Saturday, September 8, 2012

Book Review : The Unnaturalist by Tiffany Trent

  • Release Date: August 14th 2012
  • Pages: 305
  • Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Synopsis: Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world
I've been buzzing about this book since I went to a steampunk event with Tiffany Trent back in April. Naturally, when I saw this book tour on Southern Book Bloggers I couldn't resist the opprotunity to participate.

The Unnaturalist just happens to be the third book I've started reading that falls into this genre of  part steampunk part magic. The other two books being The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kitteredge and Skylark by Meagan Spooner. In these novels, possessing magic is considered taboo and evil ; science order are upheld and rule the land. Each of these books handles the genre differently and The Unnaturalists  takes a more historical alternate univese approach.

The Unnaturalist is the story of Vespa Nyx,  whose passion is working in The Museum of Unnatural History, cataloging the unnaturals--magical creatures from the woods beyond the city. Her ultimate goal is to be a pendant, a scientific scholar, but that seems pretty impossible as there hasn't been a female pendant in 500 years and she has the task of finding a husband in her near future.

And then she meets Syrus Reed, a 13-year-old Tinker, the  race of people who live outside the city in railroad cars trying to keep what little magic they can alive. When he comes for her, she learns more about herself and the unnaturals than she ever bargained for.

The writing in this novel is imaginative,Trent has spent time building New London,  the city and society in which Vespa lives. Her descriptions of the landscape are lush and vivid. The society is well thought out. Logic and Rationality are the pillars of this alternate world and Curie and Darwin are considered patron saints.

This book apart uses of an alternating third person POV for Syrus and first person POV for Vespa. I'm thinking this is a new trend. The only other book I've seen this in is The City's Son by Tom Pollock and it always kind of throws me for a loop.

The story and plot left something to be desired from.Overall there was no real tension or stakes in the novel. Having magic or being a witch is considered horrible in this world, babies who they even think are magic are left outside the city walls, so I didn't understand how Vespa didn't seem to upset to learn she is a witch, she doesn't seem to have any real fears about using magic.

Vespa's love interest kept changing personalities and names so much it was giving me whiplash, but I'll call him Pendant Lumin since that is how he was introduced to us. He wasn't all that interesting and their relationship bordered on instalove. And I mean for a couple's whose surnames mean  night and day in Latin I expected them to have some kind of chemistry.

I think the story is really with Syrus he is the most dynamic character, but he pretty much got shafted at the end of the day. This is the first in a series, but the book ties up it's plot in the end, so I'm not sure what the next book will be about. In an interview, Trent said the next book will focus on  Syrus, so I'm curious to see how that plays out.

The Unnaturalists is a rich story and great for fans of alternate worlds or looking for a YA steampunk-esque read.

*ARC courtesy of Southern Book Bloggers.


  1. Lovely review Kat. I loved Skylark by the way. Steampunk is a genre I love and this book has been on my wish list. I like that it has multiple POV's and agree this is becoming a trend with first person , third person. I totally loved the City's Son!. Despite the issues with the plot and lack of action, I am still curious about this. Glad to see that overall you enjoyed it.

  2. Thanks, I really need to finish Skylark soon ! If you liked City's Son and Skylark I'm sure you will enjoy this one !

  3. Eeee, I've been wondering about this book but the way the alternating POV's are done seems distracting. There also seems to be little to no internal conflict when the MC finds out some pretty extraordinary things about herself. I don't know that I could be okay with her nonchalance. Great review!

  4. If you're curious about the books still, I totally suggest seeing if it is at your local library.

  5. This book definitely keeps catching my eye. That cover makes me happy and I am a huge steampunk fan.

  6. Interesting. I really love the title of the book! And the premise does sound good... I may just give this one a try!


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