Genre: Adult Steampunk Romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Release date: January 7 2013
Source: e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley
In a word: inventive, romantic, with an unusual love triangle and time-travel-steampunkish fun.
Although this is the second book in a series, and I went into it without having read the first book, I enjoyed myself immensely and did not feel as though I missed anything at all. So you do not need to read Asher’s Invention first, but keep in mind that it’s out there and available. Set in Victorian England and full of steampunk gadgets that will make any fan of the genre giddy, Asher’s Dilemma is a very short novel about time travel and all the scientific paradoxes that go along with it. This book has one of the most unusual love triangles that I’ve ever encountered, and even if you aren’t a fan of them, this one will interest you, if only to give you something to think about.
One day, inventor Asher Quigley collapses in his workshop, and when he wakes up, he begins to catch glimpses of a woman out of the corner of his eye and in mirrors, but when he turns around, she’s gone. He doesn’t understand what’s happening, but he suspects it might have something to do with his Chronometrical Conveyance, the time machine he’s been building and that is almost finished and ready to be tested. One day he accidentally sets the machine in motion and is transported eight months back in time. When he arrives he realizes that the mysterious woman he’s been seeing is Minerva Lambkin, his love interest from the past who has somehow been wiped out of existence in the future he has just come from. But here in this reality, she is alive and well. Asher sets out to find Minerva, but before he can he spies a man stalking angrily away from her house: himself as he was eight months ago. And so begins Asher’s dilemma; he must try to co-exist with a different version of himself, convince Minerva that he still loves her, and try to find a way to save her from disappearing forever.
There are some interesting twists and turns in the story and I don’t want to give them away. What I do want to talk about is the wonderfully subtle steampunk world that Kwan has created. Not only do we have the Chronometrical Conveyance, which I envision to be similar to the time machine in the movie based on the H. G. Wells story, but Kwan fills the book with viper ray guns, a contraption called a stalking compass that is handy for finding people, and a very modern woman who designs and builds artificial limbs. I thought the author did a great job of balancing all the elements of her story, and she keeps the steampunk parts more in the background, and lets the characters and the romance take center stage.
Minerva is a wonderfully plucky female character, a woman who wants her independence, even in the structured Victorian times. When she finally comes to grips that there are indeed two Ashers to deal with, and she loves them both in different ways, Minerva will need all her pluck to figure out what to do about it.
Besides the two Ashers and Minerva, two other characters play a part in the possible demise of Minerva: a mysterious woman named Mrs. Nemo (who is revealed to be someone else entirely) and a German mathematician named Klaus Schick, a man who may hold the key to the time machine itself. The characters must make difficult choices in order to set things right, and not everyone will get a happy ending. Looming in the background of the story is the question of whether or not the Asher from the future will ever get back home. It’s a dilemma, indeed, and one that you will have a blast puzzling over. For a quick and fun read, Asher’s Dilemma is highly recommended.
Don’t miss the first book in the series, Asher’s Invention. Many thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.