Review – Her Sky Cowboy by Beth Ciotta

Her Sky Cowboy civer image
Publisher: Penguin
Publish Date: Nov 6th
How I got his book: ARC from the publisher

Amelia Darcy has no interest in marrying well. Her heart belongs to the sky and the dirigibles of brass and steel that swoop over Victorian England. But when her father, an eccentric inventor, dies, the Darcy siblings are left with scrap metal—and not a penny to their names. Their only hope to save the family reputation and fortune is to embark on a quest to discover an invention of historical importance in honor of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
Armed with only her father’s stories of a forgotten da Vinci workshop, a mechanically enhanced falcon, and an Italian cook, Amelia takes flight for Florence, Italy. But her quest is altered when her kitecycle crashes into the airship of ex–Air Marshal—and scandalous dime novel hero—Tucker Gentry.
Tuck agrees to escort Amelia to her destination, but the two are challenged by political unrest, a devious sky pirate, and their own sizzling attraction. Soon the pair is dragged into an international conspiracy that could change the course of history…again.

This blurb came from the author’s website here.

I have a complicated relationship with steampunk. I really like the idea behind it; I have loved some of the ways I have seen steampunk done, while others I have found to be meh or no thanks. Because I continue to think that the idea is fascinating, I keep giving steampunk a try. I was really excited when I read the blurb of Her Sky Cowboy because it mashed together several things I have enjoyed in the past. While I did enjoy those elements, there were some things that I didn’t quite enjoy.

Ciotta has created a very complex world for her Glorious Victorious Darcys’ series. Not only did the world contain steam-based elements, it also was very much an alternate history. The divergence seemed to happen sometime after the Italian Renaissance because people were still trying to locate some of Da Vinci’s inventions and plans. Famous musicians and their music were present but with slightly altered names. Many of the countries we have today also existed. There was a rather entwined structure of social and political parties that provided a constant undercurrent of tension throughout the world. There were also genetically altered humans consisting of a combinations of genes from the past and future. Those different humans had what we might call a wide range of mental powers. Time travel was utilized as the instigator that caused the split history. While I was able to understand most of the world-building, I continually struggled with the different political and social parties. I never quite understood what differentiated them from each other – just that they didn’t seem to get along. In fact, I had the impression from the heroine that she was unable to look beyond someones party affiliation if it was counter to what she believed. I think I missed some of the more subtle elements in the story because the parties were important, but they never really worked for me.

Amelia and Tucker were interesting and yet also disappointing. They both shared an interest in the different ways you could make/improve steam technology. They were both hiding secrets from each other, yet also refreshingly honest once they decided to act on their mutual attraction. Tuck, however, seemed a pretty static character. Initially his character was motivated for money and revenge. I could see that Amelia fascinated him because she was so different from the people he usually interacted with but I never got a sense of character growth from him. Amelia kept flipping back and forth from irritating me to interesting me. I really liked her in the beginning and when she initially started her adventure, but then she started acting extremely naïve – almost like she refused to comprehend that there might be a good reason why she was told to do/not do something. In fact there were times when I thought that if she hadn’t met up with Tucker then she never would have survived her initial journey. While I am aware that people often do impulsive things, if the expert tells you don’t do something then you should probably listen to them.

While Amelia and her brothers had set out on their independent quests, Ciotta took the tactic of introducing the main villain and providing his viewpoint and actions. So in essence I know there is a lot more going on than just the hunt for an artifact and the prize money it will bring. In some cases I enjoy that technique but in this one I think it took too long for Tucker and Amelia to decide that something else was afoot. That diluted the impact of seeing events unfold from both the good and the bad sides. The supporting cast was interesting, and the contrast between Amelia’s brothers was rather striking. I also liked the wide assortment in Tuck’s motley crew; they each had an area of specialty and their own individual secrets but they had meshed well together as a team. They also slowly accepted Amelia’s presence aboard their ship, which was really nice to see.

As I said earlier Her Sky Cowboy had some pieces I enjoyed and some pieces that I didn’t find as smoothly executed. I found the world fascinating but I am still puzzling over some of the elements. I also with wish there had been a bit more substance to both Amelia and Tucker. It seemed from the brief mentions of her brothers that they were a bit more complex and thus could prove to be more interesting characters in their stories. The combination of shallow main characters and some world-building elements that I never quite grasped did bring down my overall enjoyment in reading this novel.

I give Her Sky Cowboy a C

Links to purchase

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4 thoughts on “Review – Her Sky Cowboy by Beth Ciotta”

  1. Nice review, and that blurb did intrigue me as well. Still, if you can’t enjoy/fall for the characters, the book lacks something important.

  2. I am guessing that with the world basically established more will come out in future books. There are supposed to be at least 2 more.

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