From Goodreads.com: In the world of Altadas, there are no more human births. The Regime is replacing the unborn with demons, while the Resistance is trying to destroy a drug called Hope that the demons need to survive.
Between these two warring factions lies Jacob, a man who profits from smuggling contraceptive amulets into the city of Blackout. He cares little about the Great Iron War, but a chance capture, and an even more accidental rescue, embroils him in a plot to starve the Regime from power.
When Hope is an enemy, Jacob finds it harder than he thought to remain indifferent. When the Resistance opts to field its experimental landship, the Hopebreaker, the world may find that one victory does not win a war.
Published: December 2014
Why I Chose It: I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
I was very curious about this book because I didn’t know a lot about it when I started reading. The opening portion of the book seemed a little slow. The narrative focuses on Jacob, who is swept up into the struggle between the Regime and the Resistance. I just wasn’t sure where Jacob fell in to the story, because it kind of felt like he was following others around and observing while they were participating in the action, but Jacob himself did not actively participate. Luckily this changed about a third of the way into the book, when Jacob was asked to smuggle merchandise through a city, allowing his character to step into a more prominent role.
I do wish there had been more world building in the book. I was very intrigued by the idea of “demons” born to human mothers, of a quiet infiltration that was slowly taking over the human realm, and yet I didn’t feel it was explained enough. While I had a vague idea of how this infiltration was happening, or even what people really meant by “demons,” or even what these “demons” were, I never really understood what was going on. It would have been really great to have some back story, maybe even a prologue to explain how the world had transformed into this different place.
Hopebreaker is marketed as a steampunk novel, and I do agree with this category as there were a lot of different machines and ships present throughout the novel. While there were two or three really strong descriptions in the book, I unfortunately felt like most descriptions were fairly generic, and didn’t quite show how these machines/ships were steampunk. I am curious about steampunk technology, how it works and what it looks like. I think there were multiple opportunities missed to go into steampunk depictions, and often the technology could have been that of our own world, and not actually steampunk. I do have to say though, the few times Wilson did describe steampunk technology were very good, and really left me wanting so much more!
Finally, it’s unfortunate when an author has a distinct style of writing that becomes distracting from the story. I was really interested in Wilson’s writing style, as he had a curious limited viewpoint for his narration. The narrator would follow Jacob in the story, and would then “guess” what the other characters were thinking or feeling: “It was clear that Taberah was debating with herself. Perhaps a part of her had pity” or “[…]Whistler said, and perhaps he was thankful.” (Kindle 1st edition, 2014). While I found this style very interesting, it became distracting very fast from the repetitive use of “perhaps.” I found this very unfortunate, because I initially liked the style, but I needed a little variety in its execution.
This book is only 220 pages long and I think I would have been happy with at least twice that length. There could have been a lot more description about the world and the technology that would have really pushed it to the next level. I absolutely loved Wilson’s ideas, and I think he can be very creative with the worlds he imagines, I just wanted a larger depth to the book as a whole. I would recommend this novel for steampunk and science fiction readers, or anyone who loves a good Resistance.
Overall Rating: 3 / 5
World building 2/5
“He preferred to work alone, where his success or failure rested solely on his own merit. He did not like to rely on others, and he was not entirely convinced that Taberah was reliable. From the worry that was evident in her expression, it seemed that she was not convinced that he was either. He felt almost compelled to prove her wrong.” (Kindle 1st edition, 2014)
“The steam truck was agonizingly slow to start up, no matter how much coal he shoveled into the furnace, now how much steam the smokestack spewed. He had driven these vehicles before, however, and he knew that they took a while to heat up, but once they were going they could move at incredible speeds, and were often harder to stop than they were to start.” (Kindle 1st edition, 2014)
“The production halls were more amazing on the inside than the entire factory was on the outside. Huge and elaborate machinery were in place, with many production belts, robotic arms, pistons and pumps, and an endless supply of steam, which masked the uppermost parts of the factory machinery like clouds mask the heavens.” (Kindle 1st edition, 2014)