Before reviewing Owl Dance, I just wish to acknowledge that its author, David Lee Summers, is someone that I like and regularly interact with via social media. In no way does this fact impact the impartiality of my review. I also wish to state that I purchased the ebook myself and am therefore under no obligation towards the author.
To be honest, Steampunk is not something that I tend to read. However, I do enjoy Westerns. And it was with this in mind that I chose to read Owl Dance. It was a good decision and makes me believe that I will read more Steampunk in future..
Also, fear not. During the course of this review, I will avoid spoilers.
Set mostly in the Wild West, there are two threads to this story.
The first regards Sheriff Ramon Morales of Socorro, an American of Mexican background who becomes entangled in the life of a beguiling Persian woman named Fatemeh Karimi. Thereafter the pair experience a number of adventures involving prejudice, historical figures, and amazing machines.
The second thread revolves around an entity from space whose curiosity and interference sparks a Russian invasion of the United States.
Participating in the story are many amazing contraptions encountered along the way, most noticeably giant owl-like ornithopters. In respect to the book addressing issues of prejudice and bigotry, I felt that the social commentary worked because it made observations without overwhelming the story.
Mr Summers has a clear style and avoids using unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Sentence length is reasonable and varied, so as not to bore the reader. The vocabulary is suited to an educated reader, but not to the point of exclusion. Hence I found the book reader-friendly and would recommend it to anyone be they adult or teenager.
Owl Dance is a reasonably fast-paced novel with an episodic nature that initially reminded me (structurally) of Huckleberry Finn. I actually really enjoyed each Ramon/Fatemeh “episode” to the point that I found myself becoming frustrated whenever the novel switched to the alien/Russian plot. This said, towards the second half of the novel the alien/Russian plot became increasingly engaging and I can see why the novel was structured this way.
I remember some author stating that everyone is a hero from their own perspective. Mr Summers writes his characters in this manner, showing the rationale and emotions behind their choices. Hence there are no real villains, just people whose needs and wants and ideals are clashing. Intellectually I think this worked well, but part of me kept craving a villain with the blackest of black hearts. This said, Mr Summers is excellent in demonstrating this view of human conflict.
Despite this very minor niggle, I thoroughly enjoyed being in the minds of Ramon and Fatemah. Well, actually, Fatemeh was my down and out favorite. She is constantly portrayed as a person with gumption, drive, ideals, and brains. So if I had to nominate the “hero” within the novel, then I would nominate her. By comparison, Ramon was more the “everyman” of the tale, likeable and considerate and always striving to do the right thing.
As an aside, how many novels feature both Billy the Kid and Mendeleev (creator of the first periodic table)? Gotta love it.
Yes, there is romance but no sex scenes (albeit there is a very tame reference to nudity).
Owl Dance is a solid, enjoyable read with engaging characters and a wild ride of a plot. So do yourself a favor and give it a go. Here is a link to the book’s site where you can find out more, including how to buy it online.