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review 2017-03-16 00:38
I didn't get this PhD for nuthin
The Silver Skull (The Elemental Web Chro... The Silver Skull (The Elemental Web Chronicles Book 2) - Anne Renwick
The Golden Spider (The Elemental Web Series) (Volume 1) - Anne Renwick

The Golden Spider and The Silver Skull are both fairly paint-by-numbers steampunk: it's vaguely Victorian-ish, with the ton & the peerage and all that, but there are Babbage cards and steam mechanicals and such too. 

 

The Golden Spider is probably the better novel, following a girl scientist trying to stop a killer and cure her brother and also there are spies.The Silver Skull relies on one of those "we have to pretend to be married so we might as well bang" scenarios, which I find tedious, and I didn't buy the reasons for the lovers to be apart anyway. But bonus points for pteranodons that the evil lady saddles up so she can have sky battles with airships. That was fresh. 

 

What I really wanted to say about this series, the thing I found utterly charming, was the epically nerdy science behind both of these plots. A science that was lovingly detailed with so much legit scientific terminology that I would just start skimming at points as the principals breathlessly talked chemistry at each other. The author's bio states that Renwick has a PhD in chemistry, and it shows: she loves this shit; she's not going to dumb it down; and she's going to work out the science plausibly, even if it's fictional. 

 

Hard science is very rarely my thing. I simply do not care about verisimilitude, unless you wrap it up with some actual characters, which doesn't happen as often as I'd prefer. And generally I'm not reading steampunk for the articles, but because I like the dash-punk pulp aspects: I want to see me a fucking kraken, or an airship battle that crashes, burning, into the sea, or some automata struggling with sentience. But here, in books where the steampunkery was wan and drab, I lived for the nerdy stuff, in a weird reversal. It just goes to show that the enthusiasm of the writer towards the subject, be it chemistry or krakens, goes a long way toward my enjoyment of a novel. 

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review 2017-02-10 18:56
science driven, Steampunk awesomeness...plus it is free for those with Kindle Unlimited...YES THANK YOU!!
The Golden Spider (The Elemental Web Series) (Volume 1) - Anne Renwick

Man oh man was this book GOOOOD! It was steamy (though I must admit to skimming through the naughtiest of bits), extremely well written, well researched, action/romance packed and neatly wrapped up at the end (for most of the leading characters that is). It was told in multiple POVs which can be tricky but worked here. There was quite a bit of Romance so those who are deathly allergic beware BUT most importantly there was Science! Science how I love thee!! A few reviewers complained about the amount of Science in the book. I personally can not stress enough how the Science and the incredibly detailed Steampunk(ness) drew me in and kept me firmly within its loving, mechanically and biologically technical grasp until the very last page. The Steampunk/ Mad Science aspects were done so expertly that they not only seemed 100% believable but quite possible, for those of us who would be so inclined, to replicate in our very own garages. The Romance was not an insta-love, nor was the reader bludgeoned with its presence or urgency the entirety of the book. It was sweet, slow to mature, and you couldn't help but root for it to solidify (and I am not the biggest of Romance fans). I believe The Science was so well explained that even Scientific newbies could follow along and puzzle the concepts out without prior knowledge of anatomy, physiology or chemistry....All that is required is an interest imo. ALSO, there were kraken, derigable, personal submersibles, steam powered/ mechanical everything (including nerve repairing arachnids), mad scientists, international espionage and you guessed it...air pirates! No good Steampunk yarn can be spun without the trusty air pirate or two. If you like Alt-Historical, Steampunk, Romance or Science based tales of espionage, love against the odds, scientific perfection and mechanical wonders filled awesomeness...you have found your next fav and new topper of the ever growing TBR pile!

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review 2016-11-19 03:38
A Rollicking Romantic Steampunk Adventure, Heavy on the Steamy.
The Golden Spider (The Elemental Web Series) (Volume 1) - Anne Renwick

Wow. Next time some author describes their book as a "Romance," I really need to ask some follow-up questions before I say yes. Technically, Renwick said "Steampunk Romance," and I figured it'd be something like The Parasol Protectorate or The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. And it was. But with a whole lot more time on the love story -- and a whole lot more description of what a couple of consenting adults consented to.

 

The central technology -- the titular Golden Spider, is just great. One of the niftiest pieces of Steampunk tech that I've run across. I have no idea where Renwick is going with it, but I'm pretty sure she's going somewhere based on the title of the series. Other than that -- and a couple of other examples of medical technology -- the technology and whatnot are pretty standard-issue Steampunk. Oh, and there are krakens everywhere -- I liked that.

 

Medical student and borderline-scandalous daughter of a member of the gentry, Amanda, is being blackmailed by her father into marriage -- he'll let her go to school as long as she gets married. Her prospects aren't that bright (if you ignore those who wouldn't let her study/practice medicine). Lord Sebastian is one of her professors, as well as a leading medical researcher -- and a secret agent for the queen -- he's a busy guy. They're both incredibly attracted to each other, but squabble almost instantaneously and continually. Is it a law that every Steampunk romance start with two people being attracted to each other and sniping constantly while denying said attraction?

 

Anyway, this one plays out just as you'd expect -- but maybe a little faster.

The adventure/mystery is pretty fun, but the solution is pretty obvious, and the rest is pretty predictable. But the characters' interaction makes up for most of the predictability. In addition to Amanda and Sebastian, we have another prospective suitor or three for Amanda, Sebastian's much more interesting and/or obvious action hero partner, Amanda's family, and another scientist or two. None of these characters are great, but Renwick uses them well, and the result is fast-paced and entertaining.

 

Again, this is a romance, so certain things are going to be accentuated. One of those things, it seems, is sex. There was a lot more of it than I was prepared for (but, I want to stress, that's on me) -- and unlike the last few books I've complained about with excessive bedroom activities, Renwick's scenes are worth reading -- well, okay, skimming. I'm not sure why she didn't think her characters deserved a little more privacy, but what're you going to do?

 

I had a heckuva good time reading this -- and I expect the same would be true of fans of Gail Carriger, Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, Kady Cross, or a handful of other authors I can't think of at the moment. Renwick drinks from the same wells as the above -- but she's her own author, don't expect a carbon copy. If you can handle Steamy Steampunk, give this one a shot.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post -- you have my thanks, Ms. Renwick.

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