Wednesday, June 27, 2012

#Review: Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine

Title: Mechanique
Author: Genevieve Valentine
Publisher: Prime Books, 2011
Buy link

Sometimes stories exist that hit all of my buttons at the same time, and Mechanique is one of those rare finds for 2012 that really succeeded in keeping me glued to my ereader. Where do I start? Perhaps with my love for travellers. I watched both seasons of Carnivale a few years ago and that really captured my imagination. The concept of a group of misfits journeying together who somehow succeed in being a family. Then of course, Genevieve Valentine plays with a concept that is near and dear to my heart—that of a post-apocalyptic society. On top of that she adds magic that is never truly full explained and garnishes with a clockwork theme.

The result: beauty and a macabre yet gorgeous mutilation of art that left me breathless.

I’ll add a short warning here: I don’t think this novel is going to appeal to a broad base of readers. It jumps in point of view, sometimes first person, sometimes second and sometimes third, but somehow Valentine gets it all to hang together in a rich tapestry of imagery and text. That being said, once I got used to her style, I immediately plunged right into the narrative.

And there’s a lot going on here. Superficially Mechanique tells the story of the Circus Tresaulti that somehow exists outside of time as it travels from one ruined city to the next. The circus’s mistress, Boss, has the ability to defy death in her creations, her performers, who are modified and, in many cases “accept the bones” that set them apart from ordinary folk. A threat arises from the outside in the form of the government man, who sees the circus as an opportunity to create soldiers to aid him in his programme of world domination.

But within the circus there is tension too, particularly with regard to a pair of mechanical wings that two main characters both strive to. There’s more to this device that meets the eye, however, and I found the love/hate relationship between Bird and Stenos to be one of the pivotal story arcs within the novel.

Most of the story is told by Little George, Boss’s assistant, and his naïveté adds a freshness to the milieu. He is the glue that somehow holds all the others together, from the phlegmatic Ayar to the seemingly malicious Elena.

I can probably end this review with a whole bunch of superlatives. I’m not going to. All I can say is that if you’re looking for a mythical, multi-layered work of literary fantasy, then Mechanique is a welcome diversion from reality that will stay with you for a very long time, its characters enigmatic and unforgettable. Valentine has a fan for life.

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