Weighted: The Neumarian Chronicles by Ciara Knight
The following is a review of the audiobook for Ciara Knight's Weighted: The Neumarian Chronicles, which is a brief prequel to the full novel Escapement, a dark romance-adventure set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk future.
Barring its fast-paced and thrilling
conclusion, Weighted could be adapted for small stage theatre, since the
majority of the action takes place in a torture chamber on board an
airship. A young girl who possesses supernatural powers has been
captured by a wicked cyborg nation, and is being slowly converted into
her enemy, part by part. This is nothing new, of course: the opposition
of tech to magic is common in steampunk fantasy. Likewise, the torture
chamber of cyborg transformation is common in general SF. However, we
must always remember that for YA readers, such cliches are often new
experiences, and many young readers are loathe to read the "classics"
their parents did. Consequently, YA readers may find Weighted a
challenging and provocative read/listen, since steampunk adventures
about princesses and star-crossed love (which is where the series goes
from here) do not often begin with torture.
Some listeners will
find Kimberly Woods' reading of the text too childlike, but my own
experience was that this helped immensely, given that the two key
characters were both young teens. Too often, narration is given to
voices far too old to convey the innocence of young characters. Given
the horror that the heroine must endure, it's even more effective.
steampunk books mistakenly promise dark and grit, but deliver "action
that often takes place at night and has lots of people who need a bath."
Ciara Knight actually delivers on the promise of dark and gritty
steampunk, and it was a refreshing change from steampunk's seemingly
endless stream of romantic adventure tales.
The bottom line of
any review is the question of whether I'm hooked as the reader. I was
hooked into this single story within the first few minutes of listening.
And given how this prequel leads into the larger story cycle of the
Neumarian Chronicles, I'm hooked into the series as well. Or to be more
accurate, reviewing this as a 42-year-old-academic recalling what I
thrilled to as a young reader, I know that the 14-year-old in me is
interested in seeing where this series goes. Weighted is a very
promising start to an intriguing and genuinely dark and gritty steampunk
Ciara Knight's Neumarian Chronicles prequel Weighted, is
neither high literature nor the best YA steampunk I have ever read, but
neither is it the worst by a long mile. However, unlike most YA steampunk I have read, it
is dark and gritty, and will appeal to readers who prefer their black
marks on white pages (or audio between the silences) to inhabit the
shadows, not the light.