A Year on Saturn

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"A Year on Saturn" is the website of Shannon Fay,
freelance and fiction writer.

Review: Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti

Posted on: April 15th, 2013 by Shannon Fay No Comments

As part of World’s Without End’s ‘Women in Genre’ challenge I am reading a sci-fi or fantasy novel each month from an author I have never read before. For more information on the challenge visit Worlds Without End.

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti
By Genevieve Valentine

There are parts of Mechanique I really enjoyed. There are lots of good lines, interesting characters, certain chapters that would work great on their own as short stories. But on a whole this book underwhelmed me. I like unconventional formats, so the fact that the narrative bounces around and that the point of view changes tense didn’t bother me. What did bother me was that I didn’t feel like it was used to great effect. We get told the same things over and over again in great detail, where’s other things (like why Stenos and Bird even want the wings) are left unexplained.

I really think that if you took out the heart of the book, you would have a strong basis for a short story. The basic plot is about two performers in a clockwork/steampunk circus. Both of them want a pair of wings that the ringmaster has created from metal and bone. They have to work together (they’re part of a two-person balancing act) while at the same time try to outdo each other so the boss will give them the wings. That’s a great premise, but I just didn’t feel like it was strong enough to carry the novel.

And then there’s other things, like the fact that our main point of view character (the only one who ever gets to speak in first person) is the least interesting character in the whole circus. George is an orphan who was taken in as a boy and has grown up in the circus. Aside from being boring, he just doesn’t add much to the story or even do much until the very end. Instead of getting into his head every other chapter, I would have much rather heard from…well, just about any other character in the book.

This is Genevieve Valentine’s first novel. Despite all my gripping I liked the writing enough that I would check out future books from her. I’m also curious to read her short fiction, as I think her gift for description and creating atmosphere would make for some interesting short stories.

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