Tin Swift by Devon Monk
Tin Swift is the second book in Devon Monk’s AGE OF STEAM series. The first, Dead Iron, introduced the characters we follow in this book: Cedar Hunt, honorable bounty hunter and werewolf; Wil Hunt, Cedar’s wolf brother; Mae Lindson, a widowed witch; Rose Small, a young orphaned woman with a magical ability to work metal; and the enigmatic Madder brothers. The three brothers have pressed Hunt into service on their quest to find and bind a magical artifact from another realm, the Holder. The Holder has broken into seven pieces. In the wrong hands, or even left unbound, the Holder can wreak great evil in this world.
It’s hard for me to review Tin Swift coherently because it pleases so many parts of me. Reader Me loved it; Writer Me loved it; Lecturer Me loved it, so I’m going to turn this part of the program over to the voices in my hea—
Reader Me: I love this book! Four stars! Reading it was like giving myself a present. I love the steampunk 1870s frontier! I love these characters, and how she weaves dark magic and wild magic — like that power source, the glim — into steampunk.
Writer Me: I really enjoy Monk’s prose, like the comment about Stump Station, “So barren and out of the way, even vultures risked starvation.” And check out how she paces her story, too. Just look at those first four chapters. A dead bushwhacker, the tension between Mae and Cedar, Mae’s geas, and a town full of people killed and reanimated by the fragment of the Holder —
Reader Me: Then that horrible thing happens to Rose. Cedar blames himself. And what are those Madder brothers doing?
Lecturer Me: It’s plain that the Madder brothers are more powerful and more knowledgeable than the others, because they are from the same realm as the Holder, and the Strange. If they stayed in the story longer they would —
Reader Me: Yeah, whatever. And then we get the tin-coated airship! The Swift. That’s where the title Tin Swift comes from. And Captain Hinks —
Writer Me: If that really is his name —
Lecturer Me: Hinks is not only a vital character for moving the action, he allows backstory to unfold regarding the Civil War, the harvesting of glim, and the precariousness of the current political situation. And he introduces the secondary villain.
Reader Me: I love Captain Hinks, and his crew, especially Molly.
Lecturer Me: And the secondary villain is very plausible given the backstory, although I must say the name “Alabaster Saint” is too much.
Writer Me: It is a bit over the top. But man, what a convincingly evil guy!
Reader Me: He is evil, but so are others, who aren’t supposed to be. I thought what the sisterhood, the coven, did to Mae was cruel.
Writer Me: I could see their point, though.
Reader Me: Really? I couldn’t.
Lecturer Me: Mae’s power intimidates the coven. In this world, conventional arenas, like the government —
Writer Me: And your cozy Midwestern coven —
Lecturer Me: — are unable to deal with the situation. They are corruptible; they can’t be trusted. Remember that when Mae says to Adaline “Is that the way of coven now? Bargaining for your advantage?” Adaline says, “The war has changed us all, Mae Rowan.” Our band of characters can only depend on themselves and each other.
Reader Me: But they’re so full of self-doubt.
Writer Me: Cedar isn’t. He’s learning about the power of the “beast” inside him, as he calls it.
Reader Me: He’s just distracted because he’s fantasizing about Mae.
Writer Me: Not all the time. Cedar’s beginning to understand how devastating the Holder can be. Look at the choice Cedar makes at the end and contrast that with the scene in the mountains, when he thinks about leaving. “Not for the first time, he wished he still had his supplies, his horse, and a steady horizon in front of him.”
Reader Me: Yeah, it’s sad though. Like Cedar says, everyone deserves a little joy. And it’s sad how many people die. How many people we like die.
Writer Me: People died in the first book, too. That’s what makes it dark.
Writer Me: Some more than others.
Reader Me: Well, I loved it and I can’t wait for the next one. What metal will she name it after? Will Hinks and his airship survive? What will the Madder brothers blow up next, and what’s with that dragonfly?
Writer Me: The dragonfly! Yeah, Lecturer, what’s up with that?
Lecturer Me: I, er… I, well, I don’t know. What I do know is that this is an excellent sequel and a fine book in its own right. I recommend it.
Reader Me, Writer Me: We all do.