book reviews by Althea

Ancient Appetites – Oisin McGann ***

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Ancient Appetites
Ancient Appetites by Oisin McGann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Steampunk in an Irish manor house…

The Wildenstern family have been a dominant force in Irish finance for generations, with investments that reach out to the UK and even America. Their power is augmented by an inherited trait that offers them accelerated healing, long life, and an affinity for controlling the mysterious engimals – mechanical beasts with an unknown origin.

They run their estates with a feudal attitude, with servants who are treated like slaves and tenant farmers who are basically oppressed serfs. The family is run by a Patriarch with the authority of a king, and inter-familial plots and assassinations are par for the course.

But now, a strange discovery has been made. Four bodies found in a bog, that seem to have been sitting there for centuries, are discovered to be inexplicably alive. These individuals may be the ancestors of the current Wildensterns. And their medieval attitudes may be, if possible, even worse than the current state of affairs.

The book has a fun, light-hearted tone, suitable for YA, with an action-oriented focus. What may disappoint some Steampunk fans is that while the genre often has a focus on tinkering, innovation and invention, all of the ‘steamy’ stuff here falls firmly into the trope of “Mystical Knowledge of the Ancients.” Also, while the book contains the genre’s seemingly-obligatory commentary on the inequities of gender, race and class, the main character is a not-very-sympathetic upper-class brat with an unfortunate lack of compassion. The book is clearly leading him toward an ‘awakening’ (to happen in sequels) but although he might have a good heart, for most of the book he’s pretty annoying. He’s not so bad that I’m not interested in What Happens Next, however.

One thing that I particularly liked about the book is that so many ‘mystery’ novels feature characters working on sparse clues and coming up with intuitive conclusions that, remarkably, seem to always turn out to be correct. Unlike those, this book actually has a lot of characters looking at the clues and coming to the wrong conclusion – which I found refreshing and amusing.

Overall, I’d recommend this to fans of Scott Westerfeld’s ‘Leviathan.’

Many thanks to Netgalley and Open Road Media for making this book available. This novel was previously published in the UK, but this is the first time it’s being marketed in the US. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

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