The World of Jeannie Lin’s Gunpowder Chronicles
Author Jeannie Lin has written a number of historical romances (e.g., Butterfly Swords, The Lotus Palace) and given the Asian-set nature of her stories, I’ve always been like, “If I weren’t so busy reading steampunk romance and sci-fi romance, I’d probably check out her books.” I’ve had a longtime interest in Asian-set stories, whether they be in books, television, anime, or film, so her work sounds like a natural fit for me. Alas, the siren call of steampunk and SFR are just too strong, so up until now I haven’t yet branched out to her work.
Another reason her name has stuck in my head is because she has often written about the challenges of getting her books noticed. Like many authors, she’s probably faced all kinds of marketing and discoverability challenges. But another layer of obstacles may have arisen from the fact that her settings are atypical for the romance genre. Could it be that many readers shy away from her books because they seem too different? Do they feel a Jeannie Lin book will present too much of a learning curve? It seems there ought to be more readers who find her work enjoyable than is currently the case and like her, I can’t help but wonder why. Are her books having difficulty breaking out because of unexamined prejudices?
I feel sympathy for Ms. Lin because even as just a (U.S. born) fan of Asian-set stories I know how difficult it can be to convince fellow readers/viewers to give these types of stories a try. On the one hand, I understand the complicated web that is the diversity problem in publishing. On the other hand, I’m like, “Huh? What’s stopping more readers from enjoying her books?” It’s one thing for readers to shy away from science fiction romance because yeah, sometimes the speculative elements are pretty out there, but quite another to shy away from Asian-set romances set right here on ye olde familiar planet Earth.
Therefore, I was delighted to learn Jeannie Lin had launched a new series called Gunpowder Chronicles. That offered the perfect opportunity for me to start sampling her work! The first book in the series is Gunpowder Alchemy (2014) and will be followed by Clockwork Samurai (love that title!), which is set to release December 2015. From what I can gleam, the series is more romantic steampunk than steampunk romance, but who’s counting?!
I bought The Warlord and the Nightingale, a steampunk romance short story set in that world. Following the blurb, I’m going to briefly tag the story (without spoilers!) so you can see if it’s up your alley.
Hanzo the karakuri puppet maker is summoned to Koriya Castle to build a mysterious device for a fearsome warlord. Within the walls, he encounters a beautiful courtesan who must sing from dusk until dawn to chase away nightmares. Caught in a madman’s domain, will Hanzo find his escape, or sacrifice himself for the sake of love? A classic fairy-tale retold with a steampunk twist in feudal Japan.
* the main featured steampunk technology: automatons
* Japanese hero and heroine; they come across as mature characters in the sense of their life experiences and outlooks
* very subtle romance; sweet heat level; forbidden romance
* action-adventure quotient: low
* suspense quotient: moderate
* one scene may be a bit gory for some readers, but it’s an absolutely necessary plot point
* poetic writing and lovely description throughout
* story includes Japanese words for authentic flavor
* detailed worldbuilding
* the hero and heroine join forces to overcome the antagonist (for me, this aspect makes the story a quintessential steampunk romance)
* the story features a fun and clever twist ending
The Warlord and the Nightingale is a very accessible story and seems to me a great way to sample the author’s work.
Now that I’ve had my first taste of Jeannie Lin’s steampunk world, I’m interested in reading more. And lucky for me, Gunpowder Alchemy is at my local library, so I can read it sooner rather than later!
About the author
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express and is the Releases Editor for the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly.
She’s also an author in the genre. To learn more about her published work, visit heathermassey.com. When Heather’s not reading or writing, she’s watching cult films and enjoying the company of her husband and daughter.