper classes deal with both the Filthies who keep the juggernaut running, and the world beyond Worldshaker’s hull.
There is a surprising darkness to the novel, but it’s delivered with a humour and an engaging mix of the familiar and unfamiliar.
My one criticism, and sadly not a small one, is that Col Porpertine is a hero by accident. He doesn’t often act and even when he does the repercussions of his actions are largely due to things happening to him in the same moment as he acts. The strong, complex and far more interesting character is Riff, a Filthy who enters his world and brings it all down around his ears. But we don’t see enough of her. Maybe in the sequel? Because this is also a book that ends with what feels like the true beginning of Col’s life.