Hour of the Wolf (Steam & Stone Saga #1)

Read:  2018

Author:  Andrius B. Tapinas

Published:  2013

Genre:  Fantasy / Steampunk

Pages:  485 (paperback)

Selected By:  Lady Esbe

Esbe’s Score:  Scoring It Was OK Book

“It is the year 1905 and Europe is not as we know it.  Alchemists pilot steampunk airships over great cities, hardworking mechanics create automatons, and deep in the dungeons secret societies of macabre wizards strive to create artificial intellect.  Powerful bankers created The Alliance of the Free Cities – beacons of progress, science, art, and freedom.  But…

“Blood has been spilled.  Former US Marina Antanas Sidabras is exceptional at his job – enforcing public order in the ancient Free City of Vilnius.  But a gruesome murder mystery at an abandoned cemetery leaves him at a loss.  No clues, no motive, no suspect.

“With the biggest social event of the year – The Summit – looming just a few days ahead, frantic investigation turns out to be a complex mystery of political intrigue, and Sidabras has everybody against him – mad doctors, corrupt officials, Russian agents, and monsters from his personal nightmares.  And the bells will toll the Hour of the Wolf.”

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Lady Esbe’s Review

I’m going to keep this pretty short.  I was excited because this book has elements of Steampunk and historical aspects.  Set in Lithuania, just after the turn of the century, we have the heavy usage of dirigibles, airships, alchemy and magic in general.  It started off with a Golem and I was like “score”.  It did proceed nicely for a little while. And then. . .

My first point of contention is that it became very War and Peace like in the number of characters introduced.  We had core characters such as Sidabras, the Legate of the Legionnaires stationed in the setting of Vilnius, Mila and her three automatons (Pierrot, Scaramuccia, and Columbina), her two guardians,  Basanovicius and Tvardauskis and the British soldiers of Finley and O’Braitis.  From there, the number of characters grows exponentially.  There are entirely too many factions, individuals and areas of Vilnius to keep up with.  I got the distinct impression that Tolstoy is an idol and the need to mimic the plethora of individuals was pushing Tapinas to inflict that sort of pain on those of us not so fond of having to keep a list of characters in front of us to keep up with the who’s who of the impending events.  This as maddening in the classic and maddening for me in this novel.

Secondly, it may be a cultural more, but the need to use the full name and title of each person drove me insane.  After the first introduction of each character and their role, there was definitely no need to keep announcing Sidabras as Legate of Vilnius Antanas Sidabras.  It became so repetitive, I was annoyed not even half way through.  Now, for less prominent characters who were mentioned sixty plus pages ago and are a fleeting thought in your mind when you have multiple characters to keep up with, ok, I can see that.  Yet the prominent characters reintroductions a multitude of times, seemed to add unnecessary words and length to an already drawn out story.

 Even the most ingenious plans fall apart sometimes due to some unforeseen detail or an opponent’s move which would have been impossible to predict.

This brings me to my next point.  The story was voluminous.  After all, the word “saga” is in the full name.    However, there was so much going on in the novel, so many plots that were seemingly unrelated but were apart of a bigger scheme was rather ridiculous.  It made me even more annoyed at the pat and altogether tidy way each “challenge” presented to the city was quickly resolved.  Ok, not all.  The resolution for the instigated strike was pleasing.

This book was published in 2013.  I find it interesting that the political climate in the book of espionage, social engineering and the like is being perpetrated by the Russians.  Even in 1905, the novelist would have you believe that they were the prime instigators in propaganda, coups and general political tampering throughout Europe.  We can see the hand in the current political climate here in America and we can say, “that’s credible at least.”

 “All that glitters is not gold,” he said scanning the crowd with his eyes.  “Not all friends have good intentions and not all attractive promises are always kept.”

I wanted desperately for this to be a unique find and something I would enjoy even as a free read from Kindle.  Unfortunately, I cannot give this more than a two.  There were elements of alchemy and I loved Sidabras in general.  The automatons were interesting, but not enough to raise the level of the book.  Save the sixteen plus hours it would take to read this book and pick something else.  There were translation problems, missing participles, prepositions and verb usage that was easily spotted by a native English speaker, but not so much by a second language or translated copy.

Lady Esbe read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.

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