Roanoke Desperados Book 1 by Anna Bowman
Published on: July 17, 2019
I feel like I’ve been pretty lucky on my recent steampunk finds. Black Recluse by Anna Bowman offers adventure and danger in multiple locations, a bit of mystery, and an air ship crew you feel at home with, but who also all seem all have their own secrets to keep.
In a dead-end Skyport on the planet called Roanoke, the only clues Rayn has to her past are a medallion with a mysterious inscription and the knack for repairing firearms. Plagued by the feeling she doesn’t belong, Rayn’s world changes forever when airship Captain, Solomand Black bursts into her shop looking for a gunsmith. In the wake of trouble he brings with him, she has no choice but to accept his offer and set out on a journey which will ultimately lead her to discover the truth of who she is. But can the hapless pilot be trusted? As they cross paths with government agents seeking a dangerous war criminal, Rayn must decide which side of a war she belongs on and learn the painful lesson that some things are best left forgotten.
To me, Solomand Black’s world must be a complicated one to live in. As part of the rebellion, he is now a wanted war criminal and is constantly having to watch his back, he’s lost his wife and child, protects his 12-year-old crew member from slave traders, has a close friend that is gravely ill while assisting another friend withdraw from a powerful drug called Furi and who incidentally also wants to kill or at least seriously hurt Solomand. Then, you add Rayn – someone he’s hired to fix a cannon and who sees Solomand as a rifle-murderer, which to her is a serious offense ever since he caused her favorite rifle to get destroyed. But as payment to fixing the anti-aircraft cannon, Solomand has also agreed to help track down some answers regarding her past. Rayn has no prior memories other than the last few years with only one hint – a small compass with the initials ‘S. L.’ on it. It’s not much to go on, but Solomand has a few thoughts on where to find some leads and that’s all Rayn can hope for.
By around 20-30% in, most of the characters and initial story have been introduced. But knowing this is where the plots typically start kicking into gear, I remember wondering if this was going to be a plot-driven or character-driven story. What I found was the character’s background, past, and current situation were the motivating factors in most events that occurred in the book. But I didn’t actually understand the fullness of this until the end when the reader is let in on some of the secrets of the crew. I then went back and re-read some sections to get a full appreciation of how much was actually going on all at the same time.
At the end of the book a few important questions get answered that helped put several of the missing pieces together for me. Incidentally, these answers are also what might make Black Recluse an enjoyable re-read, because you’re able to go back and see what was really going on in certain sections or scenes. I know when reading it the first time there were some sections or plot moments where I knew I didn’t 100% understand the driving motivation and doing a re-read definitely helped. But the end of the story also puts several new plot motivations in play and gives us a starting point for the next in the series.
Regarding the steampunk part of the story, I would classify it as more of a subtle steampunk style book, which I appreciated. Often we see the same certain words or phrases within steampunk calling out to the reader to let them know what genre they are in. But there are times I wish I could read a steampunk book without the use of them. In Black Recluse, the words ‘dirigible’ or ‘automaton’ were not used within the story. There are however, air ships, guns, Victorian style dressing, and other items such as a mechanical spider filled with gears inside its body that identify with the genre. Overall, I found Black Recluse to be a very enjoyable read and recommend it anyone looking for a new steampunk read and look forward to reading the next in the series.
Rating: 4.5 stars