Song of the Slums by Richard Harland

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Song of the Slums by Richard Harland

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Tanja Jennings
Reviewed by Tanja Jennings
Summary: Award-winning steampunk author Richard Harland has played with an intriguing concept and produced an atmospheric and entertaining fantasy read. The book is a slow burner and only picks up its rhythm in the second and third sections when the key characters hit Slumtown and the action builds up to an explosive crescendo.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781743310052

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Song of the Slums fuses politics, music, social injustice and gaslight fantasy. Set in 1846 during the age of steam it tells the story of Astor Vance and her mysterious servant/companion Verrol who are caught up in the machinations of the plutocratic Swale family and must fight for survival in a world of intrigue.

Award-winning Steampunk author of World Shaker and Liberator fame Richard Harland communicates his love of music through the strident rocky chords of instruments fashioned from scrap metal by Brummingham natives living in an industrial age of smog. His descriptive powers take the reader on a wild journey through smoky, muggy streets choked with refuse and pulsing with anarchic rock beats.

One jarring note is the curious choice of names for some of the eclectic cast of characters. Verrol sounds like something you might take for medicinal purposes while Blanquette, Prester and Widdy are also incongruous.

The overall effect is an ambitious novel and a tribute to the stirring power of rock music with some exciting and dramatic scenes. However, some characters, in particular the Swale children, could be more rounded.

For a taste of more pacy and accomplished Steampunk why not try Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, an intriguing reworking of WW1 where the combatants are Clankers and Darwinists. The question is do you oil your war machines or do you feed them? For more Victoriana fantasy and another intriguing concept (a Dickensian style futuristic theme park) read Pastworld by Ian Beck.

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Buy Song of the Slums by Richard Harland at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Song of the Slums by Richard Harland at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Song of the Slums by Richard Harland at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Song of the Slums by Richard Harland at


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