Dawn of Steam: First Light by Jeffrey Cook with Sarah Symonds
Dawn of Steam: First Light, is about the adventures of a dirigible crew, on a quest to authenticate an older adventurer’s outlandish journals. The novel, which is told in a letter format, or epistolary form, for you word lovers, and includes excerpts from the narrator, Gregory Conan Watts’ daily journal and letter to his employer and sweetheart, along with other letters from the crew, although by the time Watts’ wife puts these together for us, and she comments on events throughout the book, Watts is dead and she is putting this collection together in his memory.
This journey starts by two English gentleman making a bet, that a popular adventurer’s journal (Dr. Bowe) that’s been widely published, cannot be true. They hire two crews, including our narrator, who is the first man hired, to document and prove the journals true. Roughly the first third of the novel is just about gathering the crew and getting to know them, and while I appreciate the insights learned from the crew, the novel is a bit slow starting out, but more than makes up for it later! The characters we meet are a diverse bunch: Gregory Conan Watts, our narrator and the crew’s cartographer and photographer, Sir James Coltrane, a war hero and owner of the dirigible as well as an iron suit (is he the original Iron Man?), his sister, Jillian Coltrane, their cousin, Harriet Wright, a Scottish war hero, Eddy McBride, two carnies, and Sam Bowe, child of the very explorer whose steps they are retracing. For the book being written as journal entries, we get a real sense of each of the characters; they come alive, and although they’re colored by Gregory Conan Watts’ opinions, they each have their own unique voice and personality, which is well done!
Once the crew is assembled, the mission can begin, although they run into trouble multiple times, mostly from the other crew, who they never expected to cause them physical harm, although a lot of trouble comes from nature as well. The first two tasks they set out to conquer, which are covered in this novel and span a year’s time, is finding a path from America’s civilized east, all the way out west, as well as trying to find the northern passage, a water route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Now, while there is plenty of action and adventure, because of the style this novel is told in, it takes some investment. This isn’t a read in one sitting type of book, although I suppose you could. I personally enjoyed the style in which the story is told, even though you don’t always get sucked into the story as you would if it were told in any other style. Still, the writing was good, the story was good, with some unexpected gifts; it was just a bit slow in places. I will be reading the next book in this series to see how my characters are doing.
My Rating: 4.6
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