Friday, November 7, 2014

Raven: Chronicles of Steele #1 by Pauline Creeden review ~Kami

Title: Raven: Chronicles of Steele #1
Author: Pauline Creeden
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
Hosted by:
Lady Amber's Tours


Raven has decided to give up her life as an assassin and then she is roped into protecting a young boy from his father. As a reaper, Raven has to save a life for every life that she has taken. I thought this was a really good steampunk/fantasy book. I like steampunk a lot and I liked this one. This book had a lot of excitement, adventure and action. The characters were interesting and sympathetic and the writing and pacing was good. I also liked the bonus features at the end. 4 stars. 

This is the complete Steampunk Fantasy novel - all four parts of the serial in one volume!

Human life has value.
The poor living in the gutter are as valuable as the rich living in a manor.
The scoundrel is no less valuable than the saint.
Because of this, every life a reaper takes must be redeemed.

Raven has lived by this first tenet since she was trained by her father to become a reaper. But since his death, she’s been spending years redeeming the lives she’s taken. By her count, she’s even and it’s time for that life to end. If she settles down and becomes a wife, she might just feel human again. But on the way to the life she thinks she wants, the baron of New Haven asks her to complete a task which she cannot ignore… Just when Raven decides to give up on her life as an assassin, she’s pulled right back in

Author Bio:
In simple language, Pauline Creeden creates worlds that are both familiar and strange, often pulling the veil between dimensions. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long. Pauline is a horse trainer from Virginia, but writing is her therapy. 

Armored Hearts, her joint effort with author Melissa Turner Lee, has been awarded the Crowned Heart for Excellence by InDtale Magazine. It is also the 2013 Book Junkie's Choice Winner in Historical Fiction. Her debut novel, Sanctuary, won 1st Place Christian YA Title 2013 Dante Rosetti Award and 2014 Gold Award for Best YA Horror Novel.

Author Links:

