Title: Curio by Evangeline Denmark
Reviewed by Lori Twichell
Genre: Steampunk, fiction, fantasy
Date: January 5, 2016
Grey Haward is nothing spectacular. She lives every day just like everyone else around her. She avoids the Chemists. She takes her potion. She does what she’s told. It’s all pretty boring. But there are just enough odd little flags here and there to let her know that her life is different. Her grandfather’s Curio shop has a cabinet that she never opens or cleans. It doesn’t seem out of sorts but the fact that it’s very specifically avoided and pointedly ignored gives her a hint there may be something different.
One night, on the way home, she runs into some trouble. Her neighbor, Whit, determined to help her, ends up getting himself into trouble right along with her. He ends up subject to a punishment that Grey feels actually should be hers. And it awakens something within her.
When the punishment is harsher than normal and the Chemists don’t seem to want to let it go, Grey is aware that something much deeper and much darker is hovering just under the surface. A showdown in her home results in her grandfather being turned into a statue, her father being arrested, and her on the run from Chemists that appear to have no good in mind for her.
Not sure where to go, Grey arrives at her grandfather’s shop and is ‘helped’ by his assistant, though his help is more horrifying than she’d imagined. In the blink of an eye, she’s transported into a world that is, unbelievably, inside the unique curio cabinet.
But the people there aren’t like anything she’s ever seen before. And the life they live is so far beyond what she could ever imagine. There are Tocs, clockwork people who run on all mechanics. And Porcies are made of fine porcelain that is easily breakable, but highly fragile. And who is this Mad Tock that everyone is raving about?
Evangeline Denmark has created a very unique, creative, and multilayered fantasy world that is incredible, amazing, and a delight to visit. I’ve seen some compare it to Oz and I believe they aren’t far off with that comparison. As I was reading, it played out in my mind much like a film (And as someone who translates book to film professionally, I can say reading doesn’t always do that. In fact, it’s rare for me to visualize a film so easily as I’m reading!)
The world was amazing, stunning, and made me wonder what it must look like in Denmark’s vast imagination. I loved delving into this rich world.
I did feel that some of the world building happened a bit out of sync. For a lot of the book, I was left questioning the ‘rules’ of the universe as much as I was enjoying the journey. A few of the explanations that were saved for the very end would have probably been better served at the beginning to give the reader a comfort level as they experience the journey.
That said, if you enjoy fantasy or steampunk, this is a good one to try. If you haven’t ever picked up a steampunk adventure, this one might take a little getting used to, but it does show you how innovative and creative the fantasy can be.