Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets - secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. This doesn't sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart - literally.
©2008 Ekaterina Sedia (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"Sedia's evocative third novel, a steampunk fable about the price of industrial development, follows Mattie, an emancipated automaton, as her home city is rent by conflict between alchemists and the mechanics whose clanking, steaming inventions are changing society....Sedia's exquisitely bleak vision deliberately skewers familiar ideas from know-it-all computers to talking statues desperate for souls, leaving readers to reach their own conclusions about the proper balance of tradition and progress and what it means to be alive." (Publishers Weekly)
The title drew me to this book more than anything else. There is something magical and promising about it.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Eileen Stevens. I enjoyed the voices she gave to Mattie (the automaton), Nairobi (spelling could be off here), and the stone gargoyles, but her male voices left something to be desired. When she was narrating, her voice was a bit flat and monotonous. I almost gave up part way through, but managed to perservere to the end.
I liked the concept of the protagonist - a machine that can reason, feel physical pain and pleasure, as well as identify to a specific gender and emote enough to fall in love. The only thing lacking is a soul. The themes throughout the book were that of political power, subservience, and oppression of caste.
I was intrigued by the characters Mattie, Nairobi, and the Soul Smoker.
A few things were confusing to me. It seemed incongruous to have a sophisticated automaton in a technically backwards society. At the end of the civil unrest, I was still uncertain as to what it was all about. Character development seemed to be lacking in some of the characters that would have helped in making the story cohesive. Perhaps these things were lost in interpretation by the narrator.
Great listen. Eileen Stevens is one of the best narrators I've ever heard. Her portrayal of the characters was fresh and charismatic. Ekaterina Sedia has created a world so different and wonderful, she could write a series of novels set in its passages. Alas, it is refreshing to know she isn't one of 'those' writers. If you like other worldly and urban fantasy come no further, this book is for you. I couldn't wait to hear more.
This book seemed to have lots of things going for it. Interesting premise, variety of different and intriguing characters, individual problems and civil unrest, a mix of fantasy and steam punk. But for some reason I still didn't really like it. I still have trouble pinpointing exactly what I didn't like.
Maybe it was that the political background wasn't really explained that fully, and so it's hard to get emotionally invested in the conflict which drives the main plot. Lots of books I find get too wrapped up in explaining the intricate political and social system that they've created, so much so that it swamps the plot. But this one could definitely have had more context.
Or, maybe it's that while almost all the characters have interesting back-stories they just don't seem to interact naturally. The conversations and interactions seem forced and stilted. Characters do things for reasons I don't understand. So, between not caring about the civil war and not understanding why the characters do what they do, it's sort of hard to care about what happens at all.
The story has uneven parts and plots but Mattie is a fragile life in the reader's mind and perhaps heart by the end of the story. E. Sedia demonstrates within development of certain characters difficult predicaments in understanding words. There is something unexpected to living truth and Sedia has led the reader into this reminder. Mattie is a unique creature in reading and the audio version is easier to find her than actual reading. Two points about discovery through listening depend on narrator and the difficulty of reading the end first. The narrator was essential to Mattie but perhaps more experience with the difficulties of narrating multiple characters would have helped the whole book. Mattie is the book for me and the narrator made her a lovely, complex mystery. This is book is far more interesting than its faults.
The steampunk fantasy world the author creates is truly interesting which is why i was disappointed with the lack of depth in which it was explored.
Alot of the mechanics of the world aren't fully justified and even when there were thin attempts to explain the way things are lot of the time i felt like the author was just saying 'because i said so, thats why'. it only bothered me because key points such as the political structure seemed totally arbitrary. and one of the characters even points out that this particular city is unusual, so it seems like it doesn't even conform to the rules of it's own world.
the story, too, didn't really seem to gel for me. it felt like disparate elements. and the ending felt very rushed and unsatisfying. the climax felt messy and arbitrary because i couldn't feel like the politics had any foundation in reason, so everyone's political motives seemed one dimensional and I just don't know why I should care about any if it, there wasn't enough investment.
the real reason I'm being so critical is because there were some really interesting concepts. I'm glad to have experienced this book, but more for the fact that now I have a colourful steampunkish magic world i can explore in my own imagination, rather than for the story itself.
There are times when I desperately wish to accomplish two things at once…as in enjoy a well written & narrated story... whilst I oil paint.
Definitely in my top 3 favorite Audible books so far. Very glad to have discovered Ekaterina Sedia and look forward to the many other works she has created.
Fantasy fiction when done well causes the reader to pause in consideration of matters that are important in reality. Ms. Sedia invites the listener/reader to adjust ones vision regarding freedom, slavery, dependence, rationality, emotion, and choices. This is not fluffy writing, but an example of the Steampunk Genre that I recommend to any lover of good fiction. This is a story that requires the dark gothic elements of science and nature in imbalance in a world of clockwork and steam power, but there is meat in the message. I love this style of writing.
While I have not had the privilege of hearing Eileen Stevens before now, I will look forward to her readings in the future. A great reader is a master of subtle voice characterization and making it seem effortless; Ms. Stevens holds one's attention with graceful delivery.
"In a world where a single heart depends on a priceless key for survival..." (apologies folks)
Ekaterina Sedia is my new binge Author!
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