by Andrew P. Mayer

Pyr, $16.00, 334 pages

The Society of Steam Book 2: Hearts of Smoke and Steam is exactly the kind of adventure story I like best.  It’s got rollicking action, a plucky super-heroine, impossible gadgets, and some truly villainous evildoers. I was lucky enough to review Andrew Mayer’s first book The Falling Machine, and called it the best superhero steampunk novel I’d ever read. Guess what, Hearts of Smoke and Steam is better still.

Our heroine, Sarah Stanton, who fights crime as The Adventuress, is estranged from her father, a superhero called The Industrialist. Alienated from her high-society world, Sarah has moved downtown amongst the working poor, and immigrants of 1880s New York.  She possesses the heart of The Automaton, her robotic best friend, and the Alpha Element, the device that gives the robot life.  Our villain, Lord Eschaton, along with his group of evil henchmen, has brought low his enemies, and now sets his sights on Sarah, and her new friends, the handsome, heartbroken Emilio, and his scandalously dressed sister, Viola.

In Hearts of Smoke and Steam the action is non-stop, but unlike other superhero stories, all of the violence has consequences.  Danger lurks around every corner, and the bad guys are more than willing to do whatever they need to do, to get what they want.  Readers who love adventure, romance, and tales of derring-do will love Andrew Mayer’s newest novel.

Reviewed by Brad Wright