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More Fresh Steampunk: Blood of Giants

The Blood of Giants by Jon Del Arroz

Author Jon del Arroz is a newcomer to the steampunk scene. On 11/28/2017 I reviewed his first novel in the genre, “For Steam and Country”, which was published that same year. The sequel, “Blood of Giants” features the further adventures of teenage adventurer Zaira von Monocole. Whereas the first book was an enjoyable YA adventure, the second book is even better.

Both books are part of “The Adventures of Baron von Monocle” series starring the feisty young Zaira as the Baron. (The use of the masculine title has something to do with her having inherited it from her father.) It’s a fantasy-type steampunk, set in the quasi-Victorian nation of Rislandia. In the first book, Zaira inherits the wondrous airship Liliana, along with her crew. Zaira’s father, a renowned inventor and explorer, has been missing for years and is presumed dead. At the same time, war breaks out with the neighboring Wyranth Empire. By request of Rislandia’s King Malaky, Zaira takes command of the Liliana in defense of “steam and country.” It’s a catchy title, even though the “steam” part is a bit silly if you think about it.

As the second book begins, the Wyranth Empire has delivered a savage counterstrike to Rislandia employing soldiers with superhuman strength and aggression. The cause of their ferocity is a stimulant drug synthesized from the blood of a legendary giant with psychic powers. Though Zaira and her crew killed Wyranth’s only giant in the previous book, the threat remains because the drug is highly addictive. Wyranth’s soldiers, now suffering withdrawal, go on a crazed rampage threatening both nations. They need to produce more of the drug to pacify the soldiers and to develop a cure. Folklore states that there are giants on the savage unexplored continent Areth which lies across the Golgmarsh ocean. The only safe way to get there is by air. Since the Liliana is the world’s only airship, it’s up to Zaira and her comrades to find the giants and save the day.

This second installment continues the same engaging characters as the first but ups the level of adventure. Zaira must grow and survive the dangers of Aresh and overcome her own youth and inexperience. Likewise, Del Arroz has grown as a writer since the previous book, with better action and more of it. My only complaint is a quirk of his writing style: the characters engage in too much internal monologue. The maxim “Show don’t tell” is a difficult ideal, but in practice, it means going easy on those “telling” thoughts. On the good side, the author has done some impressive world building and invents wonderfully quirky names like Von Cravat, Du Clockhand, and Harkerpal.

Blood of Giants is an exciting story aimed at a young adult audience. Despite a few violent scenes, I believe it’s quite appropriate for older kids. I definitely recommend it, though I cannot give it a perfect score due to the aforementioned quirk of Del Arroz’s style. I give it 4.5 out of 5 gears.

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