Author: Shannon Delany
Genre: YA, alternate universe/timeline, PNR, UF, steampunk, paranormal dystopia
Publication Date: June 25, 2013 (SMP – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided finished copy
Summary: In a vastly different and darker Philadelphia of 1844, steam power has been repressed, war threatens from deep, dark waters, and one young lady of high social standing is expecting a surprise at her seventeenth birthday party–but certainly not the one she gets!
Jordan Astraea, who has lived out all of her life in Philadelphia’s most exclusive neighborhood, is preparing to celebrate her birthday with friends, family and all the extravagance they might muster. The young man who is most often her dashing companion, Rowen Burchette, has told her a surprise awaits her and her best friend, Catrina Hollindale, wouldn’t miss this night for all the world!
But storm clouds are gathering and threatening to do far more than dampen her party plans because someone in the Astraea household has committed the greatest of social sins by Harboring a Weather Witch.
☆: 3/5 stars – a solid first book in a new series!
Review: Oh, “Weather Witch”. What to do with you? While absolutely awesome in basic concept, plot, and worldbuilding, I couldn’t entirely get on board with this book. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it – I did, and quite a bit. But I guess it’s another case of blurb seduction, but I just expected a whole lot more than I got. But it is a solid first book in a new series, and while I haven’t made up my mind as to whether I’m going to read book 2 yet or not, it’s still a great summer read, and a whole lot of fun. If you’re looking for something a little more original in your steampunk/alternate history PNR YA genre stories, definitely check out “Weather Witch”.
This book’s greatest strength: worldbuilding. I LOVED the concept of this alternate history 1844, where steam-powered things were just starting to come into wider use, and where Weather Witches (real people) were used to power everyday objects like lamps and so forth. While the backstory could have had a little better continuity (example: if a Weather Witch saved the Mayflower settlers, why are they so hated now?) and explanation of certain things, I’m hoping that will come with book two. But for book one, it should have been there. The societal ranking system, while very original, was a bit confusing, and I feel overall the entire book (and I read a finished copy, thoughtfully provided by the publisher) could have used one or two good, clean edits to make everything connect where it needed to.
The biggest weakness in this book: character building – particularly in the case of the protagonists. However, on the up side, the more minor players of the main cast help build the world up more than either the antagnonists or protagonists, which is odd, because I’ve never really read anything like that before. Usually it’s a united effort with the entire main cast, or just the protagonists, but I don’t think I’ve come across a novel where the minor characters help fill in a lot of the blanks that the protagonists/antagonists just don’t. And that actually counted for a lot – the idea that minor characters actually made the protagonists/antagonists stand out where they couldn’t have done so on their own is a fascinating dilemma. I found the antagonists well-built, but the protagonists rather weak and at times, completely confusing. Example – when Jordan is found guilty of being a Weather Witch, her fiancee (protagonist B) goes from using her as his meal ticket to suddenly falling madly in love with/worrying about her so much that he follows her to the slaver’s ship. It made no sense. There was no real explained reasoning as to why the about face with him, and since that’s such an integral part of the story with this first volume, it’s kind of an important omission. I’m not sure if Delany did this intentionally or not. I found Jordan as a heroine to be generally not very interesting, even as the mystery as to whether she’s been framed as a Weather Witch. I didn’t seem much growth or development in her own personal journey arc throughout the story (in fact, I felt like there wasn’t even really a personal journey arc even there, which is another important omission). For me, that’s a very important thing I look for in my protagonists, so I can only hope that Delany builds Jordan up more in book two.
The sensory language/imagery: while it was pretty good in terms of describing the actual scenery, I feel like generally over all there was more telling over showing – another reason why I feel this one needed another good edit before publication. What I got was satisfactory to keep the story going, and I found that the sensory language when it came to scenes with the Weather Witches was the most powerful. I wanted more of that, and for it not to just be confined to those scenes alone.
Final verdict? Despite my nitpicks on the technical areas, this book was a lot of fun to read, and a great summer read to blow of some stress. I think others who are seeking a little more originality in their steampunk/alternate history/PNR stories will really enjoy this one – I know I did. “Weather Witch” is out now from St. Martin’s Griffin/Macmillan in North America, so definitely check it out when you get the chance!