Once, Ariston was a Guardian of the Kalliopolis, the perfect city designed by the Philosophers—Philosophers who, in their wisdom, replaced the imperfect human Guardians of Ariston’s generation with warrior machines. Phaleas Peneste, a poor farmer’s orphan the new Guardians rescued from the devastating winter that killed his family, now serves as their mechanic. Unhappy with their positions in the Kalliopolis’s new order, each man decides to escape, a coincidence that leads to their first meeting.
Afraid to risk his life in the wilderness beyond the Kalliopolis, Phaleas hesitates and is recaptured by the Guardians while Ariston discovers he doesn’t have anywhere to run. Back inside, they begin a secret affair, and Phaleas hopes that together, they might give each other the strength to escape the Kalliopolis forever… but first he has to convince Ariston to try again.

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A Spell of Passion or Fear

This is a lovely book, sensitively written and in an inventive and fascinating world that I’d like to see more of; Kalliopolis and its neighbouring cities could easily be home for many more adventures for the citizens (and sentient machines) of this steampunk world. The anachronisms highlighted above will probably not bother most readers, and the politics are a relatively shallow backdrop for the important events of the story. The romance between Ariston and Phaleas, the real heart of this story, is very nicely handled, especially after the somewhat clichéd unequal relationship at the start of their affair. As a whole, this book is both sexy and affecting, with likable characters, enough moral complexity to keep the reader guessing, and very competent writing.

Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad at The Future Fire

I’m giving this a grade of ‘Very Good’ and I recommend it to those who like fantasy and are looking for a different type of steampunk story than the usual Victoriana.

Jenre reviews