Free-Wrench has been on my TBR since 2016, and I kept meaning to read it. What a treat this turned out to be! Even better, it’s the first in a series of six. I seem to have the second on my kindle already. Unfortunately, it’s steampunk, which does not qualify for my #spacetimereads challenge. Fortunately, it’s steampunk, and one of my favourite things in steampunk – airships!
Free-Wrench (Free-Wrench #1)
by Joseph R. Lallo
The islands of Caldera are a shining jewel in a rather bleak world. A terrible calamity in the past had blanketed much of the world with a toxic “fug.” Those who survived were forced to take to the mountains and the skies in wondrous airships. Life has since been a struggle, with only the most ruthless and crafty able to survive. To spare themselves the same fate, the Calderans erected a battery of guns to fend off the airships of the mainland. They isolated themselves from the madness of the world, choosing instead to focus on the pursuits of art and creativity. Few believe the technologically advanced but socially barbarous outsiders have anything to offer. Amanita Graus, though, is hoping that they do.
Nita’s mother has lost her livelihood and perhaps soon her life to a terrible disease. Already the black sheep of the family for embracing engineering rather than art, Nita resolves to leave the safety of her home and do whatever it takes to find a cure. For a price, the bizarre crew of an airship called The Wind Breaker are willing to grant her a meeting with their mysterious benefactors, and thus a chance to procure the one thing with a chance to save her mother.
Free-Wrench follows Nita’s adventures in a steampunk world of airships and lunatics. Helping her in her journey are an eccentric crew of smugglers; the gruff Cap’n Mack, the simple but enthusiastic Lil and Coop, the arrogant marksman Gunner, the surly surgeon Butch, and the irritable mascot Wink. To survive and find what she seeks she’ll need to earn their trust, follow their rules, and meet face to face with the people who pull the strings of their society. [goodreads]
A Free-Wrench is the term for a stand-in, go-anywhere needed, mechanic for the monstrous boilers in Caldera’s vast power plants, fuelled by their volcano. And Nita, contrary to her elite family’s artistic dynasty, is only interested in machinery. A certain type of reader is now backing her all the way, just on that basis. She is of course, a particularly gifted engineer, so when the die is cast and the only way to get her mother’s much-needed medicine is to go and get it herself, she manages to adapt her skills to staying alive on a ‘trading vessel’. We’re talking airship operations, with people who bend anyone’s rules but their own.
It’s a crazy, vastly amusing, almost caricature of a crew, but it all makes perfect sense. Some of them might have been aboard the Black Pearl, in another time and place. And the quest that Nita has embarked on leads to some amazing world-building, fantastic engineering imagination, and one of the most complicated battles I’ve ever read. Even so, it’s easy to keep in touch with, easy to read, even, and great fun. Exploits and derring-do.
The energy in this book is amazing. It did not come as a surprise when the author said he wrote it for NaNoWriMo, and honed it for the following three years. That push to get the story out, and then to beautify it; all the work paid off. I was so sorry it ended. But…
Yes, there’s a sequel. And what’s more–I already have it on my Kindle 🙂Book Review | Free-Wrench by Joseph R. Lallo @jrlallo 'amazing world-building, fantastic engineering imagination, and one of the most complicated battles I've ever read' Yes, I gave it #5Stars #steampunk #femalelead Click To Tweet