Title: The Explosionist
Author: Jenny Davidson
Release Date: July 1st 2008
Format: Hardcover (Library)
The Explosionist (formerly known as Dynamite No. 1) is the story of a 15-year-old girl growing up in an alternate version of 1930s Edinburgh. There, the legacy of Napoleon's victory a century earlier at Waterloo is a standoff between a totalitarian Federation of European States and a group of independent northern countries called the New Hanseatic League. This world is preoccupied with technology (everything from electric cookers to high explosives) but also with spiritualism, a movement our world largely abandoned in the early 20th Century; Sigmund Freud is a radio talk-show crank, cars run on hydrogen and the most prominent scientists experiment with new ways of contacting the dead.
The Explosionist was not quite what I expected when I checked it out of my library. However, I was rewarded with a different and, most certainly, interesting story.
The description for the book definitely caught my attention, but for some reason, I was expecting something totally different. For one thing, the book is littered with psychics and seances and etc. I'm not a fan of seances and psychics are neutral ground for me - I have no opinion on them. The story also failed to set a time period. I obviously could tell it wasn't modern, so I was thinking 1800s, but then they referred to commodities and inventions that didn't coincide with the time period. It took quite awhile until they mentioned someone's birth year and age when I was then able to calculate the year being 1936. That was a little careless. (Please note that the description I am referring to is the one that appears on the jacket of the actual book. Goodreads supplies a different description that dissolves all doubt -- which is the description above.)
Second, the story is full of European and Hanseatic history. Super in depth history. It was a little too much for a novel like this, and I even had to read the author's biography to see if it was a YA book. (Turns out, she normally writes non-fiction and such. This is the first YA book she's written, and it shows.) It made the story very dry and un-enjoyable, because if you don't pay attention to the history and politics, then you won't understand what's happening.
However, I did like Sophie (the main character) and Mikael (her best friend) very much. They were both interesting and diverse, but not completely formed. I would have liked more flesh to Mikael's character since he was so special to Sophie.
The plot, underneath the crazy history and politics, was pretty good. I loved the whole deal with IRYLNS (pronounced 'irons'). It gave the story a very Sci-Fi feel to it. I think that a lot of readers will be fascinated with IRYLNS and I believe it was one of the more interesting aspects of the storing.
All in all, I enjoyed the book but its not a favourite. I would only suggest this to those who want a read a story that's a bit off the beaten path. I may pick up the second book..who knows?
I gave it THREE out of FIVE sporks
[[My spork images don't seem to be working with Blogger lately, but they'll be back up and running soon. Sorry for the blurp. D:]]