Due to a perfect storm of gin & tonics, cabin-visitation, and general slovenliness, I read roughly eleventy million pulp steampunk books this summer. Before they disappear into an undifferentiated stew of plucky scientist's daughters and clockwork corsets, I mean to write up just a little about each one.
Heretofore, I've been reviewing books from my Summer of Steampunk that aren't particularly notable. Some of this is that it's easier to be a crank; some of this is the fact that I had to get something down before I forgot clean about them. Rather than give the impression that I hate everything and why am I even reading steampulp, I wanted to get in a review of a book I enjoyed. Hey Mikey! etc.
The broad strokes are thus: Aline is the personal assistant to a growly Russian dude, Sasha Romanov (and I would like to just take a moment to be a bitch about this name; really?) She quits in a fit of pique in order to marry the boring cipher she's engaged to, which puts the question to the true nature of her feelings towards her employer, &c &c. When Aline is targeted by a Jack the Ripperish murderer, a whole mess of crazy steampunkery ensues, including such things as Leonardo da Vinci, secret societies, immortals, vampires, mecha-soldiers, and the Crimean War. I generally prefer a kitchen sink approach to pulp, and this book delivers that in spades. I'll start with things that bugged, and move onto things I liked.
Minuses: Prince of Hearts isn't particularly well plotted: things take too long to get started, and then happen too furiously once they do. My real problem (which became very apparent when I went to read the second in this series and had zero idea what was going on) is that the architecture of the techno-steampunkery slash paranormal taxonomy makes little sense and/or isn't explained well. I'm going to admit I don't pay attention very well to explanations or infodumps, so this could be me. Even still, I think it lacked a certain metaphorical punch necessary to be memorable.
Pluses: War in the Crimea, wot wot! Maybe I'm easy, but I straight up love it when people go for strange, little-remembered national conflicts in their alt-histories. I googled a little, just so I had the particulars fresh about the Crimea, and that conflict was such a pyrrhic shitshow, remembered mostly because of Florence Nightingale or the Charge of the Light Brigade. (The latter is primarily remembered because a whole mess of folk got killed attacking the wrong location. Good Lord. It's like the Battle of Thermopylae, but more of a bummer because it's stupid.)