“You ain't gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It's French, so Beatrice tells me.”
Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello.
Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, beggin sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.
Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.
Elizabeth Bear's Karen Memory is a whale of a tale, filled with a diverse cast of characters, a setting that combines several US cities, fictional characters straight out of the movies, action, mystery, adventure, romance, and a lead character who has a sense of humor, a sense of determination, and driven by her desire to own and operate a farm with horses.
Set in the late 19th century in what is now the Seattle Underground, lead protagonist Karen Memery works as a so called seamstress (prostitute) for Madame Damnable's Hôtel Mon Cherie. Karen is an orphan who lost her family and came to Madame's attention. Karen has a love for the written word. Is most likely the youngest girl at the Hotel, but probably more determined than her sisters to have a future not lying on her back to make money.
Here at Hotel Mon Cherie, we meet a cast of characters that is about the most diverse I've ever come across. There's Madame who tried to make a name for herself in the fields of Alaska and is now disabled. Miss Francina who today would be called Trans. Priya Swati, originally from India along with her sister Anshini. Merry Lee, who is Chinese and based on an actual person named Tye Leung Schulze. Beatrice, Pollywog, Miss Bethel, Effie, Crispin, Connie, and Miss Lizzie, who is a Mad scientist, round out the group of gals and men who work for Madame.
On the flip side, we have U.S Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves a real life former slave who worked for thirty-two years as a Federal peace officer in the Indian Territory, and his sidekick/posseman Tomoatooah, a Cherokee Indian. Bass and Tomo arrive in Rapid City searching for a Jack the Ripper type murdered who targets working girls, and leaves bodies at the door steps of brothels. They end up in the middle of an international conspiracy and chasing after a man called "Nemo".
Not going to lie, when the publisher asked if I wanted a copy of this book to read and review and be part of the blog tour, I hesitated, and missed out. I should have jumped up and responded HELL YES! Ah, but that is a story for another day. Thankfully, Tor has an awesome publicist who sent along a copy of the book for me to read, and I'm truly excited that she did. Bless her little heart!
I love Karen. I love her voice, and will probably get questioned about her use of vulgarity, and certain colloquialisms she uses that may cause some to flinch. I love her spunkiness, her determination, her desire to right the wrongs of others, her ability to jump in when others hesitate, and the fact that she absolutely has a good heart to go along with her strong spirit which makes her a great partner for Bass and Tomo. I love that she has goals, and doesn't just sit back and let others guide her future.
Overall, Karen Memory is an impressive story with lovable characters, evil villains, a really amazing and an adorable romance between Karen and Priya and an ending that has to be read to be believed. Yes folks, I will definitely recommend this story to others who have the same taste for steampunk, with a western feel, and a diverse cast of characters.
**I received this book for free from (Tor Books) in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Genre: Steampunk, Romance, Western