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Clockwork, Monocles, and Dirigibles: A Steampunk Booklist

Do you like historical fiction? Science fiction? Fantasy? Then steampunk, which combines elements of all three, might be your new favorite genre.

But what is steampunk?

In its purest form, steampunk is fiction set in the late Victorian era (late 1800s through World War I) and usually in Great Britain, though it can be set in other locales (think the American Wild West). But instead of straight historical fiction, these stories are imbued with fantastical re-imaginings of steam era technologies. Think retro-futuristic weapons, transportation, and fashion. Though often set in the past, these stories offer alternative histories: a “what might have been” look at the future from the perspective of Victorians.

These novels all contain some aspect of steampunk. Whether you’re interested in science fiction, romance, fantasy, or historical fiction, steampunk has something to offer you.

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Matt, a young cabin boy aboard an airship, and Kate, a wealthy young girl traveling with her chaperone, team up to search for the existence of mysterious winged creatures reportedly living hundreds of feet above the Earth’s surface.


 

 

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

In 1897 England, 16-year-old Finley Jayne is convinced she’s a freak. No normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch. Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special . . . that she’s one of “them.”

 

 


Clockwork Angel
by Cassandra Clare

When sixteen-year-old orphan Tessa Fell’s older brother suddenly vanishes, her search for him leads her into Victorian-era London’s dangerous supernatural underworld, and when she discovers that she herself is a Downworlder, she must learn to trust the demon-killing Shadowhunters if she ever wants to learn to control her powers and find her brother.

 

 

Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve

In the distant future, when cities move about and consume smaller towns, a fifteen-year-old apprentice is pushed out of London by the man he most admires and must seek answers in the perilous Out-Country, aided by one girl and the memory of another.

 

 

Worldshaker by Richard Harland

Sixteen-year-old Col Porpentine is being groomed as the next Commander of Worldshaker, a juggernaut where elite families live on the upper decks while the Filthies toil below, but when he meets Riff, a Filthy girl on the run, he discovers how ignorant he is of his home and its residents.

 

 

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

In an alternate 1914 Europe, fifteen-year-old Austrian Prince Alek, on the run from the Clanker Powers who are attempting to take over the globe using mechanical machinery, forms an uneasy alliance with Deryn who, disguised as a boy to join the British Air Service, is learning to fly genetically-engineered beasts.

 

 

Airman by Eoin Colfer

In the late nineteenth century, when Conor Broekhart discovers a conspiracy to overthrow the king, he is branded a traitor, imprisoned, and forced to mine for diamonds under brutal conditions while he plans a daring escape from Little Saltee prison by way of a flying machine that he must design, build, and, hardest of all, trust to carry him to safety.

 

 

Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear

In 1901, on an alternate Earth, sixteen-year-old Noli rejoices when a mysterious man transports her from reform school to the Realm of Faerie, until Noli learns his sinister reason.

 

 

 

Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant

If you’re not sure if steampunk is for you, check out this sampling of short stories from the genre.

 

 

 

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

When she is cast out of Wonderland by her evil Aunt Redd, young Alyss Heart finds herself living in Victorian Oxford as Alice Liddell and struggles to keep memories of her kingdom intact until she can return and claim her rightful throne.

 

 

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Masque of the Red Death book coverIn this twist on Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic short story, a wealthy teenaged girl who can afford a special mask to protect her from the plague that decimated humanity in the mid-1800s, falls in love, becomes caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow an oppressive government, and faces the threat of a new plague.

 

 

Peculiars by Maureen McQuerry

Eighteen-year-old Lena Mattacascar sets out for Scree, a weird place inhabited by Peculiars, seeking the father who left when she was young, but on the way she meets young librarian Jimson Quiggley and handsome marshal Thomas Saltre, who complicate her plans.

 

 

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge

In an alternate 1950s, mechanically gifted fifteen-year-old Aoife Grayson, whose family has a history of going mad at sixteen, must leave the totalitarian city of Lovecraft and venture into the world of magic to solve the mystery of her brother’s disappearance and the mysteries surrounding her father and the Land of Thorn.

 

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

The Dark Unwinding book coverIn 1852, when seventeen-year-old Katharine is sent to her family’s estate to prove that her uncle is insane, she finds he is an inventor whose work creating ingenious clockwork figures supports hundreds of families, but strange occurrences soon have her doubting her own sanity.

 

 

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

In an alternate nineteenth-century Philadelphia, Eleanor Fitt sets out to rescue her brother, who seems to have been captured by an evil necromancer in control of an army of Undead.

 

 

 

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur G. Slade

In Victorian London, fourteen-year-old Modo, a shape-changing hunchback, becomes a secret agent for the Permanent Association, which strives to protect the world from the evil machinations of the Clockwork Guild.

 

 

 

Once you make it through this list, don’t fret…steampunk is a genre that is steadily growing and sure to produce fantastical re-imaginings of a future that never was!

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