Good Reading (4.5 stars)

Long And Short Reviews

Violet went from being an orphan to a steam child and her life became full and meaningful.

This is the time of steam trains and the hobos who are part of the steam train world. Violet is now a steam child and takes on the name of Red. She and her spirit friends help the trains to run at better speeds and keep the living rails alive.

This is an unusual book, totally outside of the usual fantasy range but more of a steampunk genre. I kept thinking I couldnít carry on reading it, but something made me continue until suddenly Iíd reached the final page. There are a lot of scenes which took my interest, and others where the story seemed to stall, but all of these were woven together to make a good book, it just takes a little effort to get into the story.

The steam world of trains is fascinating with the steam children and their moms, the hobos, the men who work on the trains and the songs of the rails. All of these bind together and provide Red with a background which at times is unbelievable but always makes her character stronger. Iím glad I persevered and read the whole book, it was worth it.

Improving upon near perfection!(5 stars)


Australian actor Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee) once said that a sequel needs to be twice as good as the original, or people will say it's not as good. This prequel is, by my calculations, about five times better than Tracks.

There ARE some flaws. To a former resident of the Philadelphia area, Baldwin being in Lima, Ohio is downright scandalous -- only Schenectady would be worse. And a Big Boy on the CPR? No. Just... No. And speaking as someone who married a very Irish girl, Red should have been explicitly Irish!

But all of these flaws can be overlooked because they feel deliberate. It's not that the author doesn't know it's wrong. Getting this stuff wrong is a deliberate choice to move the story forward. It may grate on my nerves slightly, but the offense is forgivable. Because... Well, it's a fantasy train story!

The reasons I say this book is better than the previous Hobohemia novel are several. Mainly, the villain is crafted MUCH better in this story. The previous bad guy was so flat as to be something out of a story for preschoolers. This heavy is so complex, we actually start to wonder if the main character is on the right side after all. She wonders this herself! The plot is complex, but not so much that it becomes hard to follow. Putting the larger conflict from the previous book in the background and focusing on the personal development of the main character helps the story immensely. And the parallels with the real-world problem of a rising oligarchy opposed by the socialist movement give the book even more interest.

This series (and I very much hope that it becomes a much, much longer series!) are the books I have waited for most of my life. I've made a few pitiful attempts to write such a novel myself... But I can't develop a plot to save my life. So, I can't wait to find out what the next story will be... Maybe a search for the Blue Goose?