book reviews by Althea

Gunpowder Alchemy – Jeannie Lin ***

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If you’re looking for a G-rated YA romance set in 19th-century China – this is the book for you.
I see from the author’s bio that she’s known for her historical romances with a Chinese setting. If you liked those, I’m sure you’ll like this one as well. However, I was persuaded to read this by the touted ‘steampunk’ angle – and in that, I was disappointed. All of the ‘steampunk’ elements in this book could easily have been inserted with half an hour’s editing of a completed manuscript. None of them are any more than window dressing, and affect the plot not at all.

Our Heroine is the young woman Soling. Her family has fallen from Imperial favor, and she is living in poverty. Once, her father was the Emperor’s chief engineer, but after a naval defeat at the hands of Western invaders, he was executed for his failure.
When Soling resorts to trying to sell one of the last items of her father’s that she owns, she unintentionally attracts Imperial attention. Before she knows it, she’s whisked from the streets and brought to the palace, where the Crown Prince, who disagreed with the Emperor’s policies, hopes to acquire any secrets that may be in Soling’s possession. While there, she happens to encounter the man to whom she once was betrothed… and, of course, finds herself attracted to him.

From there, Soling gets bundled off this way and that way, most of it against her will, while she tries to keep her head above water and get back to taking care of her young brother and her opium-addicted mother. She’s mystifyingly reluctant to accept help or grab opportunities that present themselves.

That said, the book was fun, action-filled, and kept my interest throughout. A good beach read, if you’re not looking for anything too heavy or involved.

A copy was provided to me by NetGalley – many thanks for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are my own.


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