Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Plot & Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
Busse’s latest novel, Blood Secrets, seems to be the final installment in this short saga. The novel had much potential, but fell short in many areas. On the whole, we as readers were left wanting the author to go deeper and weave more heart into a tale that feels unfinished.
Two major strengths of the plot and storyline are the fictional world and the setting. Busse crafted a believable steampunk universe in this novel, complete with steam carriages and gas-powered aeroships. In turn, the sharp class divisions and the unequal wealth distribution point back to the non-fictional Industrial Revolution(s) and forward to the present by highlighting some key sociopolitical issues that apply to our nation today. I would like to see more of Busse steampunk universes in the future.
Major weaknesses in the plot and storyline include, but are not limited to its tendency towards relevant vs. irrelevant content and inconsistent pacing. For example, a scene of Cass almost losing her food supply out an aeroship window reflects how her thoughts are jumbled, but does not reinforce a key plot point. On the other hand, one minute there is an explosion or a battle sequence, and the next minute the audience is supposed to get into a tender moment between two young people who apparently fell in love during the quick snippets of time they have to chat or sleep between their heroic acts and their pursuit of a cure for the Mist. In summary, we as readers would like to have seen more meaningful interactions between characters and a stronger plot style that emphasized the heart of the story vs. action sequences and dialogue about things that are happening. Why not have the events unfold in a more natural way and use that page time to reinforce the storyline’s foundation? Moreover, why is there no new information in this book as compared to the last one? If these gaps had been filled, we would have seen a much stronger plot and storyline in this novel. Thus, the overall plot and storyline score is an average one.
Character Development (1 point)
Likewise, while the characters in this book have potential, they too feel like shadows of what could have been. Firstly, the protagonist, Cass, is an adventurous soul who has tried to make the best of the hand she’s been dealt by the upper class. She is brave and has a tender heart, but beyond these traits we know little about her flaws. What does she learn through the story that grows her spiritually and mentally? Theo seems to be able to float along the top of life, so to speak. When he’s not saving the world behind the scenes, he somehow endears himself to the working class by spending little to no time with them. He also meets his true love and becomes a positive force for change. Is Theo a budding politician or a relatable person? Secondly, the minor characters fall into that unfortunate category of expendable members of the group. Who are they? Why do they matter to us as readers? What role do they play in the story that affects the direction of the plot? Finally, the antagonist(s) seem to develop throughout the tale and have some potential, then some of them either exit the story or fizzle out with little to no explanation. For these reasons, the character development in this novel is below average.
Creativity & Originality (.5 point)
To conclude, Blood Secrets earns half a point in originality for the ingenuity of it’s steampunk universe. Busse’s world-building skills definitely have a place in Christian series screenwriting. Had the characters, plot, and storyline been more original and meaningful, this section would have received a higher score. We look forward to seeing more steampunk series from this author, and hope that some of her past masterpieces (peep the Ravenwood saga) will make it onto the big screen someday very soon.
Wish List Rating: 3 out of 10 points