Excerpt 1
RAVEN STEELE COUNTED every footstep she chanced through New Haven with the knowledge that any could be her last. But the gamble wouldn’t last long. She quickened her pace. Only two kilometers of brownstone street stood between her and the safety of the forest.
A throng crowded the street. People. Men. Women and children. It had become too easy to think of them as cattle. But they were human. Her deepest desire was to become one of them and live a normal human life. Gregory would make her feel human; he always did. Her heart quickened at the thought of him, and her tread became light.
Raven winked at a fat-cheeked baby held by a pinch-faced woman with silver hair pulled into a severe bun. The woman looked Raven up and down, tching her tongue and shaking her head. Even in the city, a woman in breeches instead of a skirt remained unacceptable. Or maybe the crossbow snapped to the magnets on the back of her corset made the difference.
Would the woman know her secret?
Raven swallowed hard and assured herself of the ignorance of the populace. Few knew what a reaper was, much less their prohibition from the city.
Only the occasional cloud blighted the deceptively clear blue sky over New Haven. Sunlight sifted through and between the buildings stacked next to one another like books on a shelf. An automated horse bore down on her, and she flattened herself against the cool brick. The coachmen yelled at the crowd, “Out of the way! Clear the road. Coaches before walkers!”
The scraping metal and shouting continued down the street, scattering merchants who gave the coach malicious looks and then checked their wares for damage. Beside her, a bronze clockwork mechanical man pushed a merchant’s cart, its jerky movements unsuitable for zeppelin-living high society. It stopped just before the haberdasher’s shop.
With a wave of his arm and a grand flourish, the man next to the clockwork man produced a small metal gadget in his palm. “Don’t be the last of your neighbors to procure this one. You’ve never peeled potatoes as expeditiously or had as much merriment in the doing. Your children will quibble over whose turn it is to do what used to be scutwork.”
He placed the gadget next to a pile of potatoes, and the clicking and whirring of the blades set the crowd into exclamations of eager yearning. The people applauded and mobbed the stand, blocking the entire walkway. No elbowing through the throng this time. With a sigh, Raven hopped off the walk onto the street, nearly stepping into a pile of manure left by a flesh horse. Her metal-heeled boots clicked with each step on the smooth stones.
Seagulls crowded a fishmonger’s cart on the other side of the street. The monger accosted her as she neared the bridge, but quickly moved on to the next person behind her when she shook her head. Boats docked behind him and bobbed up and down in the river. Skipping up the steps of the footbridge, she pushed away a black flyaway curl from her eyes and pulled the tendril behind her ear.
Halfway across the bridge, she inhaled a lungful of the salty air and released a contented sigh. Only a day’s journey still stood between her and Gregory’s house, and for once, she wasn’t injured. She smiled to herself as she imagined the look of surprise on his face. She planned to tell him she loved him this time. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach. Would he be ready for marriage? Was she?
The fishmonger’s scream broke through the chattering crowd on the bridge. He jumped into the river to avoid an out-of-control carriage pulled by a polished brass automated horse. Steam poured from the nostrils of the metal horse and leaked from its joints in an unnatural manner. Its black lacquer carriage careened on two wheels through the turn onto the bridge before righting itself. Wires shot out of the neck of the metal coachman where the head should have been. The reins in its limp, useless hands were slack and whipping against the horse’s metal flank.
Raven jumped to the rail, moving out of the way of the crowd as they stampeded toward her. She gripped the lamppost and her reaper training kicked in. No fear. Breathe deeply. Think ahead. Make quick decisions.
The black lacquer carriage squeezed between the bridge railings, and the oak boards of the narrow footbridge splintered apart as though they were balsa wood. The railing to the left gave free another meter and the automated horse jerked in that direction.
In a quick, natural motion, Raven unsnapped her crossbow and felt through the quiver attached at her thigh for the right bolt. Pulling the wire from her belt’s winch, she hooked it to the arrow, pointed it at the wooden post of the gas lamp standing closest to the carriage, and pulled the trigger.
For a moment, the heavy metal horse hung over the edge with the carriage wedged between portions of broken railing. The horse’s brass legs still poured steam as they struggled in the air, creating the eerie sound of scraping metal. Gouges raked along the black side of the carriage as it inched its way toward the river. A small hand pressed against the window. The door surged past the railing and swung open. The body of a young boy tumbled out. He hung from the door handle with his fingertips. A gasp and a few screams filled the air behind her.
A female voice shrieked, “It’s the young baron!”
Adrenaline coursed through her veins, and Raven leapt toward the boy—toward the river. She fell in a controlled arc, the wind pulling her long hair as taut as the line from her belt. The carriage broke free from the bridge a moment before she reached it. She thumbed her winch to release more line and grabbed the boy in a full embrace. The cold water enveloped them.
The sudden change in temperature forced the air from her lungs, but she held it in as they darted below the surface. Her submerged body jerked to a stop as the line reached an end. The boy’s forehead struck her in the temple. Saltwater burned her eyes, and stars danced in her vision. Bubbles of air escaped her lips.
