Everyone has a favorite genre. Over the years, particularly since I started tracking books online and blogging, I’ve noticed that I gravitate toward fantasy more often than not. Lately I’ve been particularly fond of steampunk books—a genre that has happily been growing in popularity (and prevalence) among YA books lately.
The quickest way to explain steampunk is to imagine what would have happened if all of the technological advances of recent years had not happened. What if, instead, all of our biggest technological boons could be credited to the Victorian era? Instead of a world of electronics and microchips and plastic, we might very well have had the steam-powered, clockwork machines of brass or steel that are a signature of steampunk novels.
In addition to having some very neat machines, steampunk books tend to center around the Victorian era, or at least a re-imagined future that hearkens back to the nineteenth century, which means they also have some very cool clothes. There is something about the combination of witty dialog, snappy clothes, and outlandish technology that gets me every time.
If you want to dive into the magical world of gears and wonder that is steampunk, these books are great introductions:
Soulless by Gail Carriger: A social outcast for far more reasons than her spinsterhood, Alexia Tarabotti ends up in even worse social standing when vampires start disappearing and she is presumed responsible. The only thing to do is find out what’s actually happening in this blend of mystery, steampunk and the supernatural.
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: Though not strictly steampunk, this one still has all of the action and automatons a fan could want. Combined with romance and drama, this prequel to Clare’s Immortal Instruments series is a winner.
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel: There is only one thing you need to know about this book: it is a zombie steampunk romance. It has all of the excitement, inventions and quirks you would expect such a book to have. It is also a very clever riff on some classic conventions of both zombie movies and steampunk novels.
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld: In this alternate history the world is on the brink of the World War One as Darwinist nations equip their genetically engineered beasts and Clankers prepare their steam-powered walking machines for battle. At the center of the tensions are Alek, son of the assassinated Archduke of Clanker Austria-Hungary, and Deryn Sharp—a talented pilot stationed on a Darwinist airship and masquerading as a boy. By far one of the wittiest, most compelling books I’ve read.