Caleb Brandt has made a new life for himself in the dying Western town of Gearheart. It’s not exactly exciting, however. He lives outside of town and is known as something of a recluse, but it’s a life all the same. And he’s content with it, until Philip Heatherton-Ames arrives in town. Philip brings with him jobs and the advancement of the modern age. Gearheart has been picked as a hub for the western expansion of his company’s airship line. It means revitalization for a town on the cusp of irrelevance. It also means that Brandt’s quiet life is over.
Philip brings a whirlwind of change and, while it’s meant to be positive, it poses an unintentional threat to Caleb’s quiet life. He has enemies looking for him, enemies who want him dead, and now he has to make a decision: does he run like he has so many times before? Or does he stand and fight for the life he’s made in Gearheart, a life that now involves Philip?<
I chose Gearheart to be a part of our New-to-Me Author Week for our 2019 Reading Challenge Month. I wasn’t familiar with Maia Strong’s work prior to reading Gearheart, but she definitely has a solid writing style so I’ll be looking for more of her work. Gearheart isn’t a perfect book, but it does a lot of things right. The steampunk-ish vibe isn’t particularly overwhelming and the author has done a great job of creating enough world building to give the story structure without seeming campy or over the top. It’s blended well into the background and doesn’t crush the plot, which happens so frequently with steampunk works.
Philip and Caleb are generally strong characters and their romance, while a bit fast paced, does seem realistic. Their conversations read as a bit wooden to me, and that was a problem throughout the book, but it didn’t overshadow the development of their relationship too much. The secondary characters are strong and there is actually an underlying plot that is well structured and engaging.
The main storyline to Gearheart is overly predictable. It didn’t have a lot of originality to it and read as pretty flat. It was the world-building and characters that saved the story from becoming too slow. Gearheart does have pacing problems and there were times I wanted less explanation and more action. I think maybe a quarter of the book could be trimmed away without overly affecting the story or character structures.
Gearheart has its ups and downs, but its strong points are solid. The world-building is strong and managed well. The characters are a little stiff, but they do read as developed and dimensional and I found it easy to engage with them as a reader. Gearheart does struggle with pacing and there were times the book became bogged down in its own exposition. But on the whole, this was a fairly enjoyable read and I think fans of steampunk are going to like this one.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a bundle of fabulous books donated by Carina Press! Commenters will also be entered to win one of our three amazing Grand Prize book bundles. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on New-to-Me Author Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize.