Review: Badlands by Seleste deLaney

Title: Badlands
Series: n/a
Author: Seleste deLaney
Published: Feb. 28, 2011 by Carina Press
Genres/Themes: steampunk adventure with romance, set in North America.

Quick Take:
An imaginative and adventurous read. I greatly enjoyed the world and broader elements of the story, but felt like some of the particulars could have been well-served by further development, or perhaps even omission.

Book Description (partial, from Goodreads):
     After a brutal Civil War, America is a land divided. As commander of her nation's border guards, Ever is a warrior sworn to protect her country and her queen. When an airship attacks and kills the monarch, Ever must infiltrate enemy territory to bring home the heir to the throne, and the dirigible Dark Hawk is her fastest way to the Union.
Captain Spencer Pierce just wants to pay off the debt he owes on the Dark Hawk and make a life for himself trading across the border. When the queen's assassination puts the shipping routes at risk, he finds himself Ever's reluctant ally.
As they fly into danger, Ever and Spencer must battle not only the enemy but also their growing attraction. She refuses to place her heart before duty, and he has always put the needs of his ship and crew above his own desires. Once the princess is rescued, perhaps they can find love in the Badlands—if death doesn't find them first...
Novellas can be tricky, can't they? The content of such written pieces sometimes fits perfectly with the requisite length, developing a complete story, world and cast, all whilst fostering reader attachments to one or all of those elements. At other times, it's fairly clear that the story just desperately needs more content, either in quality or quantity. I found this tale to be of neither extreme; it was certainly entertaining and intriguing but I finished the book longing for a bit more development of specific elements.

Before delving further into the latter half of that assertion, I'd like to first discuss what I really enjoyed. This book is a steampunk tale set in America, or rather a version of the land mass we would recognize as the U.S. of today. The human/political geography of this world is fascinating, playing on some of the natural features of the landscape and historical conventions to serve as the basis for the book's main adventure. Swaths of the Southwest are what's known as the Badlands, under a sort of monarchical rule and secured by highly skilled and deadly women. The ways in which the author played with her world such that the overall dynamics were at once recognizable and fantastical were quite a joy to discover.

Now, I love romances and I love adventures, so I can appreciate a book that balances the two. This tale would not fall completely into either camp, nor should it. The combination provided a change in the pacing every so often, breaking up the intense turn of events with something softer, more identifiable.

In my personal opinion (always to be taken with a grain of salt, as you well know by now), the book could have supported a longer form. As it was, there were some plot developments that were quite sudden or random, some details that would have been compelling if delved into further. Main character Ever's intense fear of robotics, for instance; it didn't seem to be very relevant to the plot, nor did it develop the character beyond the strictly factual. In shorter tales where "space is limited," one would imagine each and every inclusion is there for some specific reason. But I dunno; I'm not a doctor. ^_^

All told, I really did enjoy this book, and I truly hope the author dips back into the world for another story or five. ^_^ It could support the future tales of many fascinating characters and riveting adventures.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars


  1. Sounds ok, but not a big fan of novellas since they always make me want more .)

  2. Yeah, that's the toughie. Even when they're really good, you want more. If they're not pitch perfect, you want more. The novella gets a tough break. ^_^

  3. I have this one on my want list. But I think I read another review where they too said the book could have been longer. Which, isn't always a bad comment. :) But, sounds like a nice and quick read. Thank you!


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