Series: Dawn of Steam
Genres: steampunk, alternative history
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In 1815, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, two of England's wealthiest lords place a high-stakes wager on whether a popular set of books, which claim that the author has traveled to many unknown corners of the globe, are truth or, more likely, wild fiction. First Light is an epistolary novel, told primarily through the eyes of former aide-de-camp Gregory Conan Watts, describing the journeys of the airship Dame Fortuna and its crew through journals and letters to his beloved fiancee. The first recruit is, necessarily, the airship's owner: war hero, famed genius, and literal knight in steam-powered armor Sir James Coltrane. Persuading him to lend his talents and refitted airship to the venture requires bringing along his sister, his cousin, and the crew that flew with him during the Napoleonic Wars. Only with their aid can they track down a Scottish rifleman, a pair of shady carnies, and a guide with a strong personal investment in the stories. When they set out, the wild places of the world, including the far American West, the Australian interior, darkest Africa, and other destinations are thought to be hostile enough. No one expects the trip to involve a legendary storm - or the Year Without a Summer of 1815-1816. The voyage is further complicated by the human element. Some parties are not at all happy with the post-war political map. Most problematic of all, the crew hired by the other side of the wager seem willing to win by any means necessary. Dawn of Steam: First Light follows these adventurers, as they open up the world. In the process, their journey helps lay the foundations for an age of enlightenment and technology to come.
When I first started reading this book, I was sort of prepared for the fact it’s written in the form of journal entries and letters. At first, I was leery of reading it because I’ve attempted to read other books in this format before and was unable to. However, Jeffrey Cook and Sarah Symonds pulled it off brilliantly. Honestly, I was surprised at how well it was done.
Another interesting thing is, I’m a fast reader. I can zip through a book in a single evening without too many problems. With this book, I slowed way down and took my time. Each journal entry and letter evoked powerful images that demanded my full attention. So I took my time and savored every word.
I’ve never read steampunk before, so this was all new to me. I’m glad there are at least 2 more books for this series as I’m excited to continue reading. Jeffrey and Sarah make an excellent team.