Brent Nichols, $0.00
I don’t usually review freebies, but Gears of a Mad God is the first entry of Brent Nichols’s series of the same name, and I’m in the mood for a steampunk Lovecraft-y adventure—something that is used to describe the series. So, here we go.
Colleen Garman, our heroine, is a clock maker in a place looking over Lake Ontario in steampunk times. When this story opens, she learns that her uncle Roderick has passed on in Victoria. Dropping everything behind—including a boyfriend that wants to marry her—she rushes out to settle his uncle’s affairs and perhaps learn more about the circumstances leading to his passing. Yikes, she soon discovers that Roland committed suicide in a prison cell, after he was arrested for trying to use an ax on some children in a primary school. What made her uncle do something as horrible as that? Even as she ponders the horrific possibilities, Colleen soon discovers that she is caught up in the conflict between a sinister cult that has its web across many pawns all over the world, and the government officials that want to eradicate the cult. Ooh, the story is heating up!
When I finally reach the end of this story, my thought is pretty simple: it’s okay. The whole thing is pretty straightforward and even simple, to the point that I wonder whether this series is aimed at a younger audience. Not that there is anything wrong with that, if that’s indeed the case; it’s just that there is nothing remotely complex or horrific in this story, at least at this early stage in the series, so folks looking for a darker kind of Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn fun may have to temper their expectations somewhat. Aside from that, this story is fine.
Characterization is pretty basic in this story, in a what I see is what I get manner, and much of the focus goes to Colleen. Understandably so, as she is the lead character and we want to be thoroughly impressed by her in the first entry in this series. That’s the plan. I like that she’s not a sarcastic-quip-every-ten-seconds type. She’s more of a competent, bold type with a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong, and I like that. In a time when every female lead is determined to be an obnoxious “YAS KWEEN SLAY! LOOK AT ME HOGGING EVERYONE’S ATTENTION WITH MY BUFFY-SPEAK! GIRL POWER, SASSY BITCH YAASS MAWMA, OH MY GOD, DID YOU SEE HOW HOT THAT VAMPIRE’S BARED CHEST IS?” manic pixie Sue hag, it is a tall glass of water to find an old-school no-nonsense type like Colleen. She still has all the traits of a strong female lead, but without the annoying over the top quip vomit that comes with the territory.
However, I roll up my eyes more frequently than I’d have liked while reading this story, for the author resorts to having Colleen as the only sensible, sane, and proactive character across the board. Am I supposed to believe that experienced trained government officials’ first reaction in a crisis will always be to shrug, say that there is nothing that can be done, and just sit there in that corner? Colleen is the one that galvanizes into doing something each time, and she also is the one to put pieces together to find answers and all. By dumbing down other characters to elevate Colleen, the author ends up making me wonder just what kind of morons that are populating this world and breaking my immersion in the process.
In the end, I’m somewhat 50-50 when it comes to this story. There are many things that I like about it, but my enthusiasm is somewhat negated by the things that I’m not too fond of at all. Still, I don’t become annoyed by the latter that much, so yes, overall I’m okay with this story. I may be full of urgency to get the next story in this series, but at the same time, I am intrigued enough to purchase it. Hopefully, things will get better as I go along with Colleen on that merry ride into mayhem and madness!