A Mix Of #MagicalRealism And #Steampunk. Rosie’s #Bookreview Of The Violins Played Before Junstan by @AuthorLouKemp

The Violins Played before Junstan (Celwyn #1)The Violins Played before Junstan by Lou Kemp

4 stars

The Violins Played Before Junstan is a magical realism story, also using the genres steampunk and historical fiction.

The story opens in San Francisco during 1865. Celwyn is an immortal magician with incredible talents but several enemies. He is employed to capture an evil inventor, Professor Kang, by Kang’s brother; the capture is to occur en route to Singapore. However, Celwyn discovers that many aspects of the brother’s story are untrue.

Kang is unusual because he is an automaton, but he has very human habits. As I turned the pages I came across much murder, mayhem and mischief, along with heroic aided escapes and a small band of travellers that grows in number as the adventure rolls along until the story reaches a grand climax in Prague.

This is a well written story; I easily found myself immersed in the narrative and could picture the wonderful scenery and magic that Celwyn conjured. There are a couple of dark threads which weave their way through the story and the reader is kept guessing about their outcome until the end. I liked the characters too; they were well rounded and quite believable.

The pace of the book is leisurely and reflects both the era and the style of the chosen transport that the characters use. Occasionally I did wish that the story moved at a quicker pace as it dragged a little, but not enough to frustrate me greatly. I did spot one or two plot holes: characters appearing or events happening that weren’t absolutely feasible and needed a bit more explanation or thinking through. However, they didn’t detract much from the overall enjoyment that I had from the storytelling.

Overall, a good start to a series, and I shall be interested to know where the author takes the characters to next.

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Desc 1

San Francisco, 1865.

At first, the immortal peyote-eating magician Celwyn is hired to deliver an automat, Professor Kang, to a priest called Talos. Everything Talos told Celwyn was a lie, and by the time their ship, the Zelda, encounters a terrific storm in the Arctic Circle, Celwyn finds he must reconsider his allegiance. He chooses Kang, and they travel to Singapore, preparing to journey west. In order to deflect the attention of the city’s police, they allow an American heiress to go with them as she escapes matrimony to seek adventure. Her crazy aunt hops another train, and the pursuit is on. The third member of their friendship is from Juba in the Sudan; a widower, scholar, and brave but superstitious man. Their deep friendship grows as they battle several malevolent forces at the same time, and rescue two orphans along the way. Celwyn has avoided caring about anyone for hundreds of years, and now must learn the cost of friendship, and loss. Eventually they reach Prague. The culmination of their battles with evil occurs on the Vltava River under the shadow of the Prague Opera House. As always, it is accompanied by the ethereal music of the magician.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview of #Fantasy Adventure The Colonel And The Bee by Patrick Canning

The Colonel and the BeeThe Colonel and the Bee by Patrick Canning

4 stars

The Colonel And The Bee is a fantasy adventure. It is set during an unnamed historical era of discovery and has some similarities to steampunk.

It opens in Switzerland, with Beatrix who is a thirteen-year-old circus acrobat. One evening she grabs a chance to run away with a mysterious man, whom she saw earlier in the audience.

Colonel Bacchus is an eccentric collector and adventurer, who travels in a hot air balloon known as an Oxford Starladder. It consists of a four storey, wicker-framed home which is suspended from an enveloped-shaped balloon. The Colonel allows Beatrix to accompany him as he searches for a mystery ginger haired man. They fly to Belgium where they discover a dead man. He has a riddle in his pocket; the clues from it send them on a hunt for a precious jewel. As they follow further signs, the trail mixes with criminals who also want the jewel. The companions criss-cross Europe, and then fly over Africa as the try to solve the riddle.

There were elements of magical realism which surrounded the hot air balloon and its basket home. I was delighted by all the detail and contents of the wicker house, in particular the nesting Manx birds, and the botanical gardens where the Colonel grew his many flowers. The story was full of many unique characters; some to love, others to loath. I thought the first half of the book was very good, but the second half dragged and I found the ending a little disappointing.

Overall, the hot air balloon was the highlight of this book, giving it a steampunk and magical fantasy feel. This became overpowered by the mystery adventure element that led to the final denouement.

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Book description

A peculiar explorer and downtrodden acrobat span the globe on a building-sized hot air balloon, in search of a precious artifact and the murderous treasure hunter who seeks it.
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Beatrix, a spirited but abused acrobat in a traveling circus, seeks more than her prison-like employment offers. More than anything, she wants to know her place in the world of the halcyon 19th century, a time when the last dark corners of the map were being sketched out and travel still possessed a kind of magic.

One night in Switzerland, the mysterious Colonel James Bacchus attends Beatrix’s show. This larger-than-life English gentleman, reputed to have a voracious appetite for female conquests, is most notable for traveling the world in a four-story hot air balloon called The Ox.

Beatrix flees that night to join the Colonel, and the two of them make a narrow escape—Beatrix from her abusive ringleader, the Colonel from a freshly-made cuckold. Beatrix, feeling the Colonel may have the answers to her problems, pledges to help him catch the criminal he seeks in exchange for passage on his magnificent balloon.

The criminal seeks a precious figurine, The Blue Star Sphinx, but he’s not alone. The Sphinx’s immense value has also drawn the attention of the world’s most deadly treasure hunters. A murder in Antwerp begins a path of mystery that leads all the way to the most isolated island on Earth.

What dangers await the Colonel and the acrobat?

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