Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chronicles of Steele - Review


Chronicles of Steele: Raven by Pauline Creeden is my first ever steampunk read, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed both the genre and Creeden’s storytelling. The book is divided into four episodes, each is subdivided into scenes.
The novel is about Raven Steele, a reaper. Reapers are not entirely mercenaries, or at least they did not start out as such. Their main code is, for every life they take, they must redeem it by saving another. This code stops them from falling in a downward spiral of becoming unfeeling and heartless.
The novel opens with Raven having made up her mind to go to Gregory and declare her love for him. On the way, a broken automated horse pulling a carriage lands in the water and Raven saves the young boy in the carriage. The boy turns out to be the young Baron, the second in line to rule New Haven. Raven is taken to the Duke and there his older son, Solomon, tells her that the young Baron, Darius, has a demon and that he just suffered a failed exorcism. He asks her to take his brother to the Wood Witch to cure him, or their father, the Duke, will kill him. Raven sees an opportunity to redeem herself by rescuing Darius.

At the beginning of the novel, we see Raven trying to think of other people as human. A short while after that thought and in her first confrontation in the book, Raven is arrested and the scene is described with “…gripped the chain between the cuffs and pulled her forward like an ox.” The image is highly ironic as she tries to think of others as people, whereas such people treat her like an animal even though she gets out of her way and saves a life.

Throughout the book, Raven tries to escape the Duke’s guard to get Darius to the Wood Witch. Getting there isn’t easy, but the worse is yet to come as it turns out the Darius is very special and the Wood Witch has much better and bigger plans.

The novel is narrated in the third person. The language is simple with many beautiful images:
Sunlight sifted through and between the buildings stacked next to one another like books on a shelf.”

Every scene in every episode begins with a few lines of advice or notes in the reapers’ code. For instance “Defeat is a state of mind. The loser is not the person who fails, but one who gives up. If one never gives up, lost ground can be easily recovered when the opportunity presents itself.” Also, “Actions must be guided by reason, not emotion. The moment decisions become based on feelings, one will err”.

I particularly liked Credeen’s use and choice of colours in these lines, which reflect both Raven’s and the author’s views as to the Duke’s choice since his guard wears brown coats. “Brown might be a good colour for a dirty job, but a bloody one? As a reaper, Raven wore black – the appropriate colour for the purpose.

In the Chronicles of Steele, there are many bits of sound and advice and food for thought. For example, Raven is highly intelligent and calculating, often anticipating her opponents’ moves. In one scene, she tells Darius, “You don’t have to be faster than a bullet, you just need to be smarter than the man holding the gun.”

Despite being such a strong character, certain little things still get to Raven. She’s hard on the outside but afraid of a tiny thing like spiders. This makes her character more realistic and believable. “As a reaper, she trained to conquer her fear. Yet the thought of eight hairy legs creeping across her skin made her cringe.
Moreover, we say Raven develop, particularly in terms of emotions. She begins to care for Darius and worries about him. Is he cold? Is he well fed? Later, she draws strength from his faith and trust in her.

Chronicles of Steele is rich in characters from Raven, to Monroe, Captain Jack Grant, Darius, Colton and even Nikki the dog. Credeen’s storytelling is enjoyable and when you think you’ve been let down, Credeen shows you she’s just been teasing – I liked that bit.

What I particularly loved about the novel is that it mixed so many genres into one beautiful read. It is action, adventure, disguise, mystery, fantasy and supernatural with a tiny tinge of romance.

That woman’s passion was like a storm, and he could either cower from the lightning, or be brace and stand in the rain.”

Note: I received a free copy in return for an honest review and as part of the Chronicles of Steele: Raven blog tour via Xpresso Book Tours.

Note: The books were originally published separately, though my copy is of all four episodes.
Keep reading for more info about the books and the author:

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About Pauline Creeden:
In simple language, Pauline Creeden creates worlds that are both familiar and strange, often pulling the veil between dimensions. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long. Pauline is a horse trainer from Virginia, but writing is her therapy.

Armored Hearts, her joint effort with author Melissa Turner Lee, has been awarded the Crowned Heart for Excellence by InDtale Magazine. It is also the 2013 Book Junkie’s Choice Winner in Historical Fiction. Her debut novel, Sanctuary, won 1st Place Christian YA Title 2013 Dante Rosetti Award and 2014 Reader’s Choice Gold Award for Best YA Horror Novel.

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