The Soul Machines by Alexandru Czimbor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Soul Machines is historical fiction set during the end of the 1800s in the Austria-Hungarian Empire; the book begins in Transylvania when a teenage boy, Tudor, is out gathering chestnuts when he discovers a strange artefact. He shares his discovery with his friends, Sami and Roli. The trio meet a Count who happens to be searching for lost artefacts, and he explains about other objects which he believes are similar to the one Tudor found.
The object becomes highly sought after by more than one group of people. All sorts of mishaps occur to those who touch or get near to it. There are several secondary story threads running through this book and the author has touched on the political and social situations of the era, with an interesting twist at the end.
I liked the setting of the story and I was intrigued by the opening chapters. However, I thought that the book could do with a tighter edit, with particular attention to dialogue, character development and descriptive details.
The storyline and setting were appealing, it just needs a bit more thought to lift it to its full potential.
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This story opens on a burgeoning mining town in Transylvania during the fading years of the 19th century. Life goes on uneventfully, save for the occasional trouble caused by the greedy local baron. Three young men―a poor Romanian, a gypsy, and a rich Hungarian―are bound by a strong friendship that is frowned upon by the town elite. During a trip to the baron’s forbidden lands, one of the men discovers a mysterious artifact that symbolizes humanity’s evil nature, bringing out the worst in people, particularly those predisposed to wrongdoings. Far right extremists, socialists, and an order of Christian Orthodox monks vie to get their hands on it, which leads to a series of tragic events that disturb the town’s peace. Murders, insanity, and suicide wreak havoc in the region. A wild chase and a fight for the possession of the artifact end up altering the mind of a boy who is bound to change the course of history. Meanwhile, a doomed love story begins between the young man who unearthed the artifact and a rich local girl who’s already betrothed. The story takes place in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and spans an eclectic mix of fiction subgenres, including romance and mystery. Themes include the rise of extreme politics in Europe, feminism, and the conflict between religion and naturalism.