Blue on Black by Carole Cummings
Published by: DSP Publication
Format: eBook, paperback
Genre: science fiction (maybe? closer to fantasy?), steampunk (maybe?)
Reviewed by: Sara Beth as part of her column, Binge Worthy Books
What to Expect: This book basically defies whatever genre you might want to file it under, so whatever you’re expecting, probably best to let that go, and settle into a fantastic read filled with mystery, cleverly rendered tech, and just a titch of romance.
Plot: Kimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech, beloved brother, most promising student the Academy’s ever had the privilege of calling their own, genius mechanical gridstream engineer, brilliantly pioneering inventor… and dead man. But that’s what happens when a whiz kid messes with dynamic crystals and, apparently, comes to the attention of Baron Petra Stanslo. Killed for his revolutionary designs, Kimolijah Adani had been set to change the world with his impossible train that runs on nothing more than gridstream locked in a crystal. Technically it shouldn’t even be possible, but there is no doubt it works.
Bas is convinced the notoriously covetous and corrupt Stanslo had something to do with Kimolijah Adani’s tragic and suspicious end. A Directorate Tracker, Bas has finally managed to catch the scent of Kimolijah Adani’s killer, and it leads right into Stanslo’s little desert barony. For almost three years, Bas has tried to find a way into Stanslo’s Bridge, and when he finally makes it, shock is too small a word for what—or, rather, whom—he finds there.
Review: This is a complex, character driven story that readers who enjoy unraveling a twisty plot will find particularly delightful. In previous reads, I’ve found this author to be deft at developing believable slow burn attractions between her MCs, and this story is no exception. Although the romance was not the main focus here, I was heavily invested in not only what was developing between Bas and Kimo, but in what would happen to each of them individually. Bas, despite his apparent infatuation with a ghost, is about as straight forward and level headed a character you will find in this book. Alternately, Kimo speaks only in riddles, and while it’s at times maddening, I still found him to be bafflingly endearing, and he was easy to root for. The characters who round out the rest of the cast were equally as believable and thoughtfully rendered.
More so than in other books I have read of Cummings’, this one really showcases her world building. Everything from the tech to the Old West setting to the people who inhabit it are exquisitely detailed. The setting Cummings provides is full of color, imagination, and flare. If you’re a reader looking for sci-fi with elements of fantasy and steam punk, in a world occupied by multidimensional characters who are never quite who they seem to be, this is the one for you.
What you might not like: This book, while well-written and cleverly rendered, can be wordy at times. Length might be an issue for some readers, especially in the middle, and I can see how a closer edit could have left the edgier parts of the plot even sharper. Some of the language became repetitive, but not enough to pull me out of the story. Also, file under HFN, which can sometimes be a deal breaker for folks who prefer the certainty of a tightly wrapped up HEA. And speaking of romance – this is not strictly a romance, so if a romance is what you’re after as the primary plot point, this is not the book for you.
What you will love: The very ambiguity that some readers might find maddening I found to be intriguing. Is this closer to fantasy than science fiction? Hm. Maybe. But, like, maybe not? Is it really steampunk if the tech is powered less by steam and more by magic? It’s hard to tell, when the setting fits. It’s all new, and fresh, and so well done that I’m totally on board for more.
Sara Beth loves to read, write about what she reads, and really, really loves to talk about what she’s reading. So, she looks forward to many hours of conversation with you all surrounding books, books, and more books. Connect via: Twitter: @sarathebeth