I love watching period movies and reading period novels. With the recent surge in steampunk both as a fashion statement and in literature, it has been glorious being able to read more Victorian and Regency fantasy. True steampunk uses technology in a Victorian setting. Think of H.G. Well’s Time Machine or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. At the era these were written, this was science fiction and until recently it was referred to as classic science fiction. However, one of the fun things about the most recent steampunk novels is that you can have corsets, lacy bloomers and magic too! Since I am not just a writer, but also a fashion designer who sells fascinators and bloomers, this is right up my alley!
My published steampunk short stories include: Lady Chatterley’s Computer, an alternate reality about Lady Chatterley if her lover was a human (Published in Deepwood’s Ancient New Anthology, and The Quantum Mechanic, a story about a mechanic who needs to fix the space/time continuum and ends up in a steampunk universe for a period of time where she meets the love of her life in a different dimension (honorable mention in contest and published in On the Premises). Speed Dating for Books, a short story about a woman who is looking for a book to date, was heavily influenced by Pride and Prejudice though it takes place in modern times. In fact, I probably have five more short stories that feature a magically created, alternate reality or robotic Mr. Darcy on the desks of publishers awaiting the day they will be sold. I might classify these as steampunk but in reality they are Regency-punk.
Below is a review of some of my favorite steampunk and Regency-punk novels. As I read more (and more are recommended to me) I hope to make additions to my list. For example, the book Night Circus sounds like the Hunger Games with Victorian magicians and it sounds like something I would enjoy, but I haven’t read it yet.
Steampunk and Victorian/Gothic/Regency-punk Fantasy Reading List:
French Victorian werewolves, forbidden romance, well-crafted suspense and Oh-my-God-plot twists. In the first book, the main character, Tessa plans on killing the monster reputed to have killed her father but then falls in love with him, and then has to compete with a werewolf queen for his affections. I fell in love with the heroes and the villains. I just found out there are more books, The Renegade and The Alchemist in the same series that I must read!
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The beginning was a little slow and I almost put it down, but once the magic was finally introduced I was hooked. The book is set in a world where magic once existed and it is about the magicians who bring it back to England. I loved hating the fairy referred to as the Man with Thistledown Hair and found sympathy in many of the supporting characters affected by their relationship with the fairies.
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
This might be considered more “Regency” or “Georgian” fantasy. It has been hailed by critics as what Jane Austen would have written if she’d included magic in her books. I love the authenticity of the era, the familiarity of the Austen-like romantic elements and the Mr. Darcy-like character. On a side note, the author once bought one of my hair fascinators when she came to Wordos, my fantasy/science fiction critique group. I hope to read more of her Glamourist Histories series.
Silent Moon written by Sarina Dorie
Okay, so that’s mine, but I have to include it because it is considered of the same genre and my publisher agrees it is pretty fantastic: Gothic romance. Mystery. Ghosts. Imagine a blend of a whimsical fantasy world with Jane Eyre . . . only working in a house of werewolves.
Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I initially had a difficult time getting into the book because of the openning second person prologue/intro. After that it improved. This is a neo-Victorian story about a magical circus and the magicians who run it. I loooooved it. It made me want to join the circus. Okay, so I actually have run away and joined the circus as a performer at Cirque du Eugene.
His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
I wasn’t sure about this book because the title set me up for a military fantasy full of war, however, I was pretty pleased how much character development there was and how I loved the dragon. A British navy officer is forced to become an aviator for a dragon to help defend his country.
The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
I loved this tale of magic, love and revenge during the French Revolution. It is considered young adult but I thought it was very well done and the themes are very mature. I look forward to reading the sequel.
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
This book deals with the idea of parallel worlds and reincarnations. The main character, in a modern setting, is transported back in time into a past life while her future self lives on and struggles with the same problems. I loved this because of the Jane Austen references. There were a couple historical inaccuracies I caught but I was willing to overlook.
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Everyone I know who reads fantasy always raves about Neil Gaiman. Aside from Good Omens, co-written with Terry Pratchet, I have always found his writing dark, gloomy and just not my thing. Then I watched the movie Stardust and discovered there was a book.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
This was steampunk before we were calling it steampunk. I like Lyra and felt sympathy for all the things that happened to her thoughout the series. Although it is considered a children’s book because the protagonist is a child, the adult concepts and implied sexual relationships are really aimed at a much more mature audience.
11 (It’s not that I can’t count, but rather, I found another book to add to the list since I first published this article and don’t want to change the title of the post.)
Soulless: the Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger
I like the overall concept of this book: a soulless, Victorian woman has courting problems in society where werewolves and vampires exist, and it was recommended to me so many times I don’t feel like I can omit it from this list. On the other hand, I actually read Heartless, the sequel, not the original by mistake. It was funny and I usually like funny fantasy, but I think this tries too hard at times to be funny, so instead it comes across as silly, and I have a hard time suspending my disbelief that real people would actually act this way. If you don’t think about it too deeply, it is a fun brain-candy kind of read. I may go back and read the first one someday but there are other books on my list that take precedence.
So what have you read that is Victorian/Gothic fantasy that you really enjoyed? Comment on Facebook to let me know.