Title: Island of Icarus
Author: Christine Danse (new to me)
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: November 29, 2010
Source: Net Galley
Field Journal of Jonathan Orms, 1893
En route to polite exile in the Galapagos Islands (field work, to quote the dean of my university), I have found myself marooned on a deserted tropical paradise. Deserted, that is, except for my savior, a mysterious American called Marcus. He is an inventor—and the proof of his greatness is the marvelous new clockwork arm he has created to replace the unsightly one that was ruined in my shipboard mishap.
Marcus has a truly brilliant mind and the gentlest hands, which cause me to quiver in an unfamiliar but rather pleasant way. Surely it is only my craving for human companionship that draws me to this man, nothing more? He says a ship will pass this way in a few months, but I am welcome to stay as long as I like. The thought of leaving Marcus becomes more untenable with each passing day, though staying would be fatal to my career…
Why this book? I was browsing at Net Galley by publisher and ran across this one. I’ve had good luck with the Carina Press books I’ve read so far, so it’s one of the publishers I make sure to check periodically. The "steampunk" subject also caught my eye — I’m new to steampunk romance but have enjoyed the little I’ve read so far. Make it m/m steampunk romance and I’m sold!
What did I think of the book? On the whole, I enjoyed it. Was predisposed to doing so, given the category.
The story opens with our narrator, a biologist at an English university who has recently lost both his fiancee and an arm, being sent off on sabbatical to the Galapagos Islands. At the end of an unremarkable journey, a storm blows up; venturing above decks unwisely, Jonathan is washed overboard and wakes on an island north of the Galapagos. His rescuer, Marcus, is an American surgeon and engineer. Once the survivor of a shipwreck, Marcus is now the lone occupant of the island by choice. Marcus’s specialty is prosthetics (how serendipitous!) and he is able to repair and improve Jonathan’s prosthetic arm, which had been damaged at sea. Marcus’s obsession is flight — so many things can be mechanized, why not human flight? Surely if he can design proper wings and the proper engine, he’ll be able to fly. Jonathan is anxious to be rescued by a passing ship — they call in periodically and Marcus trades with them — but also intrigued by Marcus’s experiments.
Since this is a romance novel, you can probably imagine what happens as they live together on the island with only each other as company. The relationship development is slightly complicated by the fact that they are men: part of Marcus’s self-imposed exile is his frustration with societal attitudes about homosexuality, while Jonathan has never really acknowledged that he is gay or at least bisexual. In fact, one of the most irritating lines of the book is one of his musings that he "was a ruined man, destroyed by [his] affections for a woman." Readers later learn that he lost his arm because he was distracted by his fiancee’s desertion and got caught in a "library difference engine", which might explain that comment. But it smacks of self-pity and blame-shifting since Jonathan later admits that he neglected her, avoided her presence and hurt her, and that leaving him was the only thing she could do.
The steampunk elements in the book were limited primarily to Jonathan’s prosthetic arm and Marcus’s inventions. The library difference engine and Langley’s aerodrome are also mentioned, however it’s not clear that whatever industrial or mechanical or social changes that are usually inherent with steampunk exist in this setting. There’s the Panama Canal (real); Darwin’s journey on The Beagle (real); shadowgraph (which sounds like an x-ray in context, also real). Is that standard? [The little steampunk I’ve read to date has taken a culture or society and completely changed it via the steampunk elements, which is why I’m wondering.]
Would I read this author again? Certainly.
Keep or pass on? This was an eARC from NetGalley, so I can’t do either. But if I’d purchased a copy, I certainly would keep it.
Related only generally, take a look here for some gorgeous steampunk cakes.