The boy went limp in her arms. She gripped him tightly in one arm and hit the rewind lever on the winch. She grabbed the line, and it wrenched her toward the light above. Streaks of her long, black hair stuck to her face as she emerged from the river. She released her breath and gripped the line. The winch pulled her toward the bridge, and the crowd above applauded. Gasping, Raven struggled with the sudden, heavier weight of the boy, struggling to hold him until they reached the top of the bridge. The line cut into her hand and her arm muscles ached.
Her tall black boots squished against the side of the bridge as they were pulled steadily up. She pushed off a tarred pylon to make it over the lip before the cable pulled them against the railing. The winch slowed when it neared the top. She reached up with her free hand and grabbed the crossbow bolt. With a flick of her thumb, she depressed the lever and the grappling hooks withdrew. After pulling the hook free of her line, she replaced the bolt in her quiver. A slow zipping sound continued as the winch on her belt drew in the cable. She allowed hands from the crowd pull the boy from her grasp. She blinked the saltwater from her eyes, her vision still blurred, her muscles quivering.
Four armed guards and one skinny man in a bowtie surrounded the boy she’d hauled to the surface, shooing away the people. Two other guards stepped forward to hold back the crowd.
With a sputter and a cough, the boy retched water from his lungs. The tension in Raven’s chest relaxed. She smiled and attempted to step toward him, but a vice-like grip took hold of her arm. Her fingertips twitched; she was ready to grab the knife on her hip and fight her way out, if necessary. The hard faces of two guards stared down at her. She could smack one in the jaw with the back of her head, and when he loosened his grip, throw a punch at the other. The taste of escape grew bitter on her tongue when she considered the surrounding crowd. She made a count of the collateral damage and clenched her jaw. The last thing she needed were more kills on her conscience, more lives to redeem herself for. With a deep sigh, she remained still.
The man in the bowtie held the wet boy to his chest. His cold blue eyes pierced hers. He pointed and said, “Arrest her.”
Excerpt 2
At that same moment, her horse stumbled to its knees. With her eyes squeezed shut, Raven hugged Darius to her chest and spun herself in order to land on her backside instead of on the boy. Her elbows skidded across the dirt, burning in response.
When her momentum came to an end, she set the boy to the side and leapt to her feet. The chestnut horse scrambled to stand, but refused to put weight on its left foreleg. In the limited glow of the half moon, Raven found the dip in the road that caused the stumble. A rustle in the undergrowth drew her attention, but she didn’t look directly at it. The noise came from the tree line opposite the dog, and she knew if she looked, the attack would begin. Young Baron Darius stammered, “Miss Steele?”
She made eye contact with the boy and put a finger to her lips. From her periphery, she counted the shadows of three men. Feigning care for the horse, she rushed toward it. “Big Red, are you all right?”
Raven leaned toward the horse’s leg and rested a hand on its shoulder. She turned her body to draw closer to the saddle bag. The crossbow’s wood and brass handle protruded, but the quiver was on the other side. She gritted her teeth. She only had one arrow. One shot. She’d need to make it a good one.
Oh no, what are we going to do? This doesn’t look good.” She said it in a lilting, sing-song voice to hide the unsnapping of her knife’s sheath. Two weapons. She’d always been good at throwing. Another rustle in the woods came, closer this time. Her night vision goggles would limit her peripherally, but enhance the rest. She pulled the goggles over her eyes.
Raven counted out a rhythm in her mind. Four seconds, four beats measured, in a dancing step. She separated her stance to ready herself and jerked up, yanking the crossbow from the saddlebag.
One. She aimed at the first of the three shadows. He broke from the woods with rope in his hands and headed for the boy. She hit him precisely where she aimed, in the meat of the flesh above his kneecap. He fell down screaming. In time with the rhythm, she snapped the now useless bow to the magnets on her back.
Two. She grabbed the knife from its sheath on her thigh and tossed it in the air to catch it again by the blade. The other two men headed for her, the first one had a gun in his right hand. With a flick of her wrist, she threw it into that shoulder just below the collarbone causing him to drop the weapon. He stumbled backward with a curse.
Three. She ran for the last man who stopped, stunned, and looked at the first one. He turned toward her just as she’d reached the man with the knife in his shoulder and kicked the gun into the woods. She wrenched the knife out and he wailed, but she silenced him with a knee to the groin as she tossed the knife up again.
Four. Blood on the blade made her fingers slide down a quarter inch before she tightened her grip and brought her hand over the shoulder. The third man screamed before she threw it, but she was too busy counting to acknowledge it. The throw buried the knife into his thigh.
One, two, three, four.
She kept the cadence in her head. Her adrenaline heightened her senses, and her heart beat in time. The count continued as she surveyed the men. At the slightest provocation she needed to be ready to dance again. The first man began dragging himself back toward the woods. Raven strode over to him, counting her steps in the tempo.
He raised his hands up in a plea as she approached. “Please don’t kill me.”
If I’d wanted you dead it would have already happened. All three of you.”

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