(Words and art by Lea Hernandez, Published by Image, ISBNs: 1-887279-865 / 1-58240-0830 respectively)
Because Cathedral Child and its sequel, Clockwork Angels have science fiction elements and are set in the Victorian era, it's hard not to think of that annoying catch-all term "steampunk" that usually gets bandied about with such stories. Bu t these are more unique than that, because other steampunk stories are rarely ingrained with such romantic notions as these. It's not often that I find myself reviewing romance titles, and I'm sure plenty of DSO's readers are wondering why I'm doing just that, but bear with me, because Lea Hernandez's books are more than soppy Vaseline-lensed Mills and Boon/Barbara Cartland-style fluff.
Hernandez is a proponent of what is usually termed "American manga", as is very much evident at a glance of her artwork, but her pacing and the romance aspects of her work also belie a strong Japanese influence. The two stories follow the lives of childhood sweethearts, Glory and Sumner, and the consequences wreaked by the power-seeking of Glory's birth-father, Stuart, in building and trying to control Cathedral, a giant "computer". There are several underlying themes with relevance to the modern world, and I'm not just talking about the scientific inventions. Gender issues, forbidden love, racial issues all get treated to serious consideration. It's no coincidence that the main setting is the small town of Heaven, Texas, a frontier-land in more than just a physical sense.
Hernandez wraps up potentially heavy or dull topics in a fantasy world that will charm the pants off you. Clockwork Angels, in particular, will keep you avidly reading from start to finish, with its mix of magic, spooky demons, fairy-tale and excellent characterisation, and the romance elements should please even the most hardened cynic amongst you. It also demonstrates how Hernandez's storytelling ability has come on since Cathedral Child was released. All in all, these two books are highly recommended, and I can't wait to read the third volume, Under Grace, when it finally appears.
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