by Melanie Karsak
Series: The Airship Racing Chronicles #1
An opium-addicted beauty. An infamous poet living in self-imposed exile. An ancient treasure about to fall into the wrong hands. Melanie Karsak's Chasing the Star Garden takes readers on a thrilling adventure from the gritty opium dens of gaslamp London to the gem-colored waters of the ancient world. Lily Stargazer, a loveable but reckless airship racer with a famous lover and shattered past, reluctantly plunges into a centuries-old mystery in a romantic adventure best described as Dan Brown meets Mary Shelley. It all begins on one of the worst days of Lily’s life. She just lost the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix. To top it off, a harlequin fleeing from constables shoved a kaleidoscope down her pants, told her to fly to Venice, then threw himself from her airship tower. What’s a girl to do? For Lily, the answer is easy: drink absinthe and smoke opium. Lily’s lover, Lord Byron, encourages her to make the trip to Venice. Lily soon finds herself at the heart of an ancient mystery which has her running from her past and chasing true love and the stars along the way.
In 2013, I participated in a tour and reviewed the Harvesting by new author Melanie Karsak. It was a zombie, post-apocalyptic tale that also blended in fantasy elements. The world-building and story left me in awe. So I was delighted to receive a new book from Karsak entitled Chasing the Star Garden. The first in the Airship Racing Chronicles, Chasing the Star Garden, is a steampunk fantasy featuring an opium eating heroine and an ancient treasure linked to the Greek Gods. Mini review: A thrilling adventure that is imaginative, and enthralling.
We meet Lily Stargazer and her airship team as they fly over London in an epic race against other airships during the last leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix. Sadly, they take second place, but on the platform a strange man fleeing the police runs up to her and shoves of all things a kaleidoscope down her pants and whispers, “fly to Venice” and then propels himself over the side of the platform to meet his untimely death. Now people are looking for the kaleidoscope and Lily is about to begin an epic adventure. Along the way, she will face her fears, and discover something about her past. My friends hold on because it is quite the ride.
Lily Stargazer is unique and unlikely heroine. She has moxy and is one heck of a pilot but the girl has some serious issues. To dull the pain of nightmares she has turned to a popular drugs of this time period; opium and absinthe. It has a hold on her and at one point I found myself concerned about her bathing habits of all things. Karsak did an amazing job with her as a character. I was on the fence about Lily in the beginning as the author exposed the weaker side of our heroine. But, then she peeled back Lily’s layers, revealing her kick-ass side, her spirit and her fierce loyalty. You cannot help but like Lily, and I became her champion. Lily sees tremendous growth throughout the novel, and it added an incredible depth to an already splendid tale. Lord Byron (yes thee Lord Byron ) is Lily’s sponsor for the airship races and her lover which was all quite interesting. There is also a tinkerer named Sal who lily enjoys romps with. Sal is handsome, soft-spoken and intelligent. I came to adore this tall dark and handsome Greek. Secondary characters and those from Lily’s past added depth, humor and even horror to the tale.
Chasing the Star Garden was a captivating tale from the complex characters to the breathtaking world-building. Karsak’s writing has a flow and ease to it that allows the reader to slip into the worlds she creates. She made the steampunk elements of the tale spring to life as we flew from London to Venice. She threads mythology into the mysterious adventure of the kaleidoscope and cleverly wove our heroine’s past into the details. The blurb on the back of the book says, “Dan Brown meets Mary Shelley” and I think that is an apt description. As the author peels back Lily’s layers we see flashbacks to Lily’s childhood and every time Lily went back I was both horrified and captivated. These were done seamlessly and only strengthened my feelings for Lily. There is a romance that is intertwined with the tale that felt genuine. The tale has dark moments from the dark opium dens to passions which the author realistically portrayed from the character’s experience to the den’s themselves. The ending wrapped things up nicely, and I look forward to the next adventure.
Chasing the Star Garden was a brilliant steampunk adventure with colorful characters leaving me once again awestruck by Melanie Karsak’s incredible talent for story-telling. The next book Chasing the Green Fairy is set to release in March of 2014.
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