Hopebreaker by Dean F. Wilson

Hopebreaker by Dean F. Wilson(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

In the world of Altadas, there are no more human births. The Regime is replacing the unborn with demons, while the Resistance is trying to destroy a drug called Hope that the demons need to survive.

Between these two warring factions lies Jacob, a man who profits from smuggling contraceptive amulets into the city of Blackout. He cares little about the Great Iron War, but a chance capture, and an even more accidental rescue, embroils him in a plot to starve the Regime from power.

When Hope is an enemy, Jacob finds it harder than he thought to remain indifferent. When the Resistance opts to field its experimental landship, the Hopebreaker, the world may find that one victory does not win a war.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

Two years ago I really couldn’t have told you what steampunk was but it’s really been growing on me, particularly of late.  So when I had an opportunity to read Hopebreaker, I leaped at the chance.  It sounded like some pretty good steampunk from the blurb and it turns out that I was not wrong in trusting the description.

What is really striking about the world of Wilson’s The Great Iron War series is that it’s a mixture of fantasy and science to create a special blend of steampunk.  On the fantasy end, we have demons controlling the human population by swapping out the souls of human fetuses with the souls of demons.  Magical amulets are worn by rebellious pregnant women to prevent this from happening.  On the science end, we have things like the Hopebreaker and the other machines used by the Resistance and the Regime.  They’re classic steampunk complete with steam-powered engines and a mixture of cold machinery and elegance.  And the world-building itself was quite good because Wilson’s grasp of politics is also good.  Not everything is so black and white in his world and oftentimes there are people caught in the middle of the faction fighting that just really want to live their lives in peace, thank you very much.  There are traitors on both sides of the line and nothing is as it seems.

The main character Jacob was both excellent and hard to relate to.  On the surface he is an excellent character: he’s a thirty year old man who has been smuggling as a way of staying alive and rebelling against the Regime.  In theory he supports the Resistance by getting the demon-preventing amulets into the hands of women throughout the city but he really just wants to survive.  He doesn’t support the Regime because of the whole demon thing but he doesn’t actively support the Resistance because sometimes they can be just as bad as the ‘bad guys’.  But when he’s captured by the Regime and saved by the Resistance in a raid he really has no choice but to fight with them, particularly as he wants to stay alive.  Then he finds out that maybe he’s not as neutral and uncaring as he would have liked, particularly around the smart, brave and morally ambiguous Resistance leader Taberah (she’s not the supreme leader but she does command a fair number of men).  But once he meets Taberah that sort of gets to the crux of my problem with him as a character: I can’t connect with him on an emotional level.  Sure, he displays emotions in theory but I really wasn’t feeling them from him.  Maybe it’s just me but it was sort of disappointing that he seems to go through the novel with minimal emotional reactions to the crazy events unfolding all around him.

Despite my little quibble with Jacob, I did otherwise enjoy the novel because the plot was well paced and although it was sometimes predictable there were enough twists thrown in to keep things interesting.  You can probably guess the end of the novel by about a third of the way through but it’s well written so it’s actually quite an enjoyable journey that will have you eagerly turning the pages to find out what happens next.  Dean F. Wilson is excellent at writing suspense even when the outcome isn’t really in doubt and he sort of keeps a line of tension running through the novel that slowly ratchets up until things seem ready to explode.  So like I said, you’ll probably be able to predict the ending but you’ll enjoy the plot and want to know what happens next all the same.

If you’re looking for a little steampunk in your life or just a great suspenseful novel with generally good characters, Hopebreaker is for you.  It’s a great introduction to a steampunk world that I’m really looking forward to learning more about.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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