Monday, August 13, 2012

Becky's View: The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent

The Unnaturalists
by Tiffany Trent
♦publisher: Simon & Schuster
♦release date: August 14, 2012
♦hardcover, 320 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: ARC from publisher for honest review
In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.

Review: I've been really enjoying all the cool steampunk books that have been popping up lately.  I've always loved the Victorian era with the clothes and manners and carriages---add in all the clockwork and dirigibles and my mind just boggles with wonder.  The Unnaturalists went even a few steps further into the fantastical.  Tiffany Trent has created a magical world that blends steampunk, magic and witchcraft, mystical creatures, and a gritty New London that has jumped dimensions into the midst of fairyland during the time of Nikola Tesla.  I'll admit that it took a few chapters to really take it all in and figure out the dynamics of the world---there is so much going on, some verbage that takes a little getting used to before it all comes clear (ie, "myth" as an energy source, objects being "nevered"), and several social stations to figure out (tinkers, pedants, and the higher cityfolk, along with the mysterious Architechs and the Unnaturals). But soon I was able to wrap my mind around all of this and The Unnaturalists grabbed me and didn't let me go until the very last page. 

I loved Vespa and her strong determination to be more than just someone's prospective wife.  She loved her work at the museum and from page one shows us a fiesty humor and personality.  The love story is slow building and won't find her giving her trust out like lollipops and falling at first look into someone smoldering eyes.  I loved that about her! The story is told alternately from Vespa's first person POV and then from a third person POV with Syrus, a tinker.  Sometimes I shy away from alternate POVs, but this was really seamlessly done and worked perfectly for the complexity of the story. You really needed to see what was happening from more perspectives than one.  By the middle of the story, when the plot really thickens, I found myself so invested in the characters that my audible gasps and exclaimations of "Oh, no! No!" earned me some fairly odd looks from my family members. :)

The one thing this story did lack is a bit of description when it came to some of the Unnaturals themselves.  Sure, most of us know what a sphinx or harpie looks like, but several creatures were included, and even played prominent parts in the story, but the imagery wasn't there.  Unless you know your mythological creatures like the back of your hand, you're going to be doing some internet referencing to get a visual.  In case you want to go into reading this prepared, I would suggest looking up these: wights, manticores (I vaguely remembered what this was from The Last Unicorn :D), sylphids, amphisbaena, naiads, and grues.  

This really is such an imaginative tale about the butting of heads between science and magic.  I definitely recommend falling into the world of New London!

Visit Tiffany Trent at:  Website  •  Facebook  •  Twitter

Purchase The Unnaturalists at:   Amazon   •  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound


  1. Steampunk AND Victorian London? I'm totally in for that. This sounds like such an awesome read . . . haven't heard too much about it though the cover seems familiar to me. Anyway great review!

  2. Another really great Fae Steampunk that just came out is INNOCENT DARKNESS by Suzanne Lazear. You should check it out!

  3. Vespa sounds like a great protagonist! Glad that the alternate POV's were nicely done, too.

    Fabulous review! :)

  4. I've been enjoying steampunk recently too, definitely want to give this one a try! It definitely sounds great (despite the lack of descriptions) - glad you enjoyed it! I love the setting of Victorian London (well, alternate London) too! Great review :).

  5. The cover is beautiful and Vespa sounds like a fabulous main character. I am definitely interested in this one. Great review!