The Rising

by Ian Tregillis

The three-sided conflict comes to a head. The Dutch threaten to wipe the French from the face of the New World. The French try not to let them. And a new Clakker threat emerges from the frozen north.

Plus a bit of philosophizing on the nature of souls and free will. But less than in the first book; this is more a straight-up save-the-world adventure. I enjoyed it, if not quite as much as the first book. But like Empire Strikes Back, it’s clearly a connector to the finale, which I will be starting … now.

The Mechanical

by Ian Tregillis

Artificial intelligence, but with alchemical robots—Clakkers—instead of computerized ones. Instead of enslaving Africans to build the New World, the Dutch use alchemy to create mechanical slaves and take over Europe, driving the French into exile in their North American territories. French catholics who believe Clakkers have souls help rogue Clakkers escape on the ondergrondse grachten, the “underground canals.” New France barely survives by wielding advanced chemical weapons and defenses.

With plenty of references to the actual colonial history of North America, this is fundamentally an adventure story about a Clakker fugitive from injustice, a French spymaster’s quest to restore her country, and a French agent forced to betray his conscience and country. I liked it a lot, and I’ll start reading the next book in the series right away.

(Ian Tregillis’s other series, The Milkweed Triptych, is also a creative alternative-history series, about Nazis super-soldiers during World War II.)

Clockwork Samurai

by Jeannie Lin

Isolated Japan may have a technology that could give China an advantage in the looming conflict with the British. so Jin and Chang-wei go under cover to seek an alliance—or an advantage. Another spy thriller set in the steampunk 1800s.

The partnership/romance between Jin and Chang-wei reminds me a bit of the relationships between kickass men and women leads in kung-fu movies. (In a good way!)

A fun continuation of a really good series.

The Haunting of Tram Car 015

by P. Djèlí Clark

Suffragettes, secret societies, sentient automatons, and … a haunted tram car in an alternate 1910s Cairo. Takes place just before Master of Djinn and functions as an introduction to Fatma el-Sha’arawi, the dapper agent at the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. I love everything I’ve read from P. Djèlí Clark so far, and this is no exception.

Gunpowder Alchemy

by Jeannie Lin

Set in 1800s China, gripped by pervasive opium addiction. In this steampunk alternate history, China’s engines are powered by gunpowder, not oil, and the emperor doesn’t want to hear the truth about China’s vulnerability to the British occupying its fringes. A young woman engineer teams up with her former betrothed to unravel the mystery of her dead father’s mechanical puzzle box and track down a more efficient gunpowder formula to power the imperial navy. Loved this book!