|Why yes, this is a spider I'm riding!|
As a young adult (YA) book, “Steamborn” by Eric R. Asher, the first in the Steamborn Series, is a delightful read and perfect for any junior high to high school age readers. Asher’s post-apocalyptic story suffers from some small-scale issues, but turns on fun inventions and decent characters.
Asher’s story is an adventure story of Jacob, a sometimes thief, but mostly engineer’s apprentice and the struggles he faces in a world of overgrown insects. Jacob is from Ancora, a mountain city that is divided between literal Lowborn, those born in the lowlands, and Highborn, those born within the higher, more protected areas.
Told more as a series of one-off adventures, the arc of the story doesn’t really start to get going until about midway through. Jacob is something of a lovable rascal, but he’s also a good kid. Alice, his best friend, is a sweet, always-do-right girl who sometimes acts as Jacob’s companion. Charles, Jacob’s engineering master, serves as guide through the history of Ancora and the various incidents that resulted in the current conflicts.
While almost all the conflicts in “Steamborn” are external, with very little issue between the main characters, this remains a truly steampunk story, with plenty of gadgets running on gears, springs and the inventiveness of their creators. For YA readers, this is a plot-driven story that is fun and enjoyable.