Steampunk Madness and Matriarchs || Monstress, Vol. 1 Review


Initial Thoughts: 

A speculative Asia during the 1900s with a largely matriarchal society on BOTH sides of a brutal human-beast war? New. Favorite. Series. EVER.


by Marjorie M. Liu (author), Sana Takeda (illustrator)
Image Comics, July 2016
Graphic novel, science fiction, fantasy
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies
e-ARC provided by NetGalley

monstressSet in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both.

Image Comics Strikes Again

This time in an Asian steampunk world. And it looks effing fabulous. When I got an email about this series being opened up on NetGalley, I knew I had to read it. It’s been on my TBR since I was alerted to it by The Book Smugglers, and I do not regret it one bit.

First of all, Takeda’s artwork is gorgeous. It’s half manga, half Westernized comics, a perfect combination of both, and so detailed I almost wanted to screenshot every darn page. There were several times where a page was just filled with wordless panels, and my gosh, the illustrated depiction of what’s happening on that page…it certainly brings proof to the old “a picture is worth a thousand words” adage.


The main character is a feisty, stubborn, kick-ass one-armed Asian woman. She’s survived a violent war. She’s survived a traumatic enslavement experience. She’s survived the loss of a limb and the aftermath of conflict between two powerful factions. She’s seen shit. And she’s angry. On top of that, she wants to know what’s happening–and what’s happened–to her. And she’ll break down doors if she has to. I love her to bits.


She also has a lovely way with words, that Maiko.

The matriarchal powers that be. The series is rife with fem-power on both sides. In fact, some of the highest positions are held by women. One of the first immortal ancients we see is a Wolf Queen. The first half-breed is a powerful woman, someone who apparently shook the world. The Cumaea is an order of witch-nuns who’ve taken the highest form of power in the human government. Heck, Lady Sophia is displayed quite remarkably as a woman who buys Arcanic slaves. She’s in charge, she’s despicable, and she gives zero fucks because she has shit to do and Arcanics to experiment on. Not to mention the fact that there’s a little romance (LGBT from what I saw!) but so far it hasn’t overwhelmed the narrative. It’s female empowerment to the max.


There’s no better way to walk into a slave auction than in style. I’ll give it to Lady Sophia, she knows how to make an entrance.

It’s an adventure story drenched with the problems of race, war, and disability (both physical and emotional). It’s dark and merciless and it definitely makes no apology in showing the cruelties of the post-war world. Takeda’s depiction of Liu’s people makes for a great collaboration, and there’s really not much I can say against the series at the moment. I loved the entire volume.


Also, Mister Ren. That two-tailed cat is the bees’ knees.

5 out of 5 cookies! Now, I’m not sure where the rest of this series is going just yet, but my gosh, I want the next issues already. Like, now.


Chasing Volcanoes: A Czech Translation

seaisoursOnce upon a time (re: a year and a half ago), I wrote a steampunk story that revolved around a destroyed Northern Philippines (speculative volcanic eruptions and the like). I sent it out, I squeed about finding a home for it (many thanks to the wonderful editrixes Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng, and publisher Bill Campbell at Rosarium Publishing for the acceptance!), I squeed again when it got illustrated (by Pear Nuallak), and I practically did a funny little dance in the middle of my living room when it finally, finally, FINALLY got published.

(I did another funny dance at the local B&N soon after I saw it on a scifi anthology shelf…but I swear I didn’t cause that much of a scene!)

And while I am grateful that this particular story went out into the world amidst critiquing eyes and steampunk enthusiasts, I am still wonderfully surprised at the feedback over “Chasing Volcanoes.” I certainly didn’t expect to get an email about it–and the rest of the The Sea is Ours anthology–being translated into Czech. The fact that the title of said Czech book IS a translation of “Chasing Volcanoes” has gone above and beyond any expectation I have with the stories I’ve written.

But there you go. It’s happened. I’m squeeing again. I’m writing about it again.

Thanks to Jan Kravčík at Gorgon Books, “Chasing Volcanoes” has got a Czech coating. And honestly, that cover is beautiful. While I know nothing in the Czech language (well, correction, I now know what “Kroceni Sopek” means), I am truly astounded–and excited–at the increasing readership, both for my story (because honestly, why wouldn’t I be excited that my work goes out there?) and for the wonderful fellow Southeast Asian authors I’ve shared the anthology with.

Now, if only I’d known about this translation BEFORE I’d gone to Praha last summer. I suppose maybe next time (because there most certainly will be a next time!) I visit Prague I’ll try to find my way into a bookshop.

Anyway, for the Czech readers out there, watch out for Kroceni Sopek, coming to you in a few weeks!

TTT: In the Mood for Steampunk


For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

Last month, another round of Steampunk Hands Around the World was hosted by Airship Ambassador, and it took place all of February. I…may have forgotten this (even though I follow the blog on a regular basis), but I figure I’ll do something steampunky anyway, because um, it’s only the first of March?

Top Ten Books To Read If You Are In The Mood for Steampunk

Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris – This one’s got a dual perspective (dynamic duo, geddit?), so occasionally we get Agent Books’ side of the story and then Agent Braun’s (har har). I love me a girl who is unafraid of carrying dynamite in her corset, and the guy is pretty fab for a toff, so there. I loved this book.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld – I will further make note of the fact that Leviathan is only book one of a most fantastic trilogy, and nobody should stop at only book 1. Especially when Scott Westerfeld is involved. I recently gave this to a student of mine for Christmas, and he practically devoured it. “He” being a precocious 11-year-old, that is. But I mean, come on! Historical fiction, steampunk and travel and bio-engineered FLYING WHALESHIPS! What’s not to love?!

