Steampunk loosing steam?

Ok, so I don’t have a huge bank of experience reading steampunk. But, from the series I have tackled so far on this little site, you can see I have read some (and I have read more than I have chronicled here). Nathan-steampunkThe more I read of this, and the more YA authors cross into steampunk, and PNR authors cross into YA, and YA authors cross into PNR and PNR authors cross into “urban fiction” (ack! with that last cross over being the most heinous cross over, in my opinion, since it has ruined a lot of great steamy PNR series and made them merely luke-warm water vamps stories)… get the idea… the more I struggle with how very predictable and formulaic some of these stories have become. The formula is one thing in the PNR – since we all know that the idea is to take two people and put them together and have them fall in love despite some obstacle. But in the YA, my hopes are for so much more diversity, excitement and creativity. And those hopes seem to be getting dashed so much more often lately. Maybe it’s the pressure to rush to the next installment; maybe it’s the pressure to write multiple series at the same time; maybe it’s the pressure to extend stories well past their natural conclusion (I can’t tell you how many series I have started that should have ended with installment 4 or 5 and just keeps getting stretched, well beyond its elastic limit). But whatever the cause, it is getting harder to keep reading beyond the point where the series jumps the shark – and it is unfortunately typically very obvious where this point is (enough so that I am wondering where are the editor’s and what are they reading that makes these stories still marketable?)

To prove a point, here are some facts about the two most recent reads: Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross (which I really enjoyed) and Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare (which I am thankful is the last installment in that series). See what you think:

  • Big bad evil mastermind: Magister vs Master
  • Main plot device: Kidnapping of a key character drives the plot (Tess vs Emily), then one of the guys goes after her (Will vs Sam) then the whole group tries to rescue them
  • Paranormal element (besides the steampunkness): A ghost is hanging around, and the ghost was someone who previously betrayed one or more of the group (Jessamine vs Mei)
  • Ending: the evil doer is killed
  • Primary steampunk characteristic: lots of automatons and other machines that carry out an evil plan under the direction of a master. The clockwork machines become more then machines, they start to be sentient (evolution vs demonic influence); Automatons which are the bad guys, but they are manipulated/controlled by another who is human (Magister vs Girabaldi)
  • Romance element: Love triangle that isn’t really a triangle (Tess/Jem/Will vs Finley/Griffin/Jack)

See any similarities? Unfortunately, there are way too many. And I am sure that I could draw similar comparisons with other things from the series, with other series in the genre, and even with the characters themselves. And, while one story was much better written than the other (see the pages for GWIT and CP reviews for details), there were moments when I was reading the second book and I had to stop to remind myself which story I was reading. That is NEVER a good sign. The next book on the top of the to-read pile isn’t steampunk, it’s not even YA, so here’s hoping that a little time between these two books and the next venture into steampunk temper the disappointment. Of course, anyone with suggestions for a series that will assuage this disappointment, you are welcome to leave the suggestion in the comments!


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