Monday, 1 October 2012

Courting Trouble by Jenny Schwartz

Courting Trouble is the second Aussie steampunk novella in Jenny Schwartz's Bustlepunk chronicles. I reviewed the first book, Wanted: One Scoundrel at the start of the year. A copy of this novella was provided for review from the publisher, which was nice because it meant I got to read it a bit sooner. You should be able to buy it from Carina Press from the day this review goes live, October 1.

Although Courting Trouble is definitely a sequel to Wanted: One Scoundrel, I think it will also stand alone fairly well. None of the plot, beyond the fact that the two main characters met in book 1, depends on earlier plot points.

Esme is a suffragette in Perth the Swan River colony, 1895. Book 1 introduced her love interest, the Californian Jed, who is still courting her now. Or trying to work out how to court a suffragette without making her angry. Their interactions amused me, especially Jed's attempts at courting. He's not very good at doing so at the start without reducing Esme to a damsel in distress and I completely shared Esme's anger at some of his antics.

Part of Schwartz's alternate universe is the introduction of Bombaytown in the Swan River colony. Much like Chinatown, but Indian, it plays a central role in Courting Trouble when Gupta, the teenager Jed saved in book 1, comes to Jed and Esme for help. Of course, this leads to the central dastardly plot and direction of action. In the end, the bad guy seemed to me to be as much a victim of colonialism/the British Raj as of his own crazies, something I didn't think was quite addressed as much as it could've been.

All in all, Courting Trouble was a great fun read and I was a bit disappointed when it was over so soon. I certainly wouldn't object to reading a novel-length story set in the same world. From Wanted: One Scoundrel to Courting Trouble, I feel Schwartz's writing has improved, becoming tighter. The steampunk elements which originally drew me to the series are still crucial to the plot, though perhaps less prominent (or less silly?) than in Wanted.

I definitely recommend Courting Trouble to anyone who's read and liked Wanted: One Scoundrel or to anyone interested steampunk, particularly those looking for a different setting. (Also, if anyone knows of any other Australian-flavoured steampunk books, please let me know; I'd love to read them.)

4.5 / 5 stars

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