Evangeline Denmark

Grey Haward has always detested the Chemists, the magicians-come-scientists who rule her small western town. But she has always followed the rules, taking the potion the Chemists ration out that helps the town’s people survive. A potion that Grey suspects she—like her grandfather and father—may not actually need.

By working at her grandfather’s repair shop, sorting the small gears and dusting the curio cabinet inside, Grey has tried to stay unnoticed—or as unnoticed as a tall, strong girl can in a town of diminutive, underdeveloped citizens. Then her best friend, Whit, is caught by the Chemists’ enforcers after trying to protect Grey one night, and after seeing the extent of his punishment, suddenly taking risks seems the only decision she can make.

But with the risk comes the reality that the Chemists know her family’s secret, and the Chemists soon decide to use her for their own purposes. Panicked, Grey retreats to the only safe place she knows—her grandfather’s shop. There, however, a larger secret confronts her when her touch unlocks the old curio cabinet in the corner and reveals a world where porcelain and clockwork people are real. There, she could find the key that may save Whit’s life and also end the Chemists’ dark rule forever.

     Steampunk has always held a fascination for me, but I've never really gotten a chance to read many novels within the genre. When I first saw Curio, not only was I intrigued by the cover, but I was also excited to learn that it was being published by a company I review for- giving me the perfect opportunity to read it.

     While imaginative, I found that Curio had some very distracting issues. Like its prequel novella, Mark of Blood and Alchemy, I felt that this novel really faltered in its lack in giving the reader a sense of place and in-world logic and possibilities. It was descriptive in the fact that I could easily picture in my mind the characters (and fashions, for that matter) and I got the overall "feel" of the book--but unfortunately, there was little to no worldbuilding in how this steampunk world actually worked both scientifically and politically. It is a ridiculously hard element to balance when writing a fantasy because you want to educate the reader without overloading them with info-dumps, but I can't say that this method of jumping right into the action without much background knowledge truly helped me. In fact, I think the scant backstory I gained by reading the prequel might have made it more confusing. By the end of the book, the reader did get more information, but I felt that it was too little too late.

     I felt this book had a lot in common with another Harper Collins Imprint YA, Storm Siren, because both of them contained imagination and promise, but both also suffered from the many of the same world-building problems. I feel like they're both on the right track, but fell short of the mark a little bit.

     Another issue I had with Curio was the constant focus on the body. This was not always in a romantic context (although it often was), but it happened so often it ceased to become uncomfortable and felt like over-kill; for a book from a Christian publisher, I was very disappointed with the extent of the teenage romance [insert picture of the disapproving frown of a Victorian grandmother on my face]. I really wouldn't call this Christian fiction at all, which is not something I have a problem with in and of itself, although I do think it might be something Christian readers may wish to be aware of since it is from Harper Collins Christian Publishing.

     There are many five-and-four-star reviews for this book on Goodreads, so this may strike the right notes for some people. It did have an intriguing premise and a distinctly "different" setting. However, I confess that I was disappointed.

Rating: 6

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


  1. I have the same problem with many recent (YA) fantasy novels, they jump right into the action, while I want more backstory and explanation. Very frustrating!

  2. That's never fun. Sorry this one disappointed, Hayden. :/


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