Infernal Machines by John Hornor Jacobs

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Infernal Machines by John Hornor Jacobs

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The third and final book of The Incorruptibles series is the most action-packed, surprise-laden book of the bunch. If you only read one wild-west/ancient Rome/steampunk orientated fantasy series this year, this should be it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: July 2017
Publisher: Gollancz
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0575124134

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Having discovered the evil intent of the Autumn Lords, Livia Cornelius is trying to beat the inferno that the ensuing war is creating in order to get back to her husband Fisk. That's not as easy as it sounds though as she and her entourage including (her sister Carnelia and Livia's baby) will be caught up in the conflict more than they'd like to be. Meanwhile Fisk along with fellow mercenary Shoe, doesn't have it any easier… and the world is burning.

This is a trilogy with which I've gradually fallen in love. By the time we get to this, Book 3 of the The Incorruptibles trilogy, I didn't want it to end.

John Hornor Jacobs has created an amalgam world of Ancient Rome spliced with the North American wild west seasoned with overtones of steampunk. In addition to that, now, this time out, we're treated to added dragon. Our esteemed cast give this addition a gradual build up that leads to a crescendo when it does arrive. The wait is definitely worth it in a read-through-your-fingers kind of way.

John's again alternates first person point of view chapters, highlighting his skill at differentiating the voices. POV number 1, Livia, the high born Ruman (she's from Rume… not a typo) sounds educated and cultured while she's exposed to dangers of which she neither dreamt nor was prepared. This is part of her charm. Livia may be in the feisty female hero mould yet there's an authenticity and vulnerability at the moment John permits her to doubt her ability. In a world where anyone can be killed at any time, Livia feels less than invincible, increasing our nail nibbling as a result.

The other voice, Shoe, is world weary and well weathered. He and Fisk are both cynics and not naturally found in a refined environment but that's fine – there's nothing refined about their journey.

The supporting population also shine. The sardonic, sarcastic Tenebrae will remain one of my firm favourites. Then there's Ysmay who joins the ladies' side by accident by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our faith in him may waiver, but this is a guy who goes on to earn his place in a stellar cast and in our imaginations' memory.

Throughout the story John proves that he can do subtlety between the satisfying full-on action of the battles and fights. Just beneath the adventure's surface is a look at the chance nature of survival and families shattered by war. Along the way we also find ourselves examining the nature of revenge: sometimes simmering beneath expediency and sometimes replacing it.

This is a series that has warmed up along the way, haunting and entertaining us with this red hot conclusion. I hope we haven't seen the last of the people of Rume but, even if we have, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of John Hornor Jacobs. By the evidence before us, he's hit his stride.

(Thank you, Gollancz, for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you haven't read it yet, please start at the beginning of the trilogy with the set-up book The Incorruptibles. If you have read it and fancy more steampunk, here are two firm favourites: Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway and, the Japanese martial arts steampunk trilogy kick-start, Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff.

Buy Infernal Machines by John Hornor Jacobs at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Infernal Machines by John Hornor Jacobs at

Buy Infernal Machines by John Hornor Jacobs at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Infernal Machines by John Hornor Jacobs at


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