Author: Felicitas Ivey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 90 Pages
At a Glance: A mixture of genres that somehow work perfectly together
Blurb: Hachisuka Narihiro is a pilot in the Shogun’s elite unit of musha-ki, robotic armor automated by steam and magic for the defense of Nippon in a slowly modernizing 19th Century, when he’s requested to help with political negotiations. Compromises are difficult, with American Admiral Perry determined to open Japan to the West but only on his terms. Like most Western leaders, the admiral is unaware of the advances the Japanese have made with steam and thinks Nippon is an isolated and backward nation. Narihiro’s uncle, the twelfth Tokugawa Shogun, believes Narihiro is the best man for the duty. Despite his extensive training, plans might not go as well as expected.
With the American delegation comes closeted former Pennsylvania Dutch farmer, Maarten Zook, a shy translator who catches Narihiro’s interest. As negotiations stall, the Japanese are left with few options to convince America that Nippon is its equal. Japan is ready to open its borders, but a show of force may be needed, and that force may destroy the budding relationship between Narihiro and Maarten.
Review: Based on the author’s bio, I think she might be my long-lost twin. This book made me so happy because it’s a ridiculous combination of genres that works so well together and is pretty much nerd heaven. Steampunk, alternate history, gay romance, Japan, fantasy, and Gundam-like mecha collide in The Mechanical Chrysanthemums to deliver a powerful punch and wonderful characters.
First of all, the cover is gorgeous. I absolutely love it. It matches the story perfectly and sets a nice tone before you even open the pages. But let’s talk about the story. Steampunk and alternate history work well together as a rule, but adding in fantasy as well as gay romance? It takes skill to make everything work. As soon as I started reading and the musha were described, my first thought was “Gundam!” Sure enough, that’s pretty much what the musha are. They’re a combination of steam energy and magic blended to form a deadly combination.
The characters are all great as well. Narihiro is torn between wanting Maarten and leaving him alone because of his cultural differences. Maarten is shy and, while drawn to Narihiro, hesitant because of American rules and religious law. Kiyoshi is fun as well, always needling Narihiro and acting “chaperone” for the two men. I’d love to read a story about him and his exploits and finally finding love for himself.
This is a novella, but despite that, the characters and the plot are well developed. The pacing is just right and never felt rushed. Normally I want a longer book, and while I do want to read more about the three men in this story, I didn’t feel like anything was missing or that extra pages were necessary in any way. In terms of sex, it is rather light, but it fits Hiro and Maarten due to Maarten’s hesitation and his upbringing.
Well done, Felicitas Ivey! Consider me a new fan!
You can buy The Mechanical Chrysanthemums here: