Tin Swift by Devon Monk

Tin Swift: The Age of Steam

Normally, I’m a fan of mixing genres.  Some of my favorite stories have come from books that are creative in melding genres that, on the surface, seem incompatible.  But sometimes the marriage of disparate elements doesn’t quite work.  Tin Swift seems to saddle itself with too many genres to really establish an identity.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Life on the frontier is full of deceit and danger, but bounty hunter Cedar Hunt is a man whose word is his bond. Cursed with becoming a beast every full moon, Cedar once believed his destiny was to be alone. But now, Cedar finds himself saddled with a group of refugees, including the brother he once thought lost.

Keeping his companions alive is proving to be no easy task, in part because of the promise he made to the unpredictable Madder brothers—three miners who know the secret mechanisms of the Strange. To fulfill his pledge, Cedar must hunt a powerful weapon known as the Holder—a search that takes him deep into the savage underbelly of the young country and high into the killing glim-field skies defended by desperate men and deadly ships.

But the battles he faces are just a glimmer of a growing war stirring the country. To keep his word Cedar must navigate betrayal, lies, and treacherous alliances, risking everything to save the lives of those he has come to hold dear…”

I have mixed feelings about this book.  On the one hand, Monk has put a lot of thought into creating the world.  The descriptions are great and provide the reader with some wonderful “visuals” as the story progresses.  There’s a real sense that the author knows just what makes this alternate America tick and what its challenges and troubles are.  She’s woven the use of “glim”—a machine-powering substance—through much of the era’s technology in a way that feels fairly natural.

On the other hand, I do feel that this book suffers from trying to be and do way too much.  It is a Western novel, an adventure novel, a zombie novel, a steampunk novel, and a romance novel.  Any two (or maybe even three) of those elements would have been more than enough for a single book, and yet Monk crams them all in together.  I think it was just too much for one plotline to handle comfortably.

It’s weird, because I liked the first novel in this series, Dead Iron.  Most of the elements mentioned were in that book as well, but I don’t think they were all vying for prominence the way they are in Tin Swift.  I actually think that the inclusion of the titular ship may have pushed the book over the edge into “too much” for me.  It also introduced another character, the ship’s captain, which then added another level of complexity to the number of narratives trying to exist at one time.

While I applaud the concept of this book, the execution didn’t quite work for me.  I’m not sure if I will continue with the series if more is written after Tin Swift.  I’d hesitate to say that I disliked the book, but I don’t think I’ll be moved to seek out further additions to the series.

Also by this author: Dead Iron, Magic at the Gate, Magic for a Price, Magic on the Hunt, Magic on the Line, Magic Without Mercy

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on October 1, 2012.

Series: The Age of Steam
ISBN: 9780451464538
Publisher: Roc
Page Count: 369
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
Acquired: Provided by the publisher
Author Website
Read an excerpt