The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer – Admittedly, I’ve added this book in here not so much because it’s a work of fiction, but because it is a lovely collection of steampunky things. It is rudimentary in its information, I love the cover, and the pictures are faboo too. Seriously, though, if you’re still scratching your head and trying to figure out what steampunk is, you can take a look at this book and go from there.

Corsets & Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances edited by Trisha Telep – Always a handy collection of stories to look through! I still remember quite a number of them, actually. And I’m pretty sure a bunch have been inspirations for my own steampunk work (which I’m still working on, ugh).

Soulless by Gail Carriger – Supernatural Victorian steampunk goodness! Talk about a mixture of fantasy and scifi during alternately historical England. I’ve also managed to get one of my writing students addicted to the graphic novel of this book, though I did warn her I only had an issue sampler so wouldn’t be able to provide her with the rest of the story. Oops?

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress – I procured an ARC of this book a while back, and after having finally read it a year or two later, I realized I actually enjoyed it. It’s a book about three different girls living in Victorian London (yeah, there really should be non-Victorian London steampunk out there…) who solve crimes and triumph over evil. Sort of like Sailor Moon’s gang. Just saying.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison – Okay, this book certainly takes steampunk to a different world! The Goblin Emperor follows Maia, a half-goblin who finds himself the ruler of a non-goblin kingdom. It has airships, innovation, and lots of steampunky elements, on top of a rather complicated political balance and a fantastically created world.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest – Thank goodness for steampunk taking place outside of Victorian London! Priest’s Clockwork Century series typically takes place in an alternate United States during the Civil War. Boneshaker, in this case, takes place in Seattle after a poisonous gas leaks out of the ground, turning its victims into mindless zombies. Oh yes. It’s a steampunk zombie apocalypse, people. Best frelling kind of apocalypse, let me tell ya.

Snow: A Retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Tracy Lynn – Now I didn’t enjoy this as my sister did, but I will admit it’s a lovely fairy tale retelling with a steampunk twist. You know, when fairy tale retellings and steampunk weren’t trends. I was never a fan of the actual Snow White story, but if you do have to read a retelling of it, I’d go for Snow any time.

Larklight by Philip Reeve – This one is another children’s fantasy/scifi, and it takes place in a house that kind of doubles up as a travelling satellite. It moves around in space, and the kids go on a grand adventure to fight evil aliens and stuff. I really enjoyed it in any case.

WeWriWa #14: 20 December 2015


8-Sentence Sunday is hosted by Weekend Writing Warriors.

I think Lan goes into bouts of inner thoughts more often than Eirika. I suppose that can’t be helped, as they are two different viewpoints altogether. All the same, there isn’t much action in the first chapter with him, though I suppose with all of the action being packed into Eirika’s first chapter, this couldn’t be helped.

For previous Lan-ish excerpts, click HERE and HERE.

“Are you the gentleman who procured the clocktower job?” A timid, gentle voice asked as Lan stepped out of the bar.

Well, hello, he thought. He eyed the woman, a slightly plump young maid wearing a flowing pale blue dress, complete with a silk ribbon band tied at the top of her brown curls. Her face was deathly pale, as though the Pernatan sun had not touched her skin, yet she stood underneath the bright, beaming sunshine without a hat or a mask. A bright red tattoo was found at the base of her long neck. While the insignia barely showed, Lan identified the color as the ink of Paracelsus, the Salamander Tower.

There was something odd with the way she stood, stationary, graceful, unmoving. But hell, she was attractive. “Yeah, that’d be me.”

Story Notes: Amber and Tourmalines (working title, definitely not the final one) is a story of a black market dealer and her investigation into the untimely deaths of important colleagues. It is also a story of a man down on his luck and resorting to thievery to make ends meet. Only the man’s pretty bad at petty theft, but a rather decent clockmaker. The black market dealer has no problem pointing this out–and involuntarily recruiting him to a life of crime.

WeWriWa #13: 13 December 2015


8-Sentence Sunday is hosted by Weekend Writing Warriors.

More Lan goodness! His POV is a little different from Eirika’s mainly because she’s my action girl, and Lan is the type of guy who thinks his feelings through. Here, we see a bit of what drives Lan emotionally–or at least, we get a bit of background to his melancholy.

Previous excerpt can be found HERE.

One of the shorter women managed to worm her way in, cursing slightly at Lan’s height. Indifferent, Lan let her through, and the short woman signed up for one of the empty Salamander jobs. For a moment, Lan had the urge to dissuade the woman from going for a commission at Salamander. Avoiding the factories would probably wind up saving her life, her lungs, or the use of her arm. He put his hand on the woman’s shoulder. When she shoved him back, he relaxed his hold and let her go.

You can’t help everybody, Lan. That’s what Barb told him whenever he brought it on himself to warn people from endangering themselves. The moment of apprehension passed, and he drew in a breath. The woman disappeared behind him, covered by workers still vying for a position on the employment roster.

Story Notes: Amber and Tourmalines (working title, definitely not the final one) is a story of a black market dealer and her investigation into the untimely deaths of important colleagues. It is also a story of a man down on his luck and resorting to thievery to make ends meet. Only the man’s pretty bad at petty theft, but a rather decent clockmaker. The black market dealer has no problem pointing this out–and involuntarily recruiting him to a life of crime.