Because I am nothing if not timely I have finally got around to reading The Last Page, just as its sequel is being released. Better late than never right? I bought it when it was first came out because I'm sure I liked the sound of it, but that was so long ago that when I finally picked it up I couldn't remember a thing about it.
Actually, no, I remembered one thing. That while it was marketed as steampunk most people who read it felt the label certainty did not apply. Which sucks, because if steampunk was more like The Last Page, I feel like the genre and I would get along a lot better. This is what I've always wanted steampunk to be! Not a thinly veiled England full of eccentric geniuses and feisty ladies, but a dark and gritty fantasy world that just so happens to be powered by steam. (And zeppelins, natch). Well, steam and gas really. Steam, gas, and a dash of mathematics/magic. (A cool and original magic system, but then even real world maths seems like magic to me half the time). So I guess it can't be called steampunk after all. More like steampunk's moody older brother.
So, yes, the setting worked for me very well, but did the rest of the book? Mostly, yes. Huso has a distinctive narrative voice, and while I feel he stumbled with some of his metaphors I would rather an author push themselves a touch too far than not at all. I also like that the book had an almost modern air to it, much like Steph Swainstons 'Castle' books. Not many fantasy novels really embrace ideas like freedom of press, or really consider the logistics of keeping a kingdom fed, unless it pertains directly to the plot.
Ah yes, the plot. It's straightforward enough. Caliph Howl is a reluctant heir to the throne, and while at University he meets and falls in love (not sappy love though, more like too cool for love love) with Senna. Senna has a locked book, and she really wants to unlock it. That's the basic gist of it. Caliph has to fight to hold onto a kingdom he doesn't particularly want, and Senna has to unlock her book.
(Ok, brief asid, how cool is the name Caliph Howl? So cool.)
I really liked Caliph's character. Competent without being showey, compassionate without being boring. He's all poker face on the outside but storm of emotions on the inside, you know? Senna I did not like as much, although she was no less well done. I would have liked some more motivation as to why she wants to open the book so much, (aside from the power it would give her. Power is all well and good, but what does she want to do with it?) There are hints about it, and maybe it will be elaborated on in further books. Huso is good at hinting as opposed to spelling out, which is always good.
Unfortunately though I felt things fell apart towards the end of the book. Focus was lost, things just starting to happen in a haphazard way and I also started to get confused about what was happening with some plot points. Events occurred which seemed to be of great importance to the characters, but didn't seem that important to me. That kind of disconnect between book and reader is not a good thing.
This aside I do see myself picked up the next book somewhere down the line. There were still a lot of things to like about the Last Page and I will be interested to see where Huso takes it.
I bought this book