Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War by Richard Ellis Preston Jr. – review

By on January 3, 2014


Publisher’s Description:

The frozen wasteland of Snow World – known as Southern California before an alien invasion decimated civilization – is home to warring steampunk clans. Crankshafts, Imperials, Tinskins, Brineboilers, and many more all battle with one another for precious supplies, against ravenous mutant beasts for basic survival, and with the mysterious Founders for their very freedom. Through this ruined world soars the Pneumatic Zeppelin, captained by the daring Romulus Buckle.

In the wake of a nearly suicidal assault on the Founders’ prison city to rescue key military leaders, both the steam-powered airship and its crew are bruised and battered. Yet there’s little time for rest or repairs: Founders raids threaten to shatter the fragile alliance Buckle has risked everything to forge among the clans. Even as he musters what seems a futile defense in the face of inevitable war, Buckle learns that the most mysterious clan of all is holding his long-lost sister in a secret base – and that she holds the ultimate key to victory over the Founders. But rescuing her means abandoning his allies and praying they survive long enough for there to be an alliance to return to.

What I expected:  Having missed out on the previous book, I had very little in the way of expectations.  I did expect a steampunk adventure with lots of action – a subtitle of ‘Engines of War’ tends to make the reader suspect there will be some battling going on.  I also expected a more Western feel, though I am not sure what gave me that impression.

What I got:  I most definitely got a steampunk adventure.  I also got a terrific main character, fantastic beasties, an alien, fascinating steamship functionality, and some very interesting clan and family dynamics.

What I liked:  I liked the mix of interesting things – it felt as if I couldn’t really expect what was going to happen next.  I also truly enjoyed the family dynamics where adopted family members are forcibly protected as members of the family, no doubts.  The Martians were very unexpected, as well, and I liked the insight into their culture.  There were also some fun personality conflicts.  The gadgets and the steamships had loads of detail and little fiddly bits that were logical, which of course made me happy.

What I did not:  I can’t really say that there was a great deal that I did not like.  I didn’t notice any boring parts, big infodumps, or illogical characterization.  There were probably a couple of spots where I doubted certain actions were physically possible, and the main was luckier than he was clever, but those were all forgivable faults in light of an entertaining tale.

Cover Talk:  Overall I like the cover image, but there is a bit of distortion in the depiction of movement which throws me off of really liking it.  It certainly gives the reader an atmosphere to expect in the book.  The tinting of the entire image in green, which ultimately matches the story itself, also was not the best of style ideas – it makes the image look as if it were done underwater.

Recommendation?  I recommend this to all steampunk fans and people who love crazy main characters who go out there and take those insane risks for good reasons and will do anything for their family and friends.  If you like Maljean Brooks’ characters and plots from her Iron Duke series, then you’ll more than likely enjoy this.  I even liked it without having read the first book, which I’ll have to go and remedy soon.

About amberdrake


Both Romulus Buckle books are on my book list but so far I was not sure what to expect. I do not like to read Steampunk novels with a lot of romance.

Thanks to your review I know now that the Romulus Buckle novels are two books after my tatse.