I was emailed a free copy of A Vanishing Glow (The Mystech Arcanum, Vol. I & II) from the author, Alexis Radcliff, in exchange for an honest review. This being my first such request, I am honored to say that I was pleasantly surprised by a book I didn’t seek out on my own.
This is marketed as a cross between flintlock and steampunk fantasy which are genres I am not familiar with. I figured it was a worthy read based on the similarities to some other stories in the Young Adult (YA) world that I’d recently been referred to regarding dystopian segregated societies such as Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen and Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series.
I was initially impressed by the great care that Radcliff took in describing the setting in this fantasy world and the characters emotional backstories. The depth of guilt that one main character feels is certainly identifiable and the self-doubt another character feels is also as palpable. Later, I was intrigued by her hints at relationships between same sex friends as acceptable teenage “bedfellows”, which I have not ever come across before, especially since my reading tastes are typically not in a sci-fi or mature adult realm. I find it interesting that with the change in real-world societal prejudices comes a sort of clarity of character development in fiction. People on pages are becoming just as diverse as people on our planet. Disapprove of this type of lifestyle or not, the complexity of characters in this story is further layered by delving into a previously taboo subject matter. One can appreciate the courage of the author to tastefully explore that topic even if you might not agree.
Overall, I don’t feel a steampunk vibe from what I’ve now researched about the genre, but there are elements of it as well as the flintlock. The steam powered aspect is there in certain references, but using the umbrella term “steampunk” for the myriad intricate explanations of Mystech power seems lackluster. I loved how the author gives this new tech a literal presence even down to the description of it having a delicious smell.
I think there are many questions left unanswered as well as many ideas left to the readers interpretation, but with the understanding that this is one book in a pending series…these suspenseful issues are understandable. For a debut novel, I believe Ms. Radcliff achieved a wonderful story which leaves me eager to fill in the blanks with the sequels.